That would be Cecil Adams. I’m fairly sure you’ve all heard of him.
I’ve been accused of having crazy fan-girl admiration of him.
Yep, I kinda do. He’s the perfect man. A true renaissance man.
(Sorry, Cecil if this comes off as creepy).
Tell me your story of how you came across one of his books. I know many of you read him in the newspaper. I’ve not had that experience.
My story here:
I was flying to Upper Michigan. I was on a layover, with 2 young children, in O’hare airport. The kids fell asleep on a bench and I moved directly across from them. A man was sitting a chair over. He got up to leave and laid a book down between us on the chair. He never returned. I picked up the book and started reading. Finally our flight was called. I was grabbing all our junk to board early with small children. We got seated and the next bunch boarded. A lady passed by me and handed me the book. She said, “You left your book on your seat.”
Well, I never intended to steal a book. But…there it was, in my hands. I still have it. I look at it all the time. Inside the flyleaf I wrote a recipe down. So I’m always taking it off the shelf. I got all his other books after that.
I love them all.
Heck, I love Cecil.
Tell me you story.
I used to read The Straight Dope in the Chicago Reader (I’m from Chicago) back in the early eighties. When I moved to Madison for grad school in the mid eighties, I discovered that their local equivalent paper (“The Isthmus”) carried the same column. I was impressed; I had thought it was just a local Chicago thing. Very soon after that I discovered the books, and bought each one as they came out. They still occupy a prominent location on my bookshelf.
I’ve never had the honor of Cecil answering one of my questions in his print column or one of his books, but he did answer several of my questions on the message board. These were all in the late great Chicago Straight Dope sub-forum that used to be on the message board. I imagine they are still somewhere in the vast archive of the board, but I don’t know where.
Sometime in 1988.
I had never heard of Cecil nor seen his column or books.
I was living in a house in Santa Clara (Silicon Valley) with two housemates. One of them had one of Cecil’s books. That was the first I had ever seen or heard of him or his column. This was way before the Internet was a widely available thing, although we had access to it where I worked.
A year or so after that, I lived in a semi-rural place, and discovered the local alternative weekly newsrag, which had The Straight Dope column.
Fast forward a whole bunch more years, to 2011. Somewhere around then, I found The Straight Dope on-line and became a regular reader, but I never bothered to look into the message board.
One day, there was a Threadspotting link that caught my interest: Someone was going to attend a Trivial Pursuits kind of party, and wanted to amass a collection of trivia questions derived from song lyrics. So there was a thread in Cafe Society for that.
I read that thread, and got interested enough to sign up just to participate in that thread. The thread went on for a long time. We all got into a kind of contest contributing trivia questions and answering each other’s questions. One of my questions was:
“What was the name of the Pasadena boulevard that the little old lady terrorized when she got behind the wheel”
Answer: Colorado Blvd.
Another one I asked:
“A sinusoidal wave form spontaneously appeared in an undisturbed liquid medium, despite the absence of any detectable perturbations” (or something like that) What is this talking about?
Answer: Ripple in still water, Where there is no pebble tossed, Nor wind to blow
Someone actually got that!
Pretty much Tim_R_Morritis’s experience: I grew up in Chicago, got the Reader locally and read Cecil’s column. Moved to CA and found a different Alt Rag paper that carried the column. Saw the books later and bought 'em.
Okay, I searched for that thread. Google search finds one that I think is it in the Straight Dope Archive, but when I click, Discourse tells me the page is private or cannot be found. (Gee, could you make up your mind?) Doing a search here in Discourse doesn’t find it at all.
I grew up in San Diego, where there’s an alt-weekly called the San Diego Reader that back in the '80s and '90s was a sister paper to the Chicago Reader. It had a column called “Straight From the Hip”, by Matthew Alice, that resembled Cecil’s column, with a focus on forgotten/interesting tidbits of San Diego history. One of my high school friends lent me a copy of one of Cecil’s books after we’d been talking about that column.
I moved to Chicago in the early 1980’s to go to college and started reading the Reader, and that is where I met “The Straight Dope” column. I also haunted book stores, and that is where I discovered The Straight Dope books (of which I have a complete set).
Cecil never answered any question of mine - don’t think I ever asked one. But once I did get to help answer someone’s question for the column! It was the one about getting a blimp license.
In the 1990s, I was working at a place where we’d often go for a beer after work. The place we’d go had an NTN Trivia game. One co-worker and I were enthusiastic participants.
One day, he happened by my desk. “You like trivia, like we play on NTN. Here, learn more,” and he dropped one of Cecil’s Straight Dope books on my desk. I devoured it, and returned it, and he loaned me other Straight Dope books. Which I likewise devoured, and returned.
I was in Chicago in early 2000, and got a copy of the Chicago Reader, where, sure enough, I found Cecil’s column. That just made me want to collect the books all the more. Which I eventually did.
I discovered The Straight Dope in the early 1980s in the Baltimore City Paper and became an assiduous follower since. As such, I purchased each collection as it made it to publication – there being no online archive in 1986, it was the way to keep and preserve the material.
If & When I hit the Powerball I’ll ring up Ed & Co. to look into financing a proper shelf set spanning the entire run.
Kind of the reverse. In the late 70’s my cousin introduced me to the first “Straight Dope” book, which I loved. I came down to San Diego to attend SDSU, and was pleased to find the “Straight from the Hip” column in The Reader.
As the SD books would come out, either I’d get them and tell my cousin about them, or vice versa. (oh the days before the internet !)
I’m in Chicago suburbia so sometimes I’d get a copy of the Chicago Reader due to a trip into the city or because someone else I knew went in and grabbed one, but I wasn’t a regular reader by any means. One day I saw a collection in a used book store and bought it, then went back and bought any others they had and finally bought the remaining volume new. That led to following the column online to hitting up the SDMB in March '99.
I discovered The Straight Dope column around 1985; it was carried by Isthmus, the weekly alternative newspaper in Madison, WI, which I read when I was attending the University of Wisconsin. There were mentions of the books in the column from time to time, and I bought the first two books in paperback at a local bookstore in Madison.
I got together with some high school chums at a New Hampshire lake house in Summer 1988, and my friend Neil brought Return of the Straight Dope, I think it was, with him. I started idly looking through it one afternoon, and then quickly devoured it. Right up my alley - very interesting trivia, written in a sardonic style. When I learned of the website and this message board, believe me, I didn’t have to be asked twice.
Business trip in mid 80s. Co-worker showed me Cecil’s first Straight Dope book and let me borrow it. Bought all of them I could find, and we (wife and I) used them as low-tech Audible books on trips. Passenger would read them aloud to the driver as we traveled.
Got curious around 2000 if there was a website and literally typed straightdope-dot-com in the URL window to see what happened. Lurked awhile, then joined a few years later.
Oh, you don’t know what you’re missing. Don’t remember which book it is, but in one book he devotes a whole chapter to a series of columns that end up answering questions that he swore he wouldn’t answer.
It started out (this is early 80s, mind you) with a question about nipple rings. Cecil started the article talking about the weird mail he got that week that he wouldn’t consider answering like
someone while jogging found a tree that smelled like semin
someone asking what they did with used pacemakers
etc. etc. etc.
He goes on to talk about piercings. then he starts getting mail answering the questions that he wasn’t going to answer. For example, there was a charity that would gather used pacemakers to donate for surgery on dogs.
As with many here, I was introduced to Cecil through the Chicago Reader. I worked in Evanston (near north suburb), and read the reader every week. Immagine, if you will, working in cube-land. I grab my copy of The Reader, and start reading Cecil’s column on penile fractures. Then I got to the line…
Everyone around me was convinced I had gone insane. I was trying my best not to laugh, and it wasn’t working.
When the books came out, had to get them. Bought them, lent them out, went through several copies. Still have their tattered remains in my bookshelf.
The second one of his books was on the “new books shelf” at the library. It was one of the funniest books I’d ever read. Still is. I bought the first one, and the others as they came out. Brilliant stuff.