Confessions of a Chronic Disambiguator

Confessions of a Chronic Disambiguator

My least favorite activity is whatever I’m supposed to be doing at any given moment.

Full disclosure: I don’t necessarily spend all my “working hours” working. Not that the “work” of a spottily employed comedy writer-for-hire is particularly taxing. For example, I’ve spent most of this week brainstorming Supreme Court-themed ice cream flavors (“Marberry v. Madison,” “Thurgood Marshmallow,” “Articles of Im-peach-ment”). One time, a client paid me to play Farmville; another hired me to vet and rate bodily function sound effects.

Still, procrastinators procrastinate, even a task like auditing digital farts. Ask my wife and she’ll tell you, my least favorite activity is whatever I’m supposed to be doing at any given moment, and my least favorite time to do it is right then.

We all have our favorite methods. Sudden, uncontrollable bursts of house cleaning, for instance. Or mindlessly spooning Nutella into your mouth. Or sleeping off a Nutella bender.

Me? I dig Wikipedia. During the past few years, I’ve Wikipediaed everything, and I mean everything: from ancient Aztec toileting habits to the spelling of Natalie Portman’s name in Hebrew.

Of course, I also like Wikipedia Lists. So many lists: List of American Sandwiches, by Region; List of “Weird Al” Yankovic songs about television; List of Star Wars star-fighters (as opposed to Star Wars space-craft, an entirely separate list). And many lists end with a list of other lists, each, invariably, with its own list of lists. You can see how easy it is to get sucked into the vortex — that sandwich one, especially.

And then there’s entering different dates — always good for a laugh. Allow me to demonstrate. Did you know Leo Tolstoy was born today in 1828? He shares a birthday with Otis Redding, Adam Sandler, Canadian singer-songwriter Michael Bublé and the guy who played Luke Duke on the original “Dukes of Hazzard.” But wait, there’s more. On this date in 1513, King James IV of Scotland is defeated and killed in the Battle of Flodden, ending Scottish involvement in the War of the League of Cambrai; 443 years later, to the day, Elvis Presley makes his first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show. Coincidence? Yeah, probably.

But what I love most about Wikipedia is the disambiguation page. This is how Wikipedia differentiates between various articles with the same title. For example, “salmon” can refer to a fish, a color, a class of U.S. Navy submarine or a town of 3,100 in Lemhi County, Idaho. Or take my last name. According to “Kirsch (disambiguation),” “Kirsch” can be a surname (duh), a fruit brandy and a series of mathematical equations describing the elastic stresses around the hole in an infinite plate. Heady stuff.

And so I find myself frequently engaging in procrastinatory disambiguation, or, as I like to call it “procrastidisambiguation.” And I’m a chronic procrastidisambiguator.

Often, I type in the first word that comes to mind, which is how, earlier this week, I found myself entering “Juneau” into the search field.

Not to spoil your own procrastidisambiguation session, but “Juneau,” itself, redirects to the entry for CBJ, filled with the typical stuff: demographics, points of interest, government (with cross-reference to a List of Mayors — see what I mean about lists?).

Where things start getting interesting is Juneau (disambiguation).

First off, Wikipedia clarifies that Juneau is not to be confused with Juno (disambiguation), which, in itself, may refer to Juno, the Roman goddess of marriage; Juno, the 2007 teen pregnancy rom-com; Juno, the planned NASA mission to Jupiter and/or Juno, the character from “Beetlejuice.”

Juneau may also refer to:

• Juneau, Wisconsin, a city in Dodge County, Wisconsin, not to be confused with Juneau County, Wisconsin, although that’s got to be extremely confusing to have a city and a county in the same state but the city not located in that county? Mail must get all kinds of screwed-up.

• Joe Juneau, miner and prospector, who founded some town in the Alaskan Panhandle.

• Joé Juneau, professional hockey player (retired), who — no joke — coincidentally wore #49 for the Boston Bruins. As in the 49th State?

• Solomon Juneau, fur trader and founder of Milwaukee, Wisconsin; also Joe Juneau’s uncle. The prospector, not the Bruin.

• USS Juneau (CL-52), a U.S. Navy cruiser sunk at the Battle of Guadalcanal.

• USS Juneau (CL-119), a U.S. Navy cruiser, scrapped in 1962.

• USS Juneau (LPD-10), a U.S. Navy amphibious transport dock, sponsored by the wife of Alaska’s then-governor, William A. Egan; interestingly enough, this USS Juneau served as command ship for the Exxon Valdez oil spill response. For realsies.

• “Juneau,” a song by Welsh post-hardcore band Funeral for a Friend. Sounds like uplifting stuff.

• Juneau, Pennsylvania, which Wikipedia characterizes as “a populated place.” Not even a hamlet. Ouch. That’s gotta sting.

So there you go. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I think that’s quite enough procrastidisambiguating. After all, I’ve got a column to write.


• Geoff Kirsch is an award-winning Juneau-based writer and humorist. “Slack Tide” appears every second and fourth Sunday.


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