Soda Straw

George Thompson george.thompson at NYU.EDU
Tue Apr 8 14:59:55 UTC 2003

Early in my career as a bird watcher, I went to a camera store to price telescopes.  The large ones were expensive and looked like a pain to carry.  I asked the salesman about a small, cheap one, an inch or so in diameter.  He wanted to sell me one of the expensive ones, but no doubt truthfully said, well, for one thing, using a small telescope like this one is like looking through a soda straw.

This would have been in the early 1980s, or thereabouts.

Not realizing at the time that 20 years later philological exactitude would demand a verbatim quotation, I stored away just the image used, not the exact words.

In fact, I didn't buy any telescope that day or since.

By the way: some of you may recall that Samuel Pepys discontinued his diary after 10 years, in his mid 30s, because he was having problems with his eyes and decided that writing the diary was a source of eye strain that he could eliminate.  At one point, he experimented with reading through a tube, I believe lensless.  I recall reading a modern writer on his diary saying that given the modern diagnosis of his condition, if he had flatted the tube somewhat it would have helped his problem.  Upon demand I will check William Matthews' edition of the diary -- which is in my bedroom -- to see if I can locate this passage and what Matthews says about it.


George A. Thompson
Author of A Documentary History of "The African Theatre", Northwestern Univ. Pr., 1998.

----- Original Message -----
From: Fred Shapiro <fred.shapiro at YALE.EDU>
Date: Friday, April 4, 2003 9:05 pm
Subject: Re: Soda Straw

> On Fri, 4 Apr 2003, Kathleen E. Miller wrote:
> > What I would like to find is the origin of it's use meaning
> "narrow" as in
> > the phrases, "soda straw snapshot", "soda straw effect"
> (earliest I've
> > found Dow Jones 1998), and "soda straw view."
> Nexis has the following from Defense Daily, Nov. 3, 1997:
>       Using its high resolution video camera, the Lockheed Martin
> [LMT] P-3 was to provide a "soda straw view" of moving targets and
> identify those targets as friend or foe, said Lt. Cmdr. David Acton,
> the intelligence officer for Amphibious Squadron 11.
> Fred Shapiro
> -------------------------------------------------------------------
> -------
> Fred R. Shapiro                             Editor
> Associate Librarian for Collections and     YALE DICTIONARY OF
> QUOTATIONS  Access and Lecturer in Legal Research     Yale
> University Press,
> Yale Law School                             forthcoming
> e-mail: fred.shapiro at
> -------------------------------------

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