Dander

We say ‘My danders up now’. What is Dander?

Google led me here and the suggestion that:

‘Dander is an informal term for a material shed from the body of various animals, similar to dandruff. It is composed of skin cells. It is a cause of allergies in humans.[1]

Older etymology has it that dander is a rare (perhaps Yorkshire) synonym of dandruff (OED). In the idiom “getting one’s dander up” the colloquial meaning, anger, is probably unrelated to the above usage.

Which came as a relief really.

pigpen

The real OED includes the dandruff definition but adds one or two more usages including slag from a furnace or  a stroll or a saunter or the most likely candidate – to be in a ferment – like the ferment used in making molasses in the West Indies. As the Free Dictionary adds ‘By extension ferment means ‘agitation or tumult.’

Which makes sense. First recorded use was in 1831 apparently.

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Dander

The story of the Ouija Board

I remember playing with a home made Ouija board when I was in my early teens. It went along with making yourself faint or ‘levitating’ your friends by lifting them with only your fingers – part perhaps of walking the bounds of this queer unfamiliar not quite adult world we had stumbled into.

I never worked out what made the glass move ( we used an upturned glass and a cut out alphabet for our seances). We took ourselves very seriously and I don’t think any of us would have pushed – or how anyone could make something coherent out of the freakish skittering over the table. I do remember being frightened by it all – rooms becoming colder, a sense of something uncontrollable being present and the menace of not quite coherent threats.

I’d always wondered where the idea for Ouija came from and came across this piece recently. Interesting, but doesn’t make me want to try it again…

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Where Did the Ouija Board Come From?
// Sociological Images

To begin, it wasn’t just a toy. It debuted in 1890 and it was the next in a long line of devices that had been invented to allow people to communicate with spirits. These weren’t intended to be pretend; they were deadly serious.

According to Lisa Hix, who wrote a lengthy history of such devices for Collector’s Weekly, the mid-1800s was the beginning of the spiritualist movement. People had long believed in spirits, but two sisters by the name of Fox made the claim that they could communicate with them. This was new. There were no longer just spirits; now there were spiritualists.

Amateur historian Brandon Hodge, interviewed by Hix, explains:

Mediums sprang up overnight as word spread. Suddenly, there were mediums everywhere.

At first, spiritualists would communicate with spirits by asking questions and receiving, in return, a series of knocks or raps. They called it “spirit rapping.” There was a rap for yes and a rap for no and soon they started calling out the alphabet, allowing them to spell out words

Eventually they sought out more sophisticated ways to have conversations. Enter, the planchette. This was a small wooden egg-shaped device with two wheels and a hole in which to place a pencil. Participants would all place their fingers on the planchette and the spirit would presumably guide their movements, writing text.

Here is an example of a planchette from 1900 and some pre-1875 spirit scribbling, both courtesy of Hodge’s fantastic website, Mysterious Planchette:2

These were religious tools used with serious intentions. Entrepreneurs, however, saw things differently. They began marketing them as games and they were a huge hit.

Mediums resented this, so they kept innovating new and more legitimate-seeming ways of communicating. In addition, the planchette scribbles were often difficult to read. The idea of using an actual alphabet emerged and various devices were invented to allow spirits to point directly to letters and other answers.

A Telepathic Spirit Communicator and a “spiritoscope” from 1855 (source): 3

Eventually, the concept of the planchette merged with the alphabet board and what we now know as the Ouija board was invented.

An Espirito talking board (1892) and the Mitch Manitou talking board (1920s) (source): 4

Here is an antique Ouija planchette:4

In the 1920s, mediums came under attack from people determined to prove that they were liars. Houdini is the most famous of the anti-spiritualists and Hodge argues that he “ravaged spiritualism.”

He set up little “colleges” in cities like in Chicago for cops to attend to learn how to bust up séances, and there was a concerted national effort to stamp out fraud.

Meanwhile…

The Spiritualist believers never successfully cohesively banded together, because they were torn asunder by their own internal arguments about spirit materialization.

Most mediums ended up humiliated and penniless.

“But the Ouija,” Hodge says, “just came along at the right time.” It was a hit with laypeople, surviving the attacks against spiritualists. And, so, the Ouija board is one of the only widely-recognized artifacts of this time.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

(View original at http://thesocietypages.org/socimages)

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The story of the Ouija Board

Gender Segregation of Toys Is On the Rise

I’ve been astonished, over the last few years, to see the aggressive re-emergence of boy toys and girl toys. Of course there have always been distinctions and differences on the shelves, but lately there has seemed a new drive to differentiate. Even companies like LEGO have been caught up in it.

This study suggests that there is substance behind the impression. It also gave me a rationale for the persistence of pink and blue, suggesting that companies:

‘resist androgynous toys and clothes for children — and arguably adults, too — has to do with money. If parents with a boy and a girl could get away with one set of toys, they wouldn’t need to buy a second. And if they could hand down clothes from girls to boys and vice versa, they would buy less clothes. The same could be said for borrowing and trading between family members and friends.’

Good old capitalism.

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Chart of the Week: Gender Segregation of Toys Is On the Rise
// Sociological Images

Some nice news has come out lately that the occasional toy store is taking the words boy and girl off of their aisle signs — mostly in Sweden, I say half-jokingly — but Google ngrams suggests that we’re nowhere near backing off of separating children’s toys by sex.

Sociologist Philip Cohen graphed the frequency of “toys for boys” and “toys for girls” relative to “toys for children.” This is just language, and it’s just American English, but it’s one indication that the consciousness raising efforts of organizations like Let Toys Be Toys is still on the margins of mainstream society.

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As you can see from the graph, the extent to which children are actively talked about as gendered subjects varies over time.

One explanation for why companies resist androgynous toys and clothes for children — an arguably adults, too — has to do with money. If parents with a boy and a girl could get away with one set of toys, they wouldn’t need to buy a second. And if they could hand down clothes from girls to boys and vice versa, they would buy less clothes. The same could be said for borrowing and trading between family members and friends.

It would really cut into the profits of these companies if we believed that all items for children were interchangeable. They work hard to sustain the lie that they are not.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

(View original at http://thesocietypages.org/socimages)

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Gender Segregation of Toys Is On the Rise