On 4 October 2007 I received the Ig Nobel Prize for Literature at Sanders Theatre, Harvard University, Cambridge. Here is my 1-minute acceptance speech.
Thank you. I work as an indexer – the person who creates the A to Z access points at the back of books, in periodicals, websites, online help – just about anywhere. Few people know that indexers exist, and even fewer know that we worry ceaselessly about how to alphabetise our index terms so you can find them.
‘The’ is a case in point. It’s a funny word that sometimes matters, and sometimes doesn’t. You sort ‘The Bible’ and ‘The Beatles’ at ‘B’, but ‘The Hague’ and ‘The camel’s hump is an ugly wump’ at ‘T’. And that’s before you get to concepts such as ‘the blues’, ‘the pill’, and ‘the undead’.
But no worries, here is my guide to the rules.
When filing a title, the goes at the end
And you start with a lower case letter
But an index of first lines puts the at the front
Somehow they think that works better.
In corporate bodies, the is often left out
It’s part of the name, but it has not much clout
But in place names the the is important to show
You must trust the rules, for surely they know!
With love to Jon, Bill and Jenny. Hello to my family and friends back home, to indexers around the world.
[At this stage Miss Sweetie-Poo arrived and started saying ‘Please stop, I’m bored. Please stop, I’m bored’] so I had to yell my last sentence over the laughter of the crowds: –
Thank you to my sister, Carol, for coming to Boston with me, and for saying that there is no award that would impress her more than an Ig Nobel.