Mar 1

Are you able to identify the objects are in the picture below?

Recently I learnt (thanks, Paul) that the object on the right is called a shoe tree. The object on the left is a shoe, which has a shoe tree inside it.

Thinking I might like to learn more about shoe trees, I looked on Wikipedia and, sure enough, there’s an article on shoe trees. It’s fairly short, but I suppose there’s not much you can write about shoe trees other than their basic design concept and materials.

As I read about shoe trees it occurred to me that this was quite a mundane item to have its own Wikipedia article. I find it interesting that someone has bothered to sit down and peck out a paragraph or two on this fairly innocuous subject. This got me thinking about other everyday items that might have been overlooked in the effort to construct a global online repository of humankind’s knowledge.

Think of a boring household item. How about a comb? Yes, there is a comb Wikipedia article, and it actually has a good screen-and-a-half’s worth of text. I’d forgotten about the comb’s potential as a musical instrument, which takes up a large paragraph on its own.

Next I looked up shoelaces. Of course there is a lengthy article on shoelaces; the history of shoelaces, construction, types of knots, as well as a handy table giving recommended shoelace lengths depending on the number of lace holes in your shoe. I’ll have to bookmark that one.

Time to get smaller, to zoom in. What about the aglet, the small plastic bit on the end of a shoelace? Surely it won’t have its own Wikipedia article! Oh, yes, it does. Did you know that during the Great Depression aglets were made out of paper and glue? What a living hell it must’ve been.

OK, try to think even smaller now, insignificant … what is the most insignificant thing I can imagine … dust! Of course the Wikipedia article on dust is quite involved. It begins with a strict definition of what can rightfully be called “dust” (any solid particle with a diameter of less than 500 microns). It then goes into detail on the various types of dust; domestic dust, atmospheric dust, cosmic dust …

Think very, very general now … what about a stick. I can’t for the life of me think of an item that is less specific. There is an article on “stick”, it just says:

stick generally refers to a long, slender piece of wood, usually a branch from a tree without the leaves that may be refined.

Then it has a long list of other possible uses of the term “stick” that the reader may be interested in. (In Wikipedia terms this listing of different senses of a word is called “disambiguation”, a great word that I am yet to use successfully in casual conversation.)

So it seems that no matter how insignificant, mundane, useless or dull, there is a place in Wikipedia for you. Maybe it’s time for an article about Snubian.

One Response

  1. A Gal Says:

    whats a shoe without shoe trees?