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Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Thanksgiving Mysteries vs. Google

Thanksgiving was a jolly time, it was it was. The family congregated at my parents' house, we ate too much, dealt with the crippling after-effects of tryptophan poisoning, watched a series of losses by football teams I was cheering for, and watched my parents' cat Steve try to figure out how to catch a bird-shaped Christmas ornament Mom had hung from a ceiling fan.

We also, as my family is wont to do, spent some time sitting around, instruments in hand, singing songs together. The Von Trapps we ain't, but we enjoy a little family jam session. Thanksgiving being sort of the starting gun for Christmas (except in the retail world, where September 1st (or, sometimes, St. Patrick's Day) seems to be) we sang quite a few Christmas tunes, and thence came the first of two Thanksgiving Mysteries.

"Mysteries" is probably too dramatic a word, really, but I'll push forward undaunted. We were singing the classic tune "The Friendly Beasts" and found ourselves wondering if we were remembering all the verses. We covered these four (Note - the page will immediately start playing a MIDI file of the song's tune. It's not objectionable (except for sounding like a $30 Casio keyboard), but if you're not in a place where music suddenly springing from your computer would be appropriate then be ye warned (if you listen to the song all the way to the end there's sort of a cool Easter Egg)) and sat around looking at each other for a bit, trying to remember if there was a fifth. It seemed like we'd usually only sung about those animals, but the song seemed too short. Finally we moved on and left the mystery unresolved. Until today. Today I have hied me to Google and solved the mystery. There is indeed a fifth verse:

"I," said the camel, yellow and black,
"Over the desert, upon my back,
I brought Him a gift in the Wise Men's pack."
"I," said the camel, yellow and black.

I'm pretty sure I've never heard it before, though, so I maintain that we weren't forgetting the verse, we just weren't aware of it. It doesn't seem to measure up to the lyric standard of the other four - the "ack" sound just isn't Christmassy, to my ears. Still, there it apparently is.

We also discussed what the proper word for a group of pigs was. This summer EWALU will have horses for the first time ever and I wanted to have some other group-of-animal names at my disposal so I could misuse them in place of "herd" and annoy people (only the loftiest goals for me). My aunt knew a startling number of them (I knew crash of rhinos and murder of crows and that was about it - she knew at least a dozen), but no one in the room was quite sure what a group of pigs was called. Mystery #2, and all in the same afternoon - exciting Saturday! So once again I consulted the good folks at Google (one of whom I actually know now; I greatly enjoy imagining that every time I do a search off goes my brother's friend Nick to check the Google library so he can run back to his computer and type in the answer) and found this delightful website (which plays nary a MIDI tune when opened). Apparently, pigs come in droves or herds, which is sort of boring but unsurprising (animals that people often work with groups of don't seem to get the cool names). But hogs come in drifts, parcels, or passels, and swine occasionally form sounders. Also, I note that a group of bears is a sleuth and a group of ponies a string, both of which will likely come up at our family Christmas.

Elementary, my dear Watson and whatnot.

Is the Easter Egg that the song never freaking ends? 'Cause that's not a cool Easter Egg.
"Sounder of Swine" would be a good name for a rock band.
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