Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The heretofore undiscovered link between surveying and hoboing

Is there any word in the English language more amusingly evocative than "hobo"? (And, by logical conclusion, is "hoboing" English's funniest gerund?)

Lest you think this an idle query with no survey content, let me tell you what prompted this train of thought. On Friday we surveyed a collection of notebooks from an amateur ornithologist who was active from the 1920s to the 1980s. This, in itself, is not unusual, since the archives of the Academy of Natural Sciences are replete with birding documentation, ranging from daily checklists of birds seen to highly detailed species and location descriptions to anatomically correct drawings to tens of thousands of photographs and slides.

What was unusual about this collection was that, along with the checklists and the decades worth of notebooks chronicling sightings throughout the United States, Europe, South America, and Africa, were journal entries in which the author chronicled his "hoboing" adventures -- hitching rides with strangers, making camp with wizened oldtimers, getting rounded up by the police -- all undertaken in pursuit of his birding passion. This presented a whole different face to hoboing and, probably needless to say, prompted a weekend's worth of hobo-related google searches.

Speaking of faces and hoboing, here's a link to a wonderfully diverting site where you can browse through visual depictions of "the" 700 Hobo Names, as authoritatively declared by John Hodgman in his book The Areas of My Expertise.

1 comment:

Superfecta said...

That is fascinating! Love the Hodgman reference.