Sunday, July 17, 2016

Devil's Darning Needle

I wanted to try something different, since I've been making lots of videos lately and don't have an immediate idea for something (when do I ever, I guess?). And I found this book in my office cubicle's book cabinet. I remember grabbing it from a pile of books that were being abandoned when an older resource room was cleaned out to create more seating space sometime within the last 18 months or so.

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At the time I figured it might be an interesting book to flip through. And maybe I could get some interesting trivia ideas from it that could be worked into a "interest" item in a new textbook feature someday . . . I've gone nowhere with that idea as of yet. So, instead, I randomly opened the book this morning and picked out the first entry that caught my eye and held it.

DEVIL'S DARNING NEEDLE A common name for the Dragon-fly (from p. 113 of The Dictionary of Americanisms by John Bartlett, originally published in 1849)

What is there to do with this information?

I am thinking of how important the devil as a concept was to pre-industrial/less modern America. It was a more poetic time, even though it was a less literate time. Without the widespread basic education that so many of us now have, how really did people view the world? Was it such a place of mystery and superstition? Or was this phrasing really just a flight of fancy that no one truly took seriously?

These are the mysteries of the past that neither historians nor archaeologists can fully capture--at least not until there was recording equipment to capture people's audio thoughts in the spur of the moment. Even though things are written down in many historical records, there is a remove of time and experience and understanding from the person chronicling something, filtered through their interpretation and their ability to describe it in writing . . . then distanced further by the passage of time and the particular interpretation of the people reading and understanding in the future (or our present).

What anachronisms will we leave behind for the future? Or will we be so precise that all the mystery of life will be gone?

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