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They don’t fit into their categories

I was reading the newspaper today and came across an article entitled, “Black Holes Inch Ahead to Violent Cosmic Union.” No big deal, except that it was in the National section. Not the International.

This reminded me of other examples where items didn’t fit into their categories, for example when Slate magazine published an article, “Why Preschool Shouldn’t Be Like School,” and ran it in the department, “Doublex: What women really think about news, politics, and culture.” (Slate’s Science section was full at the time, having been occupied by the much more male scientific topic, “The eco-guide to responsible drinking.”)

And, my favorite example of misplaced categories, the book 70 Years of Best Sellers, which lists Charlie Brown, Pogo, and the Bible as nonfiction. You could maybe make an argument for one or two of these, but it’s hard to imagine that anyone could put all three of them in the nonfiction category!

P.S. The above-linked NYT article also had the following amusing correction notice:

An earlier version of this article misstated the distance at which the black holes of galaxy PG1302-102 are circling each other. It is about 180 billion miles, not 180 million.

I’m reminded of that classic joke.


  1. Steen says:

    Ahh, but categorization is just prediction, from “Greek κατηγορία, accusation” (OED). All methods have prediction error.

    The NYT is so parochial—how do they not have an Intergalactic section yet?

    The joke about three orders of magnitude off being more or less right?

  2. Roy says:

    Okay, you got me. You put the teaser out there… If I ever knew the joke, it is not coming to mind (which may be just another senior moment at this point), so please don’t leave an old guy hanging.

  3. zbicyclist says:

    Here’s the joke that came to mind for me:

    “A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you’re talking about real money.”

    Everett Dirksen

  4. Andrew says:

    No, I’m thinking of the one about the astronomer and the taxi driver.

  5. Robin Morris says:

    Or the temperature listed in one newspaper article talking about something very hot. 1,000,000,000,273.16 C.

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