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21 Pulpy Pieces of Lumberjack Lingo

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Sure, lumbersexuals can walk the walk (and wear the beards and plaid), but can they talk the talk? If you've always wanted to talk like a real-life lumberjack, thanks to the Dictionary of American Regional English (DARE), we've got 21 pulpy pieces of lingo to get you started.

1. ALL HANDS AND THE COOK (AND THE WHISKEY-JACKS)

The lumberjack version of the nautical all hands on deck, this phrase is used to announce an emergency, such as a log jam, requiring everyone’s help “without exception,” says DARE. The dictionary has quotes from a variety of states and regions, including Maine, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, and the Pacific Northwest. As for the whiskey-jack, it’s another name for the Canada jay bird.

2. DAYLIGHT IN THE SWAMP

Next time you need to wake someone up, you can shout, “Daylight in the swamp!” The saying was used as a wake-up call among loggers in the Pacific Northwest, New England, and the Great Lakes region.

3. BOX UP THE DOUGH

To box up the dough means “to cook” in lumberjack slang and might be heard in New England and the Great Lakes. We’re guessing that the expression might have to do with kneading or beating up dough to make into bread.

4. FORTY-FIVE-NINETY

Logger lingo for a large sausage and, according to DARE, named after a “rather sizable rifle cartridge of the time.”

5., 6., 7., AND 8. LIVER PAD, SWEAT PAD, MORNING GLORY, AND STOVE LID

When you think of lumberjack fare, you might think of pancakes, although we’re not sure why. This New York Times article makes the connection between Finnish loggers and their affinity for their homeland’s flapjacks, which “bear no resemblance to fluffy American-style,” but are dinner plate-sized, heavy, and dense.

Whatever the connection, lumberjacks had a lot of ways to say “pancake.” Liver pad for instance, named for their resemblance to the medicated pad worn wherever the liver’s supposed to be. Sweat pad is another, especially referring to a tough pancake and perhaps the bottom one in a stack, according to a DARE quote from Wisconsin: “Do I have to eat the sweat pad, or will you bake me a fresh pancake?” Other monikers include morning glory, which also refers to a doughnut, and stove lid, named for its griddle cake resemblance.

9. COUGAR DEN

No, not that kind of cougar. In logging, a cougar den refers to the bunkhouse, probably in reference to the animal lumberjacks might encounter. The phrase might be heard in the Pacific Northwest, the Great Lakes region, and New England.

10. AMEN CORNER

While in the South and Midland, the amen corner refers to a section of a church, usually near the preacher, “occupied by those leading the responsive amens,” says DARE. In lumberjack lingo of New England and the Great Lakes, it’s a place in the bunkhouse for storytelling, where it was “old-timers” reminiscing or preachers, also known as sky pilots, spreading the word.

11. SNAKE ROOM

The snake room might be considered the opposite of the amen corner. It’s a room in a bar for drunks, often lumberjacks, to sleep off their drunkenness. Why snake? According to a quote in DARE, the barkeeper or bouncer would slide the drunk lumberjacks “head first,” and presumably prone and snake-like, “through swinging doors from the bar-room.”

12. BLANKET FEVER

After sleeping it off in the snake room, the next morning some lumberjacks might be hit with blanket fever, a condition which involves staying in bed after the other lumber workers have gotten up, according to Leland George Sorden in his 1969 book, Lumberjack Lingo. In general, blanket fever refers to a lazy lumberjack.

13. BOARD WITH AUNT POLLY

If you really are sick, you might go board with Aunt Polly, which means “to draw insurance for sickness or accident,” says DARE. We’re not sure what the origin of this idiom is, although polly is slang for chamber pot in some regions.

14. COUNT (THE) TIES

To count (the) ties means to be fired or to quit a job. The phrase applies to both logging and railroading, and according to a 1958 quote in DARE, comes “from the days when the only way to leave camp was to walk down the railroad.” Other quitting terms include drag her in the Pacific Northwest, New England, and Great Lakes, and hit the pike scattered throughout the country and also meaning to leave or depart hastily.

15. EPSOM SALTS

In the Southwest, New England, and Great Lakes, the logging camp doctor might be called epsom salts, a once trademarked name that now refers to magnesium sulfate in general. In the Pacific Northwest, the physician might be referred to as iodine.

16. SECTION 37

Section 37 seems to be some mysterious, nonexistent place. According to a 1958 DARE quote from a Pacific Northwesterner, “The usual township contains 36 sections, and 37 is not supposed to exist.” Therefore, the term describes something strange and unusual. A 1969 quote says that in New England and the Great Lakes, section 37 is a kind of lumberjack heaven, “where all good loggers go when they ‘cash in their chips.’” Finally, a 2001 quote from Wisconsin describes section 37 as where greenhorns go, where you cut timber if you’re stealing it, and a night at the tavern.

17. SKY WEST AND CROOKED

The next time you or your stuff are knocked flying in all directions, you can say you were knocked sky west and crooked. The phrase is used in the SouthSouth Midland, and West.

18. CHIN-WHISKER

The adjective chin-whisker is used derogatorily among loggers and refers to something small-scale and unprofessional, especially pertaining to a farmer.

19. DUNG HISTER

Lumberjacks really had a thing against farmers. A dung hister—where histe is a variant of "hoist"—is a farmer and “to call a lumberjack a farmer was an insult and meant a fight,” says a 1969 quote in DARE.

20. AND 21. TIMBER BEAST AND SAVAGE

While you don’t want to call a lumberjack a farmer, you also don’t want to call him a lumberjack, at not least in “the woods of the Pacific Northwest,” says DARE, although he “may admit being a timber beast or a savage.” Logger seems to be the preferred name while a lumberjack refers to someone who works in “toothpick” timber, that is “the small second-growth pine and hemlock, in Minnesota, Michigan, and Maine.” As for timber beast, while it’s a self-characterization for “any guy who works in the woods,” outsiders “better not use the expression.”

Want more lumberjack lingo? Check out these books which were integral to many of the DARE entries: Logger's Words of Yesteryears by Leland George Sorden and Isabel J. Ebert; Lumberjack Lingo by Leland George Sorden; and Woods Words: A Comprehensive Dictionary Of Loggers Terms by Walter Fraser McCulloch and Stewart Holbrook.

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10 Bizarre Sesame Street Fan Theories
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Zach Hyman, HBO

Sesame Street has been on the air for almost 50 years, but there’s still so much we don’t know about this beloved children’s show. What kind of bird is Big Bird? What’s the deal with Mr. Noodle? And how do you actually get to Sesame Street? Fans have filled in these gaps with frequently amusing—and sometimes bizarre—theories about how the cheerful neighborhood ticks. Read them at your own risk, because they’ll probably ruin the Count for you.

1. THE THEME SONG CONTAINS SECRET INSTRUCTIONS.

According to a Reddit theory, the Sesame Street theme song isn’t just catchy—it’s code. The lyrics spell out how to get to Sesame Street quite literally, giving listeners clues on how to access this fantasy land. It must be a sunny day (as the repeated line goes), you must bring a broom (“sweeping the clouds away”), and you have to give Oscar the Grouch the password (“everything’s a-ok”) to gain entrance. Make sure to memorize all the steps before you attempt.

2. SESAME STREET IS A REHAB CENTER FOR MONSTERS.

Sesame Street is populated with the stuff of nightmares. There’s a gigantic bird, a mean green guy who hides in the trash, and an actual vampire. These things should be scary, and some fans contend that they used to be. But then the creatures moved to Sesame Street, a rehabilitation area for formerly frightening monsters. In this community, monsters can’t roam outside the perimeters (“neighborhood”) as they recover. They must learn to educate children instead of eating them—and find a more harmless snack to fuel their hunger. Hence Cookie Monster’s fixation with baked goods.

3. BIG BIRD IS AN EXTINCT MOA.

Big Bird is a rare breed. He’s eight feet tall and while he can’t really fly, he can rollerskate. So what kind of bird is he? Big Bird’s species has been a matter of contention since Sesame Street began: Big Bird insists he’s a lark, while Oscar thinks he’s more of a homing pigeon. But there’s convincing evidence that Big Bird is an extinct moa. The moa were 10 species of flightless birds who lived in New Zealand. They had long necks and stout torsos, and reached up to 12 feet in height. Scientists claim they died off hundreds of years ago, but could one be living on Sesame Street? It makes sense, especially considering his best friend looks a lot like a woolly mammoth.

4. OSCAR’S TRASH CAN IS A TARDIS.

Oscar’s home doesn’t seem very big. But as The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland revealed, his trash can holds much more than moldy banana peels. The Grouch has chandeliers and even an interdimensional portal down there! There’s only one logical explanation for this outrageously spacious trash can: It’s a Doctor Who-style TARDIS.

5. IT’S ALL A RIFF ON PLATO.

Dust off your copy of The Republic, because this is about to get philosophical. Plato has a famous allegory about a cave, one that explains enlightenment through actual sunlight. He describes a prisoner who steps out of the cave and into the sun, realizing his entire understanding of the world is wrong. When he returns to the cave to educate his fellow prisoners, they don’t believe him, because the information is too overwhelming and contradictory to what they know. The lesson is that education is a gradual learning process, one where pupils must move through the cave themselves, putting pieces together along the way. And what better guide is there than a merry kids’ show?

According to one Reddit theory, Sesame Street builds on Plato’s teachings by presenting a utopia where all kinds of creatures live together in harmony. There’s no racism or suffocating gender roles, just another sunny (see what they did there?) day in the neighborhood. Sesame Street shows the audience what an enlightened society looks like through simple songs and silly jokes, spoon-feeding Plato’s “cave dwellers” knowledge at an early age.

6. MR. NOODLE IS IN HELL.

Can a grown man really enjoy taking orders from a squeaky red puppet? And why does Mr. Noodle live outside a window in Elmo’s house anyway? According to this hilariously bleak theory, no, Mr. Noodle does not like dancing for Elmo, but he has to, because he’s in hell. Think about it: He’s seemingly trapped in a surreal place where he can’t talk, but he has to do whatever a fuzzy monster named Elmo says. Definitely sounds like hell.

7. ELMO IS ANIMAL’S SON.

Okay, so remember when Animal chases a shrieking woman out of the college auditorium in The Muppets Take Manhattan? (If you don't, see above.) One fan thinks Animal had a fling with this lady, which produced Elmo. While the two might have similar coloring, this theory completely ignores Elmo’s dad Louie, who appears in many Sesame Street episodes. But maybe Animal is a distant cousin.

8. COOKIE MONSTER HAS AN EATING DISORDER.

Cookie Monster loves to cram chocolate chip treats into his mouth. But as eagle-eyed viewers have observed, he doesn’t really eat the cookies so much as chew them into messy crumbs that fly in every direction. This could indicate Cookie Monster has a chewing and spitting eating disorder, meaning he doesn’t actually consume food—he just chews and spits it out. There’s a more detailed (and dark) diagnosis of Cookie Monster’s symptoms here.

9. THE COUNT EATS CHILDREN.

Can a vampire really get his kicks from counting to five? One of the craziest Sesame Street fan theories posits that the Count lures kids to their death with his number games. That’s why the cast of children on Sesame Street changes so frequently—the Count eats them all after teaching them to add. The adult cast, meanwhile, stays pretty much the same, implying the grown-ups are either under a vampiric spell or looking the other way as the Count does his thing.

10. THE COUNT IS ALSO A PIMP.

Alright, this is just a Dave Chappelle joke. But the Count does have a cape.

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17 Things to Know About René Descartes
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The French polymath René Descartes (1596-1650) lived after the Renaissance, but he personified that age's interest in mathematics, philosophy, art, and the nature of humanity. He made numerous discoveries and argued for ideas that people continue to grapple with. (His dualist distinction between mind and the brain, for example, continues to be debated by psychologists.) Get to know him better!

1. NOBODY CALLED HIM RENÉ.

Descartes went by a nickname and often introduced himself as “Poitevin” and signed letters as “du Perron.” Sometimes, he went so far to call himself the “Lord of Perron.” That’s because he had inherited a farm from his mother’s family in Poitou, in western France.

2. SCHOOL MADE HIM FEEL DUMBER.

From the age of 11 to 18, Descartes attended one of the best schools in Europe, the Jesuit College of Henry IV in La Flèche, France. In his later work Discourse on the Method, Descartes wrote that, upon leaving school, “I found myself involved in so many doubts and errors, that I was convinced I had advanced no farther in all my attempts at learning, than the discovery at every turn of my own ignorance."

3. HIS DAD WANTED HIM TO BE A LAWYER.

Descartes’s family was chock-full of lawyers, and the budding intellectual was expected to join them. He studied law at the University of Poitiers and even came home with a law degree in 1616. But he never entered the practice. In 1618, a 22-year-old Descartes enlisted as a mercenary in the Dutch States Army instead. There, he would study military engineering and become fascinated with math and physics.

4. HE CHANGED CAREER PATHS THANKS TO A SERIES OF DREAMS.

In 1618, the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, Ferdinand II, attempted to impose Catholicism on anybody living within his domain. The result of this policy would be the Thirty Years' War. It would also prompt Descartes, a Catholic, to switch allegiances to a Bavarian army fighting for the Catholic side. But on his travels, he stopped in the town of Ulm. There, on the night of November 10, he had three dreams that convinced him to change his life’s path. “Descartes took from them the message that he should set out to reform all knowledge,” philosopher Gary Hatfield writes in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

5. HE COULD BE EASILY DISTRACTED BY BRIGHT AND SHINY OBJECTS.

In 1628, Descartes moved to the Netherlands and spent nine months doggedly working on a theory of metaphysics. Then he got distracted. In 1629, a number of false suns—called parhelia, or “sun dogs”—were seen near Rome. Descartes put his beloved metaphysics treatise on the back burner and devoted his time to explaining the phenomenon. It was a lucky distraction: It led to his work The World, or Treatise on Light.

6. HE LAID THE GROUNDWORK FOR ANALYTIC GEOMETRY ...

In 1637, Descartes published his groundbreaking Discourse on the Method, where he took the revolutionary step of describing lines through mathematical equations. According to Hatfield, “[Descartes] considered his algebraic techniques to provide a powerful alternative to actual compass-and-ruler constructions when the latter became too intricate.” You might have encountered his system in high school algebra: They’re called Cartesian coordinates.

7. ... AND THE REST OF WESTERN PHILOSOPHY.

Everybody knows Descartes for his phrase Cogito, ergo sum (which originally appeared in French as "Je pense, donc je suis"), or "I think, therefore I am." The concept appeared in many of his texts. To understand what it means, some context is helpful: At the time, many philosophers claimed that truth was acquired through sense impressions. Descartes disagreed. He argued that our senses are unreliable. An ill person can hallucinate. An amputee can feel phantom limb pain. People are regularly deceived by their own eyes, dreams, and imaginations. Descartes, however, realized that his argument opened a door for "radical doubt": That is, what was stopping people from doubting the existence of, well, everything? The cogito argument is his remedy: Even if you doubt the existence of everything, you cannot doubt the existence of your own mind—because doubting indicates thinking, and thinking indicates existing. Descartes argued that self-evident truths like this—and not the senses—must be the foundation of philosophical investigations.

8. HE'S THE REASON YOUR MATH TEACHER MAKES YOU CHECK YOUR WORK.

Descartes was obsessed with certainty. In his book Rules for the Direction of the Mind, “he sought to generalize the methods of mathematics so as to provide a route to clear knowledge of everything that human beings can know,” Hatfield writes. His advice included this classic chestnut: To solve a big problem, break it up into small, easy-to-understand parts—and check each step often.

9. HE LIKED TO HIDE.

Descartes had a motto, which he took from Ovid: “Who lives well hidden, lives well.” When he moved to the Netherlands, he regularly changed apartments and deliberately kept his address a secret. Some say it's because he simply desired privacy for his philosophical work, or that he was avoiding his disapproving family. In his book titled Descartes, philosopher A. C. Grayling makes another suggestion: "Descartes was a spy."

10. HE WASN'T AFRAID OF CRITICS. IN FACT, HE RE-PUBLISHED THEM.

When Descartes was revising his Meditations on First Philosophy [PDF], he planned to send the manuscript to “the 20 or 30 most learned theologians” for criticism—a sort of proto-peer review. He collected seven objections and published them in the work. (Descartes, of course, had the last word: He responded to each criticism.)

11. HE COULD THROW SHADE WITH THE BEST OF THEM.

In the 1640s, Descartes’s pupil and friend Henricus Regius published a broadsheet that distorted Descartes’s theory of the mind. (Which, put briefly, posits that the material body and immaterial mind are separate and distinct.) The two men had a falling out, and Descartes wrote a rebuttal with a barbed title that refused to even acknowledge Regius’s manifesto by name: It was simply called “Comments on a Certain Broadsheet.”

12. HE NEVER BELIEVED MONKEYS COULD TALK.

There’s a “fun fact” parading around that suggests Descartes believed monkeys and apes could talk. He believed no such thing. According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Descartes denied that animals were even conscious, let alone capable of speech. The factoid comes from a misreading of a letter Descartes had written in 1646, in which he attributed the belief to “savages.”

13. HE TOTALLY HAD THE HOTS FOR CROSS-EYED WOMEN.

In a letter to Queen Christina of Sweden, Descartes explained that he had a cross-eyed playmate as a child. “I loved a girl of my own age ... who was slightly cross-eyed; by which means, the impression made in my brain when I looked at her wandering eyes was joined so much to that which also occurred when the passion of love moved me, that for a long time afterward, in seeing cross-eyed women, I felt more inclined to love them than others.”

14. WHEN HE MET BLAISE PASCAL, THEY GOT INTO AN ARGUMENT ... ABOUT VACUUMS.

In 1647, a 51-year-old Descartes visited the 24-year-old prodigy and physicist Blaise Pascal. Their meeting quickly devolved into a heated argument over the concept of a vacuum—that is, the idea that air pressure could ever be reduced to zero. (Descartes said it was impossible; Pascal disagreed.) Later, Descartes wrote a letter that, depending on your translation, said that Pascal had “too much vacuum in his head.”

15. HIS WORK WAS BANNED BY THE CATHOLIC CHURCH.

Back in the late 1630s, the theologian Gisbert Voetius had convinced the academic senate of the University of Utrecht to condemn the philosopher’s work. (Descartes was Catholic, but his suggestion that the universe began as a “chaotic soup of particles in motion,” in Hatfield's words, was contrary to orthodox theology.) In the 1660s, his works were placed on the church’s Index of Prohibited Books.

16. HE REGULARLY SLEPT UNTIL NOON (AND TRYING TO BREAK THE HABIT MIGHT HAVE KILLED HIM).

Descartes was not a morning person. He often snoozed 12 hours a night, from midnight until lunchtime. In fact, he worked in bed. (Sleep, he wisely wrote, was a time of “nourishment for the brain.”) But according to the Journal of Historical Neuroscience, he may have had a sleep disorder that helped end his life. A year before his death, Descartes had moved to Stockholm to take a job tutoring Queen Christina, a devoted early-riser who forced Descartes to change his sleep schedule. Some believe the resulting sleep deprivation weakened his immune system and eventually killed him.

17. HIS SKELETON HAS TRAVELED FAR AND WIDE.

Descartes died in Stockholm in 1650 and was buried outside the city. Sixteen years later, his corpse was exhumed and taken to Paris. During the French Revolution, his bones were moved to an Egyptian sarcophagus at the Museum of French Monuments. Decades later, when plans were made to rebury Descartes in an abbey, officials discovered that most of his bones—including his skull—were missing. Shortly after, a Swedish scientist discovered a newspaper advertisement attempting to sell the polymath’s noggin [PDF]. Today, his head is in a collection at the Musée de l’Homme in Paris.

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