Nestbuilding of a different kind


In starts and stops, spring is gradually settling over the area. And as surely as bright flowers of the season free themselves from their underground bulbs, songbirds will soon turn to nestbuilding.

Feathered creatures everywhere will gather bits and pieces from nature’s stockpile of twigs, grass, moss, and leaves, as well as the occasional scrap of yarn or fabric. These parents-to-be will combine what they have collected to form a cozy abode for their nestlings.

In the spirit of the season I am constructing this week’s article from my own bits and pieces of useless but fascinating minutiae. I have cobbled together a motley combobulation of random factoids gleaned from anywhere and everywhere in an effort to amuse, inform – and probably baffle – the reading public.

For example, at this very moment I am using the X-Y positive indicator for a display system connected to my computer. Thank goodness this device, as named in Douglas Engelbart’s patent application, became known as a “mouse” – for those of us who still use such things. We are equally fortunate that Ward Cunningham hustled between terminals at the Honolulu Airport on a wiki wiki shuttlebus. He later applied “wiki” to what we now know as any of those computer websites that can be directly edited by users.

I also recently learned that the glop of toothpaste I spread on my toothbrush every morning has an official name: “nurdle.” Similarly riveting is the word “tittle,” which happens to be the dot over the lowercase i. I would bet that few of those who have dotted the i during OSU’s Script Ohio knew they had a real name! An additional piece of spellbinding information: Alaska is the only state that can be typed on one row of keys.

I will allow everyone to calm themselves from all this nurdle-wiki-Alaska excitement with another tidbit. Wayne Allwine married Russi Taylor in 1991. The charming aspect of this fact is that Allwine was the longtime, legendary voice of Mickey Mouse for Disney – and Taylor was the voice of Minnie Mouse. So sweet…

Speaking of voice actors, the name of Thurl Ravenscroft pops up. For more than fifty years, he used his signature, booming voice to bring Tony the Tiger alive for Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes. Ravenscroft’s musical talents then won him a spot in the 1966 TV production of How the Grinch Stole Christmas! with the song “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch.” Who knew?

I now return to Kellogg’s and their noisy cereal characters of Snap, Crackle, and Pop. The trio of gnomes or elves or whatever, meant to resemble brothers for Rice Krispies, have been clattering around in cereal bowls since the 1930’s, with a fourth brother named Pow making a brief appearance in the 50’s. By the way, Australians eat Rice Bubbles, and the “boys” are known as Pif, Paf, and Puf in Denmark.

From the world of animated characters we all recognize Bashful, Doc, Dopey, Grumpy, Happy, Sleepy, and Sneezy as the seven guys in Snow White’s posse. But how many of us knew that the Disney folks also considered naming them Burpy, Dizzy, Gloomy, Jumpy, Sniffy, Stuffy, and Wheezy? Personal note: during her toddler days, my sister referred to the Seven Dwarfs as the Seven Dorks!

Continuing the name theme, this time for real people, I confess that I look forward each year to the list of most popular baby names bestowed upon the infants of our nation. After several years during which Sophia and Noah and Jackson and Emma reigned supreme, last year Olivia and Atticus topped the list. I was not surprised; I am acquainted with several Olivias, all of whom possess quite quirky personalities. But Atticus? Whether named for an ancient philosopher, the principled lawyer found in the pages of To Kill a Mockingbird, or the clothing worn by members of the rock band Blink 182, Atticus seems like a lot of name for a little kid. It is hard to imagine, “Eat your carrots, Atticus!” or “Atticus, get in there and clean your room!”

I know that for many of our traditions we throw things: bouquets at weddings and confetti at trophy time following some sporting events. We even throw parties. Celebrations in other countries, however, bring new perspective to festive throwing. While American children are stuffing their baby teeth under pillows to await the current national average of four or five dollars per incisor, Greek kids are throwing their teeth on the roof to encourage good fortune and healthy new teeth. And watch out in Jamaica and Denmark. Jamaicans throw flour at the birthday child; even Usain Bolt was “floured” in 2015. And the Danes shower with cinnamon any friend who turns 25 and is still single!

Finally, it cracks me up that each month the Procrastinator’s Club of America issues “Last Month’s Newsletter.” And the Corduroy Appreciation Club – it’s a real club – celebrated 11/11/11 as the day most resembling their favorite fabric. I might sign up just for the humor of it all!

So, folks, that is my bird nest article: dribs and drabs of trivia all pasted together. And believe me, there is more where that all came from.

I will offer one last factoid for the safety and welfare of our aforementioned feathered friends. Anyone putting out fabric or yarn for nature’s nest builders should opt for natural fibers only.

By Shirley Scott

Shirley Scott, a 1966 graduate of Graham High School, is a native of Champaign County. After receiving degrees in English and German from Otterbein College, she returned to GHS in 1970 where she taught until retiring in 2010. From 1976-2001 she coordinated the German Exchange Program with the Otto-Hahn-Gymnasium in Springe.

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