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Thursday, 30 March 2006

There are many English names containing the word “bottom”. There is Pratts Bottom in Kent, Tikli Bottom in India and Ramsbottom in Lancashire. This last is a very pretty town, which has kept its name despite efforts by some of the locals to change it to a more decorous Ramsdale. Ramsbottom is a unified whole, and not, as some have suggested, divided into Lower and Upper Ramsbottom. In addition to place names, there are surnames: Sidebottom, Winterbottom, Shipperbottom and Longbottom.


There is nothing remotely funny about these names.


That said, coming across the name Longbottom in the local paper the other day, I was struck by the thought that, while somebody given to puerile jokes might find this name amusing in itself, a more sophisticated person might wish to use it in a bilingual pun: if someone called, say, Arthur Longbottom – known to friends and family as “Art”, died young, he could have on his tombstone the epitaph “Ars longa, vita brevis”. What a good joke that would be, I thought to myself, feeling very clever.


Not for long. I googled Longbottom, and the Latin phrase, and it turned up around ten occurrences of this “original” joke, including, by way of consolation prize, a Willie, a John and a Thomas L. There is nothing new under the sun.


So my joke was not original. Nevertheless, I did originate it. It’s just that others got there first. I wondered whether there is a name for this kind of thing, specifically in the context of Google. If not, permit me to invent one – the Google-thwart, by analogy with a recent coinage  Googlebuggered, defined as “"the realisation that there is no website which is going to back up your point".


“Google-thwart” is the realisation that you are not as clever as you thought you were, and that minds far greater than yours, and sometimes an embarrassingly large number of them, have got there first.


Alas, it seems that I am destined to be google-thwarted at every opportunity. Saddened and exhausted after the Latin-for-Longbottom debacle, I started what I thought was quite a good poem:


My heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains my sense

As though of cider I had drunk


Better check, I thought. No point in going on with this if some cheeky so-and-so has done it already. Wearily I put my words into Google, and guess what? Rotten old Keats had written the exact same lines except for one word. And even that one word was better in his version, hemlock being a more poetic-sounding drink than cider.


Clearly, poetry was not going to be a field in which I could demonstrate any originality. So I decided to try physics, and came up with what I thought was quite a neat equation concerning matter and energy:


E= MC3


Yet again, Google revealed that I had been pipped to the post. Somebody called Einstein has thought up something very similar. My version was out by just one number, and a small one at that. It doesn’t seem fair, somehow.


Sadly it seems that I am not destined to have any original thoughts at all, and must confine myself to lamenting my condition on a website.


Update: I cut and pasted this whole entry into Google “exact phrase match”, and hundreds of people have done it.

Posted on 03/30/2006 11:29 AM by Mary Jackson
1 Apr 2006
Send an emailMary Jackson
Thanks for reminding me of that.

My favourite bit is:

They didn't think much to the Ocean:
The waves, they was fiddlin' and small,
There was no wrecks and nobody drownded,
Fact, nothing to laugh at at all.

1 Apr 2006
Send an emailEsmerelda Weatherwax
There's a famous seaside place called Blackpool,
That's noted for fresh-air and fun,
And Mr and Mrs Ramsbottom
Went there with young Albert, their son.

A grand little lad was their Albert
All dressed in his best; quite a swell
'E'd a stick with an 'orse's 'ead 'andle
The finest that Woolworth's could sell.

Things could be worse. They could be called Oglethwaite.

1 Apr 2006
Send an emailGraham
"Ramsbottom" was also the name of the very working-class Northern Snake on the Sooty Show.

A great influence on me was that snake - alongside Custard the cat and those strange little frog-like creatures off the Clangers.

1 Apr 2006
Send an emailMary Jackson
Yes, Marisol. Monty Python's Life of Brian was a major influence on my life and thoughts, such as they are.

I'm nothing if not original. So I'm nothing.

31 Mar 2006
Send an emailMarisol Seibold
The Crowd: Yes! We're all individuals!
Brian: You're all different!
The Crowd: Yes, we ARE all different!
Man in crowd: I'm not...
The Crowd: Shh!

- from The Life of Brian (but you knew that)

31 Mar 2006
Send an emailMary Jackson
Knowing my luck I'd turn up at a party wearing, thinking and drinking the same as everyone else. Stiil, we can't all be different. Otherwise nobody would be. Some of us have to be the same as other people.

31 Mar 2006
Send an emailJason Pappas
?? the dismay one feels showing up to a party only to find someone wearing the same thing.? That happens to me all the time. ;)

31 Mar 2006
Send an emailMarisol Seibold
And then there's Newton vs. Leibniz. Both came up with calculus at about the same time. Nothing like coming up with a great new idea and finding out someone else just found the same thing (even worse if they did it ever so slightly before you).

It's an intellectual version of the dismay one feels showing up to a party only to find someone wearing the same thing. ;)

31 Mar 2006
Send an emailJason Pappas
Now, now, one needed get discouraged. The Dutch physicist, Heinrik Lorentz, calculated E = 2/3 m c squared a few years before Einstein. He was 1/3 short but he had most of it! Einstein, by his methods, calculated E = m c squared but in his first paper he inexplicably has the 2/3rds factor and no citation to Lorentz! Life was tough before Google.

30 Mar 2006
Send an emailMarisol Seibold
"There is Pratts Bottom in Kent, Tikli Bottom in India and Ramsbottom in Lancashire."

In the second of those three, I hear there is particularly nasty weather.