Indexing Yields Yule Yuks

With all the talk of wikileaks, it’s easy to forget that there are other online resources that can be crowdsourced. Over at biblioklept they’ve looked at the index for Harper’s Magazine and unearthed some odd statistics.

Searching on literature, they found that product placement is very Joycean with “Minimum number of the brand names mentioned in James Joyce’s Ulysses that are still extant: 28” and the grim statistic “Percentage of American households in which no books were bought last year: 60”. For punctuation fans there’s this fun fact: “Exclamation points in Tom Wolfe’s The Bonfire of the Vanities: 2,343”. And proof that the Bard lives on in the White House with “Number of Shakespeare’s thirty-seven plays quoted on the Senate floor last year by Robert Byrd: 37 [i.e. all of them]”.

With the festive season looming we searched the index ourselves for Christmas. There’s a warning about Christmas over-eating in this stat “Estimated number of Americans hospitalized last year for injuries involving the ingestion of Christmas ornaments: 687” and another about getting a synthetic tree if you’re a smoker “Number of seconds it takes a synthetic Christmas tree to burn: 32”.

But there’s good news for gift buyers. For less than US$40 you can live out the Christmas idyll with “Estimated cost of a partridge in a pear tree, retail: $39.95”. And if you’re unsure about sending Christmas cards, think about how much they could be worth in future generations based on this stat: “Price paid at auction in October for a 1942 Christmas card signed by Adolf Hitler: $3,025”.

And then there’s the sad tale redeemed in these two stats:

  • Miles per hour of two low-flying Danish fighter jets in February when they startled a reindeer named Rudolph to death: 450
  • Amount his owner, a professional Santa, was paid by the Air Force in September to buy a new Rudolph: $5,000