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  #1  
Old 03-05-2004, 07:20 AM
NevilleR NevilleR is offline
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Storks and babies

This is a favourite illustration of statisticians. To quote <http://members.ozemail.com.au/~macinnis/ockhams/stats.htm> :

Now anybody who's been around statistics for any time at all knows the folk-lore of the trade, the old faithful standbys, like ... the Dutch (or sometimes it's Danish) family size which correlates very well with the number of storks' nests on the roof.

More kids in the house, more storks on the roof. Funny, isn't it? Not really. We just haven't sorted through all of the factors yet... large families have larger houses, and larger houses in cold climates usually have more chimneys, and chimneys are what storks nest on. So naturally enough, larger families have more storks on the roof. With this information, the observed effect is easy to explain, isn't it?
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  #2  
Old 03-05-2004, 07:42 AM
C K Dexter Haven C K Dexter Haven is offline
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Link to the Staff Report: Why are storks associated with babies? ... will appear on Tuesday, March 9, 2004.

Welcome to the Straight Dope Message Boards, Neville, glad to have you with us. When you start a thread, it's helpful to other readers if you provide a link to the Staff Report or Column that you are discussing. Saves time and effort, keeps us all on the same page, etc. No biggie, you'll know for next time.

And for those who wonder how Neville has the foresight to post comments on a Staff Report that won't appear for five days, he subscribes. You, too, can subscribe, by going to the Home Page at www.straightdope.com and scrolling down a li'l to Join the Straight Dope Mailing List!
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Old 03-09-2004, 05:46 AM
norinew norinew is offline
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A related point to storks delivering babie (although it doesn't explain how the legend started) is this: not only is "the stork brought the baby" an easy way to explain the new arrival to the children in the family, but also, the mother could tell her little ones "when the stork brought our new baby, it bit mommy on the leg, so I have to stay in bed until my leg gets better".
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Old 03-09-2004, 06:05 AM
Fop Fop is offline
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"After the arrival of Christianity the feast continued to be celebrated as Saint John's Day; the modern association of June with weddings may also be related to this festival."

At least in Finland we never stopped celebrating Midsummer's Day, known as "juhannus" here. It is known as the day when most of the nation travel to their summer cottages, drink their head full of alcohol and light bonfires. Smart, eh?
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Old 03-09-2004, 10:13 AM
RiverRunner RiverRunner is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NevilleR
This is a favourite illustration of statisticians. To quote <http://members.ozemail.com.au/~macinnis/ockhams/stats.htm>
. . .
I don't have anything to add to the stork question, but I wanted to pop in to say thanks for the link. I have been reading the rest of the Ockham's Razor talks all morning -- much to the detriment of my work -- and am having a ball.

I even picked up a new phrase:
Quote:
Without the Goons to point it up, the sense of ridiculous was lacking. Politicians know this, and they rely on it. Next time you see that a new bridge is going to cost one billion and fifty three thousand dollars, be a bit suspicious. The billion is a ball-park figure, that probably won't be within a Zurich gnome's cooee of the final cost.
Within a Zurich gnome's cooee? Now that's writing.



RR
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Old 03-09-2004, 10:54 AM
Mycroft Holmes Mycroft Holmes is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fop
"After the arrival of Christianity the feast continued to be celebrated as Saint John's Day; the modern association of June with weddings may also be related to this festival."

At least in Finland we never stopped celebrating Midsummer's Day, known as "juhannus" here. It is known as the day when most of the nation travel to their summer cottages, drink their head full of alcohol and light bonfires. Smart, eh?
In Brazil, they also still celebrate "So Joo" every June, and it also includes lighting bonfires and getting drunk. I guess the huge colonies of Finnish immigrants in Brazil must explain that .
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Old 03-09-2004, 02:09 PM
Chronos Chronos is offline
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There's also a bit of interesting backstory to why St. John (the Baptist) has his feast day at the summer solstice. We know from the Gospels that John was six months older than Jesus (when the Angel visits Mary at Jesus' conception, he tells her that her kinswoman Elizabeth is pregnant in her old age, and already in her sixth month). Since we "know", of course, that Jesus was born at around the winter solstice, that obviously means that John must have been born at around the summer solstice. This also lends itself well to John saying "As my light diminishes, so his light waxes".
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Old 03-09-2004, 02:56 PM
Engineer Dude Engineer Dude is offline
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And I always thought that the Stork originated from some parents who didn't want to tell their young children about the birds and the bees...
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Old 03-09-2004, 04:41 PM
Colibri Colibri is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chronos
There's also a bit of interesting backstory to why St. John (the Baptist) has his feast day at the summer solstice. We know from the Gospels that John was six months older than Jesus (when the Angel visits Mary at Jesus' conception, he tells her that her kinswoman Elizabeth is pregnant in her old age, and already in her sixth month). Since we "know", of course, that Jesus was born at around the winter solstice, that obviously means that John must have been born at around the summer solstice. This also lends itself well to John saying "As my light diminishes, so his light waxes".
St. John's Day is also very unusual in that it celebrates the day of the Saint's birth, as opposed to death, as is the case in virtually all other Saint's Days.

The fact that the date was celebrated in both Finland and Portugal (and passed from the latter to Brazil) just attests to how widespread the pagan, and then Christian, holiday was throughout Europe.
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Old 03-09-2004, 05:53 PM
C K Dexter Haven C K Dexter Haven is offline
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Ummmm..... how about if we sort of stick vaguely to the topic of storks, in this thread? ::: muttering ::: Saint's feast days, right on topic....

P.S., Congrats, Colibri, on another great Staff Report!
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Old 03-10-2004, 11:46 AM
Colibri Colibri is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by C K Dexter Haven
Ummmm..... how about if we sort of stick vaguely to the topic of storks, in this thread? ::: muttering ::: Saint's feast days, right on topic....

P.S., Congrats, Colibri, on another great Staff Report!
Thanks, Dex.

Actually, I've been half expecting somebody to come by and take issue with the fact that Midsummer's Day is not actually in the middle of summer . . .
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Old 03-10-2004, 12:31 PM
tremorviolet tremorviolet is offline
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storks and pickles

So anyone know what the stork and pickle connection is? I think it was Vsalic (sp?) pickle commercials that used to feature a stork who talked like Groucho Marx. Was this just a marketing creation? Did it have any connection to the stork/baby legend?
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Old 03-10-2004, 01:31 PM
Colibri Colibri is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tremorviolet
So anyone know what the stork and pickle connection is? I think it was Vsalic (sp?) pickle commercials that used to feature a stork who talked like Groucho Marx. Was this just a marketing creation? Did it have any connection to the stork/baby legend?
The rather obvious connection would be that pregnant women stereotypically get cravings for particular kinds of foods, especially exotic combinations such as pickles and ice cream. The link between pickles and pregnancy and storks and babies would seem to be a natural.

Some mentions of the pickle/pregnancy link:

http://pregnancy.about.com/cs/nutrit.../aapickles.htm
http://www.babycentre.co.uk/general/4444.html
http://amos.indiana.edu/library/scripts/pickles.html

As for the Groucho accent, perhaps its to suggest New York and Jewish kosher dill pickles.
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Old 03-12-2004, 06:27 AM
APB APB is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Colibri
Actually, I've been half expecting somebody to come by and take issue with the fact that Midsummer's Day is not actually in the middle of summer . . .
Hmm...it depends where you are. In many parts of Europe it is actually a rather good approximation for the middle of summer.

What I am going to take issue with is the implied connection between Midsummer and weddings. There is no evidence that non-Roman pre-Christian pagans saw Midsummer as 'a time for weddings', mainly because almost nothing is known about what marriages rituals they had. Moreover, if Midsummer had been a time for weddings, that was not one of the customs carried forward by later Christians. A tradition of merrymaking on a particular date is not the same thing at all as a tradition of holding weddings on that date. Shakespeare notwithstanding, the St. John's Day celebrations throughout medieval Europe do not seem to have been particularly associated with weddings. Except in the indirect sense that the courtship customs that were a feature of those celebrations might lead to marriage at a later date.

Nor is there much evidence that June was an especially favoured month for weddings until the nineteenth century. Precise statistics are obviously impossible to calculate for all but the most recent centuries, but those historical studies which have been done have revealed a wide range of different patterns for different parts of Europe, none of which have shown June as the most popular month. If anything, the peaks tended to come in one of the autumn or winter months. There was also often an upsurge in the number of marriages before June in those places where marriages were prohibited during Lent.

But there's a further twist. Although statisticians can often detect a relationship between the seasonality of marriages and the seasonality of births, the peak for births rarely fell nine months after the peak for marriages. This was often true even for first births. (After all, it was hardly as if all first births were conceived after the wedding.) And that peak usually came in the spring, as it still does in most European countries. What this means is that you can perfectly plausibly propose that the return of storks in spring happened to coincide with more babies being born, but that has nothing to do with weddings at Midsummer.
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Old 03-12-2004, 03:57 PM
Colibri Colibri is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by APB
Hmm...it depends where you are. In many parts of Europe it is actually a rather good approximation for the middle of summer.
Actually, it depends more on how you define "summer." At least in the U.S., summer conventionally begins on June 21, which is why I might expect someone to dispute that this day was Midsummer.

Is it true summer in Ireland starts May 1?

I won't dispute your observations about the association of weddings and Midsummer's Day, since it's outside my area of expertise. I'll just mention, however, that several of the ornithological references I consulted specifically mentioned the link between storks and babies was that the Midsummer's Day festival (and there is no doubt this was often marked by merrymaking) was about nine months earlier than the stork's arrival. However, they did not cite any specific reference documenting this connection.

The connection, as you note, was probably actually a bit more approximate, in that the peak of births in Europe in the springtime coincided with the return of storks from migration.
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