A not-pointless flash-mob?

Garson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Tue May 3 22:15:22 UTC 2011

Wired Magazine has an article that contains a claim about the genesis
of the modern flash-mob.

WIRED MAGAZINE: 17.06        05.22.09
The Guy Behind Flash Mobs Tackles His Frankenweb Monster by Jeff Howe

In case you've forgotten, the Harper's senior editor [Bill Wasik]
engineered the first flash mob. Back in May 2003, he sent his friends
an anonymous email asking them to participate in a "project that
creates an inexplicable mob of people in New York City for ten minutes
or less." A week later, scores of strangers descended upon a Manhattan
jewelry shop, stood around for a bit, then dispersed just as
mysteriously. By August, flash mobs were popping up in cities around
the world and the concept became the subject of countless blog posts
and news reports.


On Tue, May 3, 2011 at 5:33 PM, Joel S. Berson <Berson at att.net> wrote:
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> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       "Joel S. Berson" <Berson at ATT.NET>
> Subject:      A not-pointless flash-mob?
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> "... the operation also provided a rare burst of communal good
> feeling that some celebrated with flash-mob demonstrations at ground
> zero, the White House and Times Square, among other places."
> Alessandra Stanley, "The TV Watch", NYTimes, today, section F.
> A well-worn term, but not in the OED* and defined by Wikipedia as "a
> group of people who assemble suddenly in a
> <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public_place>public place, perform an
> unusual and sometimes seemingly pointless act for a brief time, then
> disperse, often for the purposes of entertainment and/or satire."
> One might argue about the pointedness of Sunday night's flash mobs.
> * Except s.v. "reason, n.1" --
>      2003    Boston Sunday Globe (Metropolitan ed.) 16 Nov.
> b7/2   The 'flash mob' phenomenon, where hundreds of people
> gather..and disperse quickly, seemingly without reason.
> Confusable (e.g. in GBooks) with an older meaning for "flash mob", a
> mob of "sporting men" (more accurately, I think, underworld
> denizens).  This meaning also apparently is not in the OED as a phrase.
> 1)   An intriguing possible Australian antecedent?
> -----
> [They] could descry a long dark line of moving objects at a
> considerable distance on the plain, but whether horses, cattle, or
> even a troop of emu, they were unable to make out with certainty.
> "Let's back her up quietly ... She and Charley witll head them; it's
> no use bustin' our horses.  This is rather a flash mob, but they'll
> be all right when they're wheeled once or twice."
> ---
> So a stampede, a mob that arose "in a flash"?
> In The squatter's dream: a story of Australian life, by Rolf
> Boldrewood.  London, Macmillan and co., etc., 1892.    [Publisher and
> date from Harvard; text from GBooks.]
> 2)  Ambiguous?
> -----
> Nice is crowded for the approaching Carnival ... The streets are
> choked with a horrible flash mob. This place is a combination of
> Rosherville, Margate, with a strong smack of parlickly Marseilles ...
> -----
> Depends on how disreputable Rosherville and Margate were circa 1900.
> In Old diaries, 1881-1901, by Lord Ronald Sutherland Gower.  London :
> J. Murray, 1902.  [Publisher and date from Harvard; text from GBooks.]
> 3)  Modern sense seems to have arisen in 2003.  [GBooks, simple
> search only for "flash-mob", quoted.  I have not looked in
> newspapers.]  Or perhaps 2002, if someone knows Dutch.
> Joel
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