Monday, September 12, 2011


My Dad, who is heading home today after a good visit, is a self-acknowledged stringsaver. He does not embody the expression as literally* as some. With a little poking, I found that there are several contenders for the world's biggest ball of string:
  • The largest sisal twine ball built by one person is located in Darwin, Minnesota. Begun in 1950, it is 12' in diameter and weighs 10,400lbs.
  • The largest sisal twine ball built by a community is located in Cawker City, Kansas. Begun by an individual in 1953, it became a community project in 1974 and has grown to 17,886lbs. and a circumference of 40'.
  • The heaviest ball of twine ever built is located in Lake Nebagamon, Wisconsin. Begun in 1979, it weighs an estimated 19,336lbs. and is still growing.
  • The largest twine ball ever built, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, is located by the Ripley's Believe It or Not Museum in Branson, Missouri, and measures 41.5' in circumference (2nd image).
But the best stringsaver story was revealed in the book Dry Storeroom No. 1: The Secret Life of the Natural History Museum by Richard Fortey. A review in the New York Times (from which I poached the 1st image, by Tom Gauld) relates:
"We meet, for example, Leslie Bairstow, an expert on belemnites (the fossil remains of ancient squid-like beings) who joined the museum in 1932. During his tenure at the museum, Bairstow published nothing but collected everything, including the string from parcels that had been sent to him. When he retired, the string turned out to have been filed in boxes according to length; one box contained 'pieces of string too small to be of use'.”
*The English major in me prompts me to point out that "literally" is the most recent word to be overused - and misused - by the media. In yesterday's coverage of the anniversary of 9/11, Pierre Thomas commented that the attacks "caught Americans literally with their pants down." Um, Pierre, while some of us were surely on the john at the time, this would qualify as a figurative use of the expression.

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