As long-time readers know, on Fridays — like, you know, today — I do a week-in-review type of thing. Today, I want to talk about a totally made-up word I managed to employ in yesterday’s email: “Plaimfilled.”
The short version is that was a typo. The longer version is more fun.
Indiana has both a Plainfield, where yesterday’s story takes place, and a Plainview, where it most certainly does not. Plainfield is a suburb of Indianapolis and home to about 38,000 people; Plainview is a two-hour drive south and home to about 500 people.
I learned about the monument to Van Buren’s “accident” (read the story if you don’t know what I’m talking about) via the NPR article that I linked to in the story. My research process, once discovering something interesting, starts with a bunch of web searches. I started by Googling “plainview mudhole” and came up with well, a lot of nonsense. My initial reaction was that fun fact wasn’t a fact at all, and I moved on. But a few days or a week later, I realized that I’m an idiot — NPR wouldn’t make up a story like that. So I looked again and decided to instead start my search with a new phrase: “van buren elm.” That one uncovered a bunch of sources, so I got started on the story.
But I didn’t realize that “Plainview” wasn’t the town in question, at least not until I was almost done writing the story. There was one part that just didn’t add up for me: why would a Presidential candidate go to a small town two hours outside of the major city in the area? And then another question popped into my head: why would the residents of that town care about the lack of investment into the highway — the “National Road” — that didn’t run through their town? It didn’t add up. But I kind of ignored that voice in my head saying “take another look” and moved on. But then when looking up the monument on Google Maps, I realized — whoops — it isn’t where I thought it was. So, I started revising the article.
In doing so, my computer had some sort of weird burp. The two spellcheck tools I have running both failed me, and when changing all the “Plainview”s to “Plainfield”s, I somehow created a “Plaimfilled” and didn’t catch it. I did, however, figure out how the National Road came into play — it ran through Plainfield! — and started tidying up the loose ends that I had glossed over.
In any event, I’m keeping the typo in the article (but linking to this story). Why? Because it turns out that my use of “Plaimfilled” is the first-ever — at least if this Google search is proof.
The Now I Know Week in Review
Monday: The Loopy Way to Show One’s Affection. A bunch of you wrote in to ask about derogatory terms to describe the loop (I’ll let you Google it.)
Tuesday: The Loch Ness Moose-ster?: One reader, Michael S., asked: “I wonder how much it would cost to fly a moose in from say Siberia? If they made the reward higher might be worth it! ” Let me know if any of you give it a try.
Wednesday: How Long is Groundhog Day?: I really should re-run this every year because (a) it’s a great story and (b) doing so would be poetically appropriate.
Thursday: A Different Type of Presidential Mudslinging. I failed to make a joke/reference to the “Van Buren Boys” from Seinfeld, as many of you pointed out. I had an idea for one (something about flashing eight fingers) but couldn’t immediately figure out how to get it in, then the whole Plainview/Plainfield thing happened, and I forgot.
And some other things you should check out:
Some long reads for the weekend.
1) “He Spent 25 Years Infiltrating Nazis, the Klan, and Biker Gangs” (Rolling Stone, 23 minutes, February 2022). This may be behind a paywall for you — if so, sorry about that, but there are some ways around it I’m sure. It’s just an incredible story, one of the best I’ve read in a long time.
2) “How Malaysia Got in on the Secondhand Clothing Boom” (New York Times, 9 minutes February 2022). I love how full-circle things can go.
3) “Colorado is a rectangle? Think again.” (Big Think, 6 minutes, October 2018). This is a very nerdy look at mapmaking, and I love it. Thanks to Holly M. (from Colorado, naturally) for the suggestion.
Have a great weekend!