573.2 Dunbar. It’s at a library near you.

Welcome to the premier episode of A Dewey a Day!

As promised, here’s the bibliographic info for the book:

Grooming, gossip, and the evolution of language

Dunbar, R. I. M. (Robin Ian MacDonald)

Publisher:  Harvard University Press, Pub date:  c1996.

Who knew we’d luck up and get such a dumpling (juicy and savory) on the first day?!  Here’s a pic:

It was happy to see me and ready for its closeup!

I hunted for and found this little number waaaaay in the back of the General Collections department.  After sanitizing today’s special (library books are gross) I proceeded to give it a more thorough once over.  No, scraps of paper tucked inside.  No notes in the margins. That sucks but I forged ahead.

Summary (Publisher’s Weekly Review):

There is no denying that Dunbar (The Trouble with Science) makes something of a splash in the field of evolutionary psychology when he argues that the main impetus behind the evolution of language is the human need to gossip. Of course, readers should not be fooled by the seemingly flip use of the term “gossip,” since Dunbar’s gossip refers to any type of social conversation. For Dunbar gossip constitutes the linguistic equivalent of grooming, the means by which primates, especially chimpanzees and baboons, establish relations within a group. 

My Reaction:

Eye catching cover.  High falutin brow, sophisticated language (this is the Haahvard Press after all).  I learned a new word on the very 1st page.


frisson-A sudden strong feeling of excitement or fear; a thrill: “a frisson of excitement”.


I’d say that there’s worth the price of admission!  And please believe I’ll be using my new word post haste!  In plain language the author professes that—assuming you buy into the evolution spiel— language also evolved from primitive utterances and gestures and that this evolution was mostly driven by the need to gossip.  He goes on for 207 pages; starting with the grooming habits of primates,  somehow meandering over to the O.J. Simpson trial and then leaping into a chapter on the low intonation of  Christian liturgies, all to assert that language evolved so that we could talk to each other more easily. Well duh.

This one might get the blank stare from me.

I’m sure my cursory skimming is causing me to over simplify but hey, I didn’t say it’d be a Rhodes Scholar analysis.

I got through day 1!!!  I think I just experienced some frisson over here!  Can’t wait to see where Day 2 takes us!


Get your daily dose-o-Dewey right here

Inspired by the 365Project,  I (a mild commitment-phobe in a 12 step program to recovery) have decided to jump in with my contribution.   Yes I’m a few days late but I didn’t start my 12 step program for procrastination yet.  I’ll leave that for 2013’s resolution. God Willing.

I thought about creating a whole ‘nother blog for this project but was concerned about my digital foot-print.  I’m sure it really doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things but still I’d rather my footprint to be in the dainty range rather than Sasquatch-ish. So I’m gonna blog this project right here on Life on Tuesday.

The premise of their project is that participants should “Document a year of your life by taking a photo a day”.  I wanted to do something a tad more involved and after a few days of brainstorming I came up with this ——->

A Dewey A Day

My 365Project—er 356Project (as it were) will involve 3 of my loves:

1) books (I could’ve said reading but didn’t because while I so love reading I also love books. I love the way they look on a shelf, on a night stand and how they feel in your hands.)

2) writing

3) the random (chance)

What kinda derring do is this you ask? This kinda derring do!  I’m gonna use a unique identifier generator to get 6 digits (the first 6 out of any string generated) and this will be my Dewey for that day.  I will then go retrieve that book (physically whenever possible but I’ll resort to e-copies if I must) and then I, your courageous (sometimes curmudgeonly) neighborhood librarian will post a mini report for that book! I’ll do this every day **gulp** for 356 days. Who will stick around to gawk at my antics? Whats’ the profile of a Dewey-A-Day audience member?

  • The curious; those who want to see what long forgotten gems might be unearthed
  • The Cliff Note scholars; those who wanna wax philosophical on themes and interpretations of Homer’s The Odyssey (no joke, that’s the book I got on my dry run, Dewey number 883.01) by just tuning in to my briefest of summaries
  • The librarian who wants to get more intimate with the Dewey system since everyone assumes we know it like we know our own phone number (seriously, who knows anybody’s phone number these days?)

So that’s the plan.  Some days I might have more to say than just my Project356 stuff so I might do a couple of entries on that day.  My entries will include the bibliographic info for the book, a summary and my reaction (could be a poem, picture, a drawing or a blank stare).

I’m gonna stick to this even when I don’t care to.  I’m gonna do it even when I’m fairly certain no one else gives a… **search mental Rolodex for something no one cares about**—> 1000 Grand candy bar.  Here we go folks! I’m excited! Are you!?  I know the books are!!!! 😀

Seriously, we were gonna sue for alienation of affection. Signed, The Books