Cast your mind way, way, back to a world without Google. Remember what a barren wasteland the internet was when all we had to answer our burning questions was Netscape? Well, imagine a world even more harsh and unforgiving than that: where you had to either spend hundreds of pounds on a set of encyclopaedias that was out of date by the time it had been printed or (ugh) actually leave the house and ask someone for the info you needed.
Now the New York Public Library is bringing back a taste of those old days via its Instagram account, where current employees are posting some of the questions posed to the research division between the 1940s and the 1980s. As Mental Floss notes, back then, staff members would write down any especially weird or interesting queries they received, and a Christmas break tidy of the desk area just unearthed a box of them. The library’s decided to post new ones every Monday, with the hashtag #letmelibrarianthatforyou, and Mental Floss had a preview of some of those that are yet to go up.
Some are obvious (‘do you have any books on human beings?’), others are oblivious (‘Does the female human being belong to the mammal class?’) Some are OMG you-cannot-be-serious (‘When writing to a sailor should one always spell the word ‘weigh’ as in ‘Anchors Aweigh’, out of courtesy, even when it is usually spelled ‘way’?) And today’s addresses an issue many of us are still puzzling over: ‘When one has guests, who kisses whom first.’
Most of all, they’re a reminder of how lucky we are to have search engines now. Not just because they give us so much information at our fingertips, but so that we never need to embarrass ourselves to this extent again.
Image credit: New York Public Library via Mental Floss.
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