Dabbler legend Jonathan Law returns with a new series of posts about Phantom Libraries, beginning with the thing that set him off on an exploration of strange or imaginary lists of books: deleted Wikipedia articles.
Warning: reading the lists contained herein is a bizarre and hilarious experience that will make you question the most basic assumptions about human nature…
Week after week the Wikiworm brings us his haul from the dark belly of Wikipedia – curious, often astounding stuff you would struggle to find in most conventional reference books. As much as anything, it is this slightly deranged eclecticism that makes Jimmy Wales’s project one of the wonders of the age.
And yet – and here I show my age no doubt, and a mind-set formed by 25 years in print reference – there is something about this ultra-inclusive policy that can bring on an itchy disquiet, almost a sort of vertigo. Take away the constraints of time, space, and money that impinge on even the most voluminous of print encyclopedias, and there is a liberation; but also, surely, a risk of losing something basic – the very principle of selection. What goes west is the whole notion of an accepted canon of knowledge, with all its taxonomies and fine-tuned judgements of value. The idea that – life being short and all – Goethe’s Faust might be a more deserving subject than (say) a list of all the episodes from Laverne and Shirley.
But I dare say the scribes said something like that on the advent of the printing press. And yes, I grow old.
‘Wikipedia is not paper’ versus ‘Wikipedia is not Google’
Looking at the stuff that the Wikiworm worms out for our delight – male lactation? Futurist gastronomy? the Zambian space programme? – you might wonder if there are any subjects so strange or silly that Wikipedia would reject them out of hand. Well, it turns out there are; and you can find most of them here – a page listing several thousand articles that have been deleted from the encyclopedia since its inception. For all its apparently boundless hospitality, Wikipedia applies some pretty clear rules when it comes to marking out an article for “speedy deletion”. Apart from the obvious legal stuff (libel, copyright), an article can be given the bum’s rush for any of the following:
- patent nonsense (“pages consisting entirely of incoherent text or gibberish”);
- pure vandalism and blatant hoaxes;
- unambiguous advertising or promotion;
- absence of context (“Example: ‘He is a funny man with a red car. He makes people laugh.’”);
- absence of content (an article consisting only of “chat-like comments” or “attempts to correspond with the person or group named by its title”);
- no indication of importance;
- obviously invented.
These might not seem like the most daunting of hurdles, but it comes as no surprise that there are radical Wikipedians who consider them too high. So-called ‘inclusivists’ argue against just about any kind of deletion, on the grounds that “Wikipedia is not paper”. To which so-called ‘deletionists’ respond, altogether reasonably, that “Wikipedia is not Google”.
But I am aware that we are talking in the abstract, and that particulars should be addressed. Here, then, is a highly abridged but otherwise unedited list of entries that have been bounced from Wikipedia, A to Z: most, it will be apparent, commit at least five or six of the deadly sins listed above.
1933 in video gaming; 22.86 Centimetre Nails; 474 things to do when you’re bored
Allah-Kitten controversy; Ape worship and the history of Apeism; Atoms in Bulgaria; Attack of the fifty foot Hitler
Bacon Armageddon; Bahá’í humor; Beer belly causes; Big bad sex words; Bob Bobbert Bobson; Boris the talking puffin; Bounceology; Bring your Pez dispenser to work day; Burying your Brother In The Pavement; Buying Chocolate
Cambodian scrotum thieves; Canuckistani Soviet Socialist Republic (redirects to Canada); Charlie the drunk guinea pig; Chesterfield Snapdragon McFisticuffs; Christian Wrestling Federation; Chucking loads of elephant poo at people; Circles Appearing Randomly on Shirts; Clarity shops; Clumsyskinnymancubus; Confederate States Air Force; Cookies that talk and drive cars into lakes and don’t listen to their mothers because they don’t care
Daily Tortilla Intake; Dating Rules From My Future Self; Death Jazz Piss Funk; Death of a shoe horn in Mexico with a cat; Delete this; Depressive Avio-porcine Respiratory Terrorism Syndrome (DARTS); Diarrhea of a genius; Did velociraptor travel through space?; Does not link to hitler; Dog Fart Neutralizing Thong; Donkey Razor Abridged; Dotcrunk; Double Ristretto Venti Half-Soy Nonfat Decaf Organic Chocolate Brownie Iced Vanilla Double-Shot Gingerbread Frappuccino Extra Hot With Foam Whipped Cream Upside Down Double Blended, One Sweet’N Low and One Nutrasweet, and Ice; Dr. Octagonpus; DRIP IRELAND; Drunken Lizard Games; Dying with your pants off
Editing Wikipedia while drunk; Emily’s Famous Nacho Recipe; Erotically shaped plants; Eskimos on horses; Everyone has to like cheese or else i will kill them in their sleep and they wil die; Everything (everything); Evil trees; Extreme accounting
Famous watermelons; Farting in Ireland; Fartsniffing Anklebiting Anteater Spawn; Fattymcjiggletits; Fish repairs; Five pound electron; Flying Bigfoot of Florida; Fork Knifing With Crunchy Tape; Fried Dynamite; Frozen Doberman; Fun with Poop
Garlic eating men in Manhattan; Gay seahorses; Geek Maggot Bingo or The Freak From Suckweasel Mountain; Give me your bank account details; GoatSurfing; Gotta Believe In Pumpkins; Guide to Blowing Your Nose & Getting Dressed
Happy Plugs; He bowls to the left, He bowls to the right, That Mitchell Johnson, His bowling is shite; Hillbillly engineering; Hippie in a can; Homosexual necrophilia in the mallard duck; Honey, We Disemboweled Grandma; Hoonie Fonque Wonque; Hovering umlaut theory; How to Eat a Scorpion While it is Mating; How to gain balls and be able to not freeze when the only open spot on the bus is next to a really really cute asian guy; How to Have Sex in Texas; How to stop a hurricane; How to trick people into thinking you’re a wizard; HRH Prince Pinadu, Duke of the Holy Roman Empire, Knight of Rizal
I enjoy making burning dogs rain from the sky; I have my own page on facebook; I just poured HOT GRITS down my pants; I JUST WANTED TO MAKE A STUPID WIKIPEDIA ARTICLE WHY IS EVERYONE IGNORING ME; I’ll murder that stupid eukaryote if it kills me!; Inappropriate touch Tuesday; Inconvenient Public Library Hours in Hawaii; Infrequently Asked Questions; Insane Clown Posse (ICP) Gay /Homosexual Controversy Explained; Interesting facts about Toasters; International caps lock day; Intestine Baalism; Irish cheese triangle
Jamoomba; Jesus built the Pyramids; Jew-jitzu; John Travolta Method for Chemistry; Joseph and Imhotep are the same person; Judaism and bus stops
Kanchi kamakoti pitha or kanchi kamakoti peetham or kanchi mutt orkamakoti mutt or kamakoti peeta; Keith keith the magical teddybear jesus; Kevin the Kleptomatic and Ever So Slightly Flatulent Koala
‘Lots of penises’
Alright, time for a breather to see how it’s looking so far. One or two of these items look like they could be typos – “clarity shops” most clearly (although the idea of a store where you can pick up your daily fix of lucidity should perhaps be passed on to some wised-up entrepreneur). I’d also hazard a guess that “22.86 Centimetre Nails” is a metricization of famed industrial rock combo 9 Inch Nails. But apart from that, everything here seems to be the deliberate work of a more or less sentient human being, however addled by drink or drugs. You might have noticed a few recurring themes and these become more obvious as the alphabet proceeds: cheese, Hitler, poo, bacon, Jews, Jesus, Ireland. Oh, and penises. Lots of penises.
Laser Soup; Laws about warning someone you’re going to kill them; Les fromages a mange mon amis; Levi “Long Dong Silver” Atkins; Little blue question marks; Long Hind Legs; Look a rare endangered species of african caterpillar found only in australia and new Zealand; Lumpy pepperoni on dry water
Manly ways to eat fruit; Maplestory – Zombie Mushroom Signal 3; MASSIVE TRAFFIC CONE SHAPED ALIENS FROM OUTER SPACE; Mathematical calculations in cake; Men in colourful towels; Michelle Obama’s arms; Microwave Head (apparently “a common side effect from using the microwave excessively”); Minecraft Potatos; Mirwin’s prototype of synergistally rationalized collaboration as an example of developing liquid resources from ambient commons in USA, tailor as required; MOBERLY MIDGET LEAGUE; Monkey In A Dryer; Moon ducks; Movies that feature head explosions; Mr. WIlson’s daughters car; Mythical chickens
Nahhhhhh; Neckbeard gaming club; Necronomichrist; Nefarious Concoction; Neon orange cheese; Never Heard of It; Nick the Flying Brick; Ninja piggy; No Pants November; Nomad porn; Noob combo; Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo (and another 214 ‘O’s); Notice posted on the corridor of the ground floor at Hietalahdenkatu 7A, Helsinki, Finland; Nude Hippo
Oh My God Hot Springs; Once you jump a fence, an ocean is no problem; Once anyone fill a program into a bag then you should press start end in addition to a heated clamp associated with sealer; Onion Bridge; Orange pants; Orion is bankrupt now; Oscillating penguin of ultimate seduction
Paper – the fat free chocolate; Partial Unbirthing Fetishism; Pazokinkessnessismsologyally; Peanut Butter Jones; Penis jam; People scratching themselves behind their ears; People who don’t have a Wikipedia page; Persian messenger syndrome; Pisspond (“a country created by dave and leanne. tonnes of ponds to piss in”); Players of 3D Space Cadet Pinball Who Can’t Get It Up To Satisfy Their Wives; Pokemon/Satanism parallels Talk; Pope hamster; Population of the whole universe; Potato coma; Prime Number Shitting Bear; Proper punctuation of words describing Pokemon transsexual acts; Prunes in the bath; Punk metrics; Putrid pile; Pyronecrobeastiality
Radioactive Pedophile on the Loose!; Raptor jesus; Rat smacker; Reasons Why Many People Study in China; Recombinant Human Dragon; Rectal Anarchy; References to polycephaly in popular culture
Sa paglipas ng panahon, may mga makikilala tayo na magiging parte ng buhay natin gustuhin man natin o hindi: Gustuhin man nila o hindi: Alam man natin o hindi: Alam man nila o hindi (Apparently Filipino for “in time, we will meet people who will become a part of our life whether we like it or not; whether they like it or not; whether we know it or not; whether they know it or not”); Scandinavian Anniversary Marshmallow; Schinty-six From the BBC’s Numberwang; Screaming Mechanical Brain; Sentences about roger williams using the word expel and consent; Sexy Doughnuts FC; Shoes and Degenerative Diseases; Silly hat club; Smacky sounds; Society for the Abolition of the Month of August; Sometimes the donuts move; Some Pretty Good Friends of Mollie; Space Mushroom Fuzz; Spiritual Bone; Sprinkle muffin chop bang because really there is no other way; Squirrels and booze; Sticky samurai; Straw etiquette; Strings McPickens; Super secret penis
That one girl Charlie Brown likes with the red hair who they called Heather in the cartoons where the adults sound like Wee Wah Waw Wah; The Andrew Olsen University of Prostitution & Finance; The Anti Cursing Foundation; The atomic cannibal breakfast; The belief that a cosmic jewish zombie who was his own father can make you live forever if you symbolically eat his flesh and telepathically tell him you accept him as your master, so he can remove an evil force from your soul that is present in humanity (redirects to Christianity); The Cheese Profiler; The color “kickass”; The Devastating Chance of St. Emogothica; The difference between yellow-green and green-yellow; The Divine Order of the Fruit of the Loins of the Earth; The Effects of Eyesight while consuming Bacon; The egg’s sunset in the upside down ramp; The Fax Machine Monster of Basildon; The great toolset disappointment of ’06; The Jelly Moustache; The Micro Sandwich Teleportation Equation; The Pink Hurburbler; The Purple Hurburbler; The small, select group of actors who, when not using a voice-over in Japanese-American luxury car commercials, play the unknowing, naive, taken-advantage-of griftees of other more savage, advanced, predatorial entities; The Smurfs and communism; This article contains a curse. Anybody who edit/move/delete or otherwise modify this article will be cursed to die in 11 days. There are no exceptions; The word parakeet written exactly 254 times; ThingsThatDoNotExistForAReason; Three penis wolf; Tiger Strikes Asteroid; Timeline of fictional historical events; Toe names; Twinkle is for twerps
Ugly japanese girls; Uiolentapneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosising; Uncle john’s front room; Unilluminati; United States Senate Special Committee on Bondage
Vampire potato; Video Games that Announce Future War; Viral Deity; Vote For Bums
Walking Microwave; We did not invent the algorithm. The algorithm consistently finds Jesus. The algorithm killed Jeeves.; Werewolf with robot hands; What i watched on tv last night; What You Can Do With Nutella; Why do men buy terrible presents?; Why I Want To Be King of Australia; Why is football called football; Why Won’t My Parakeet Eat My Diarrhea; Why you can’t cross your legs in church; Wi-Fi Pineapple; Worth of chins
Xegony the Queen of Air
Y-chromosomal Noah; Yak Combing; Yorgy fwambombolish; You can save the world in sweatpants
Zombie pigman; ZxAnPhOrIaN
“Everything exists. Nothing has value”
Now that I’ve typed it all out, I wonder what I really feel about this list – this phantom library of the erased and the expunged. On the one hand, it’s pretty damned depressing: the slops and scourings of the Internet, the stuff that is so dumb it’s been flung howling into some ultimate digital sump. Presumably when the lights finally go out in the West and everything returns to the ooze, there’ll be people gibbering about Zombie pigmen and why their parakeet won’t eat their diarrhoea.
And yet it’s funny, too, and has a certain mad poetry – as well as a twinge of pathos, the sort that clings to all lost and inaccessible things. Yes, there is a pang in knowing that I’ll never know about those Cambodian scrotum thieves, or the Society for the Abolition of the Month of August; that I will remain in the dark about the difference between yellow-green and green-yellow, and may never trick anyone into thinking I’m a wizard.
Oddly mixed feelings then. And the more I think about it, the more I reckon that these have something to do with the list form itself, as well as the bonkers content. For the past year or so I’ve been dipping into Francis Spufford’s Chatto Book of Cabbages and Kings: Lists in Literature – a splendid anthology of lists (from Thurber to Robbe-Grillet) that comes with a very stimulating introduction.
As Spufford sees it, a list always implies an idea of order, even as its elements take on a disorderly life of their own; if there is method in the madness, then the converse is also and equally true. Even the most systematic or methodical list is never quite safe from collapsing into hotch-potch, mish-mash, and gallimaufray. And however lively and profuse, a list always involves a kind of entropy, a touch perhaps of nihilism. According to Spufford: “Lists may indeed offer the reader a brief intimation of everything; they can equally well be fierce flirtations with nothingness … The elements of lists can be balloon-like, tugging in different directions … but they may sometimes be more like a file of stunned cattle, making their docile way to the killing-floor.” A list has a way of fragmenting the world, even as promises to pull it together.
You can find all this, I think, in our list of missing Wiki articles; that combination of a wild profuseness with a disturbing emptiness. Readers of Forster’s A Passage to India may be reminded of the echo in the Marabar caves – that meaningless, demoralizing Boum! with its eternal message of “Everything exists. Nothing has value”.
The list of deleted lists
There will be more about lists in the next few weeks – specifically, some lists of missing, imaginary, or otherwise non-existent works of literature (some other kinds of phantom library). But here, to finish for now, are the best of Wikipedia’s list of deleted lists and list of deleted categories. It’s hard to know what to say.
List of candidates for Vice President Who Have Favored The Dissolution Of The United States; List of convicted drunk drivers who have become president of the United States; List of countries by pornography industry revenue per capita; List of Dads Who Make Other Dads Eat Bugs; List of deaths by cello; List of differences between apples and oranges; List of Disneyworlds in Andorra; List of dribbling wizards; List of famous men who wear briefs; List of fictional characters with removable or interchangeable heads; List of fruits that cannot legally be carried on certain public transport systems; List of Hindi Film Stars who have been to Mauritius; List of locales in Britain where ant species have become locally extinct; List of movie posters with lamps in them (apparently the list contained a single item – Mission: Impossible – with a footnote saying “NB: does not contain lamps”); List of notable people who have been stung by jellyfish; List of peaceful wars; List of Phineas and Ferb Mukburgers; List of people famous for singing badly; List of people who are alive or are dead; List of people who are ready for woe and how we know this; List of people who died with tortoises on their heads (an allusion to the supposed fate of Aeschylus?); List of people without names; List of puddles; List of software projects whose name is a term offensive to many people with disabilities; List of songs about fetal expulsion; List of things sharing names with Finnish presidents; List of things the cat dragged in; List of US governors with facial hair; List of U.S. place names not connected to Sweden; List of words that rhyme with Oompa Loompa; List of world leaders whose name are anagrams of their domains (the nearest I can think of is President Bongo of Gabon)
Category: Actors who have open-mouthed kissed their real-life siblings; Category: Articles not related to sociology; Category: Baseball players with kidney stones; Category: Belgian cycling teas (typo?); Category: Bisexual clown painters; Category: Excrement; Category: Fictional Toilets; Category: Fictional windows; Category: Films featuring umbrellas; Category: Generals whose names sound like car brands; Category: Intellectual’s who wear blue socks on Thursdays that are Critics of George W. Bush; Category: Mythological things at least in part based on chickens; Category: People who abbreviate the first name “Thomas” to “Th.”; Category: Permanent Residents of Hell; Category: Political posters using an octopus; Category: Primates of the Patriarchial Catholicosate of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church and All Ethiopia; Category: Songs about goats; Category: Towns with Zombie Problems; Category: Vice Presidents who have shot people (I believe there were two: Jefferson’s veep, Aaron Burr, killed a man in a duel, and Dick Cheney winged a friend when out quail hunting); Category: Villages in Oxfordshire without Lamp Posts; Category: What do Monks Eat for Breakfast?; Category: Wikipedians who can divide by zero; Category: Wikipedians who crack boiled eggs on the rounded end; Category: Worst lists