Can you tell me how to get…how to get to Querulous Street?

I was locating some recent photo sites on my Flickr map page, and as often is the case, I became distracted and started scrolling around the map of Madison, partly from simple curiosity but also because even though I lived there for half a decade, there are large parts of the city I’m unfamiliar with (didn’t have a car for much of that time).

Anyway, as I was scrolling around the west side of the city, the map displayed a rather unusually named street: “Dido Albert Federowich Memorial Drive.” Uh, what now? So, naturally, I googled the name…and discovered that, oddly, there are similarly named streets in several cities…or at least, maps of that city indicate streets of that name in several cities.

Turns out that name in particular is a copyright trap: a street name placed on a map solely to catch those who would use copyrighted info without permission. Peculiarly, though, Google shows several other odd references to “Dido Albert Federowich”…mostly on rather dubious-looking websites: my guess is the name is used as a copyright trap in contexts other than just maps. The top result for that Google search is this blog entry—and elsewhere on her site, “Omababe” has some interesting thoughts on “copyright traps.”

As it happens, some Milwaukee maps have one of these: the oddly named “Querulous Street”…which allegedly extends northward from S. 22nd Street into Mitchell Park (visible on Navteq.com). Wikipedia’s article on “Fictitious entry” has useful and slightly head-spinning info on the subject…head-spinning because the practice of including fictitious items in allegedly factual research documents has the effect of creating, out of thin air, “real” references, etc. This is particularly acute for dictionaries: the nonce-word “esquivalience” (“the willful avoidance of one’s official responsibilities”) was apparently created for a 2005 dictionary publication…but anyone who happened upon that “word,” thought it useful and (perhaps reasoning that anyone could consult the dictionary if context didn’t clarify the word’s meaning) went ahead and used it in a published text would thereby, at a stroke, make a “real” word from an unreal one. (Amusingly, this happened before Facebook – which is possibly the most prominent generator of esquivalience in our time. Wait – I just used that word for real…now are you going to tell me it’s not a “real word”? Words become words by being used and understood as words…something which I and you just successfully managed.)

In at least one case, a real place came to be after a fictitious entry named it (one assumes, the place was named for the nonplace: Agloe, New York. Unless, of course, this allegedly factual reference to a real place is itself a fictitious entry intended to trap those who would steal information (and whoever wrote the Wikipedia entry fell for it). Philip K. Dick would be proud.

Advertisements

1 Comment

Filed under langwich

One response to “Can you tell me how to get…how to get to Querulous Street?

  1. We didn’t deliberately put errors in to catch copiers at Collins. We did, however, find a dictionary that had copied the English framework of a bilingual dictionary to make one for a similar language. Somehow, we’d accidentally put the phrase “what the policeman is going on?” in our dictionary (tired editor? bored lexicographer?), and it was copied verbatim. We won our case — and ended up working with the defendant, who were a great translation house, but just a bit naïve about copyright …

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s