Google and History

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I had gotten excited about Google’s timeline search before, but hadn’t seen this: Google is mining not just text for the dates of more recent stuff, but everything, stretching back into the mists of time, culled from Google Books:

The result is an odd but interesting automatically generated history of whatever you’re looking for.

In this case, I was looking for “cleft stick”. This is what appeared:

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And the first few were all about how women found to be disrespectful, swearing, reveling or other forms of subversion had their tongues inserted into a cleft stick—a stick with the end split, and the tongue inserted:

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The sources are varied, revealing a fascinating brutality and harrassment of women which went on for years:

In 1636, Elisabeth Aplegate was proclaimed guilty of the crime of swearing and reveling, and was required to stand in public with her tongue in a cleft stick.

1638 – The calmness with which even cultivated men then viewed the public whipping of women appears from the record by Governor Winthrop of the punishment of Mrs. Oliver in 1638. She was a woman of good character, but differed violently with the magistrates as to religious The calmness with which even cultivated men then viewed the public whipping of women appears from the record by Governor Winthrop of the punishment of Mrs. Oliver in 1638. She was a woman of good character, but differed violently with the magistrates as to religious matters, for which she was reproved, and finally sentenced to have her tongue put in a cleft stick, and then to be whipped.

This is clearly where the term “caught in a cleft stick” comes from. But not, probably, exactly what we mean when we say it.

03. July 2009 by jeremy
Categories: Search, Visualization | Tags: , , , , | Comments Off on Google and History