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In Praise of Ancient Technologies, and Aptonyms

There was an interesting article in the New York Times sports section the other day about how the All England Club has kept the Wimbledon tournament free of pigeons since 1999 by employing a man named Wayne Davis to bring in his small flock of peregrine falcons. Until Davis came along, the pigeons were a real nuisance. “In the old, old days, they probably used to shoot them,” a Wimbledon spokesman told the Times. “But in these touchy feely times, they probably decided that wasn’t the best option.”

I love it when ancient solutions like falconry are kept alive or resurrected. It is easy to be dazzled by new technology, much of which is truly dazzling. But it is also easy to assume that each generation of our species is smarter than all previous generations combined. There is another ancient technology — the art of impregnating paper with ink to create highly legible and portable reading materials — that has been badly maligned of late. But as much as I love the electronic alternatives, I still think paper reading is wonderful, and pray that it never ceases.

On a different note, the Times article cited above was written by John Branch. Branch. Nice name, yes, for an article about birds? I love when people’s names are aptonyms — names that correlate with their professions. It seems to happen an awful lot with bird people. There’s John Flicker, president of the National Audubon Society, and the renowned birder Phoebe Snetsinger. That has to be one of the best aptonyms ever — “phoebe,” which is a kind of bird, and “snetsinger,” which sounds like a bird but isn’t, but which is composed of “singer” and “snet,” an anagram of “nest.”

Other good aptonyms, dear readers?