Blackened Whitefish.

My second Reference Question Assignment for LIS.

I was excited about this one. I knew the answers to many of the questions well before I began. Then I realized that common knowledge was not so easy to find. I was really psyched about the question: “What is a homophobe? Give some examples.” I was so ready to go with that one, but then I re-read it and saw that the question read: “What is a homophone?” Bummer.

For this assignment, I limited myself to dictionaries, biographies, atlases and only left those areas when necessary. I had to visit several libraries and almost came up empty handed.

1. Who is Wilma Rudolph?

Wilma Rudolph, aka The Black Gazelle, aka The Black Pearl, was a 3-time Olympic Gold Medal Winner for the USA.

Finding info about her online was a snap with The search for a printed resource took me to 2 libraries where I found that all the books about her were children’s books. Well that’s still legit. I picked the book with the title I liked the best: “Wilma Unlimited: How Wilma Rudolph became the world’s fastest woman.”

2. What does it mean to “Go Platinum?”

To sell 1 million copies of a record. In the UK 300,000.

I thought this would be easy, I really did. I’ve known what this has meant for a long time, I think most people do. But finding that in print sent me through a lot of books. I went through a lot of dictionaries of slang and idioms and books about music in one library and found nothing. Nothing! When I did find a print source, it appeared so obvious and easy. I found it in the Oxford Dictionary of English Idioms. My sense of satisfaction was short lived because the answer was “To achieve platinum sales.” Well that’s great as long as you know what that means. You disappoint me Oxford. Once again, finding the answer online was quick and easy.

3. What is a Homophone? Give Examples

Homophones are words that have different meanings and spellings although they have the same pronunciation.

Examples: Rite and Right. Lite and Light. Heir and Air. Knight and Night.

This was easy and both the print and online sources gave excellent definitions and examples.

4. What does “How Now Brown Cow?” mean?

I was really surprised this time because it did not mean what I thought it meant. The first time I heard the expression was in the Bugs Bunny cartoon “Roman Legion Hare.” Yosemite Sam chases Bugs around a fortress and finds himself on the opposite side of a pitfull of lions. Bugs, safe on the other side asks Sam “How Now Brown Cow?” And that’s what I thought it was, a meaningless, rhyming taunt. I was in the third grade and thought it was hilarious and used it a few too many times on the playing field. So thinking I knew the answer, I looked it up at and found that it has no meaning. It’s just a dumb saying meant to teach elocution. So I learned something new. Trying to find it in print was all but impossible. Among the worst search experiences I’ve ever had. All the usual sources, the slang and idiom dictionaries, led nowhere. Keyword searches were useless. Eventually, I found a children’s book with the answer: “How Now Brown Cow?: A Course in Pronunciation.” I was worn out so I decided “Good Enough.”

Overall, I would never do this again with printed sources. I’m saying that because the online portion of this assignment took a mere 30 minutes tops. Searching for printed sources was frustrating beyond belief. The children’s section really came through. Figures.

My search for the answer did have one more amusing answer that came by word of mouth. There’s a bull who sees a group of cows on the other side of a barbed wire fence. He get really worked up and takes a flying leap over the barbed wire and accidentally castrates himself. The other animals get over their initial shock and burst out laughing and ask the bull “How Now Brown Cow?”

Thanks Mom 🙂

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