On 4 October 2007 I received the Ig Nobel Prize for Literature at Harvard University. On 6 October I spoke about my research for 5 minutes in the MIT Informal Lectures, and answered 3 questions. The talk and questions follow.
Inconspicuous indexers, and indexers as vegetables
Thank you for this honour.
I work as an indexer – an inconspicuous but thriving profession made up of people whose aim is to help readers find the information they need. Not many people know we exist, thinking instead that indexes ‘just happen’ or are created by computers. Because of this the American Society of Indexers chose the kohlrabi as their official vegetable – no-one knows what it is, either.
Indexes in daily life
My grandmother’s cousin, the American author Worth Tuttle Heddon, published her memoirs under the name Winifred Woodley, in a book titled ‘Two and three makes one’, which led my husband to point out that she was obviously better at English than at Maths! She noted (p.20) ‘This morning I made out a card index for the characters in my novel; keeping up with twenty-seven of them in my mind takes time from the writing’.