Sunday, November 23, 2008

LCSH for "Yo mama"

A recent dust-up on AUTOCAT revolved around a librarian tour to Cuba for the "Havana Book Fair." This "fully escorted" tour involved the opportunity to "get an unprecedented look into issues of freedom of expression directly from Cuban intellectuals, writers, librarians, publishers and curators," with a rum-and-coke event at a local Committee for the Defense of the Revolution, who, besides keeping files on everyone in the neighborhood, "ensure[s] that detailed electoral information is provided on all candidates, and every vote diligently counted."*

As you may guess, a number of posters (myself included) criticized the post. Others objected to our criticism, and a small-bore kerfuffle ensued.

It was interjected, with clever use of Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH):
"... before this detours into a "Cuba $x Foreign relations $z United States" (and vice-versa) discussion, please remember that Autocat is primarily a discussion group for cataloging, authority work, etc."
Off-list, I suggested to someone that we could continue the argue entirely in LCSH, suggesting the (invalid) heading:

Cuba, Communist -- Propaganda -- Aimed at librarians!

Which was met with the (also invalid):

United States -- Imperialistic policies -- Social aspects


That got me thinking, if LCSH is a language (of sorts), how good is it for that most important role of languages—conveying insults?

The answer is—just great! Although LCSH lacks the term "jerk" or "dumbass" (except "Dumbasses (music group)"), it is still a rich field for insult, innuendo and invective. Consider, for example, hurling the following at an opponent:

Donkeys -- Genealogy
Dill weed -- Specimen

Sometimes the main heading themselves provide good insults, for example, to accuse someone of verbal diarrhea one need only employ:

Anal language -- Case studies**

But it's useful to take full advantage of the free floating form subdivisions. To tell someone they had descended to the depths of idiocy, I suggest

Stupidity -- Bathymetric maps

Can anyone come up with the ultimate LCSH put-down?

*The passage goes on to note, that, "Voting booth and ballot integrity" in this one-party state is "entrusted to primary level students on voting days." What a neat solution!
**Apparently this heading is only supposed to be used on the Anal people, of Southeast Manipur. Pity.

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Blogger SJ said...

How this has survived for so many hours without a comment is beyond me. I can't come up with my own insult yet, but simply to be the target of one would be delightful.

11/23/2008 7:55 PM  
Blogger Kaffles said...

A flame-war in "May Subdivide Geographically" headings:

Stupidity -- United States

Poor whites -- England

Losers -- United States.
[a narrower term for Failure (Psychology)]

Teeth -- Discoloration -- England.

Anus (Psychology) -- United States.

Humor in children -- England.

Useful to shout out:

Women automobile drivers!

Some of the most bizarre ones have been (tragically) superceded by less offensive/clearer terms:

Inefficiency, Intellectual see Stupidity.

Kath (aka Kaffles)

11/23/2008 11:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Then there is the subject heading of

Bitches (Dogs)--United States--Pedigrees.

(with 1 bib. record)

11/24/2008 10:42 AM  
Anonymous DrBubbles said...

Rectum -- examination -- Maps for the blind

11/24/2008 11:08 AM  
Anonymous AnnaClaire said...

How about:

Nutjobs -- United States

11/24/2008 12:13 PM  
Blogger Tim said...

I'm afraid "Nutjobs" isn't an approved heading. Just "Nuts."

11/24/2008 12:28 PM  
Blogger John Mark Ockerbloom said...

Should that be
Cuba -- Foreign relations -- United States


Cuba -- Relations -- United States

I'd heard somewhere that if you're adding on a country subdivision, the best practice was to use "Relations" rather than "Foreign relations", but I have no idea whether that's current advice or out of date.

I do know that I've seen subject headings both ways. It'd be nice to have clear, well-publicized standardization here.

11/24/2008 7:21 PM  
Blogger Kaffles said...

John, "relations" is a broader heading and covers "military relations" (brother in the army??) as well as "foreign relations." I generally use "foreign relations" because I think it's most useful for the sort of materials my library collects.

United States -- Military relations -- Cuba ?

Pedantry -- Australia. :-)

11/24/2008 8:21 PM  
Anonymous AnnaClaire said...

True, but neither were the two headings you mentioned as being used as terms of abuse.

On the other hand, perhaps I can reply to "Nuts" with "Fruitcake".

11/25/2008 11:04 AM  
Blogger bintalbalad said...

This discussion has this much chance of continuing on in this vein:


11/25/2008 12:43 PM  
Anonymous AnnaClaire said...

You think so?

Then again, I may be running headlong into:
Lunacy -- United States -- Social aspects.

11/25/2008 5:27 PM  
Blogger Jeffrey Beall said...


(Note that "specimen" above should be "Specimens.")

11/26/2008 1:03 PM  
Anonymous AnnaClaire said...

Isn't that supposed to be Blogs -- Boring?

11/26/2008 8:05 PM  
Blogger Simon Spero said...

You can make anything in to an insult by adding the qualifier (The English Word)

11/29/2008 5:38 PM  
Anonymous Kristina Spurgin said...

Ghetto trackback. :-)

12/02/2008 6:30 PM  
Anonymous AnnaClaire said...

Perhaps we should have a conversation "challenge" thread using LCSH?

12/03/2008 8:50 PM  

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