Last night, I recieved the following text:
What do you call overly complicated devices designed to do incredibly simple things like the breakfast machine in peewee’s big adventure?
I purchased a new phone in June and was lazy about transferring my contacts, and I didn’t recognize the number. I eventually discovered the texter’s identity, but even before that, I felt good that I was being thought of as a person who, despite not communicating directly with for at least 3 months (but really, more like a year), was the right person to go to with a question like that.
The answer, of course, is Rube Goldberg Machines. I’m sure the Pee Wee’s breakfast machine is an illustrative example, but the probably the most famous example is the mouse trap from the board game Mouse Trap. Of course I found myself on the Rube Goldberg and Rube Goldberg Machine wikipedia pages today, where I learned that Rube is often used as a very fun metaphor (for instance, wikipedia cites a story describing former Ways and Means Committee Chair Bill Thomas as “The Rube Goldberg of Legislative Reform.”
This is very up the alley of Mark Peter’s blog dedicated to the particular snowclone* “X is the Y of Z”, aptly named The Rosa Parks of Blogs. I then spent the next several minutes googling “the Rube Goldberg of”. Here is a smattering of results:
- Dr. Kevorkian is the Rube Goldberg of Death
- Communism: Political Systems
- Man Shot Dead By Killer Robot He Built With His Own Hands: Suicide
- Jackie Chan: Karate
- Microsoft Windows: Software
- James Doolittle: Aviation
- Some “douche bag”: “self-inflicted ownage”
*The term snowclone should be familiar to you if you have started following Ben’s tumblr-replacement-ish google reader shared items feed, or if you read Language Log, or if you’re just really on top of things.
Alex, let’s talk more often.