Prescriptive Linguists

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Fri Feb 1 15:35:24 UTC 2008

"Five-pound sack" and not "five-pound bag"? I wonder where the
isogloss is. (Rhetorical. I don't really care.) I read "Cat's Cradle"
in the original Galaxy(?) magazine version so long ago that I have no
recollection as to whether Kurt, Jr., used "bag" or "sack."

The stranger thing is that, when I picture this kind of blivVt in my
mind, I see a sack. Unless it's actually a bag. :-)


On 1/31/08, James Harbeck <jharbeck at> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       James Harbeck <jharbeck at SYMPATICO.CA>
> Subject:      Re: Prescriptive Linguists
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> >Oh, THAT! I know it as... well, various names, but the first I learned was
> >"blivet" ("blivit"?), possibly from MAD Magazine. Escher, our age's great
> >master of such, uses that diagram, or rather the principle, in many guises.
> I know Kurt Vonnegut's definition of "blivet" (from _Cat's Cradle_,
> IIRC): ten pounds of shit in a five-pound sack. Apparently this comes
> from military usage. I find it useful in my day job, more often than
> I would like.
> This is actually the first time I've seen the term applied to the
> optical-illusion three-pronged thingy (for which I never had a proper
> name).
> James Harbeck.
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society -

All say, "How hard it is that we have to die"---a strange complaint to
come from the mouths of people who have had to live.
                                              -Sam'l Clemens

The American Dialect Society -

More information about the Ads-l mailing list