Friday 02 Dec 2016

Why Grub Street?
Streeter Click

We're asked, just often enough, why Grub Street was chosen as the name of this site. There are many other great names. One name, actively considered, was "zero." It was ultimately dismissed. "Too many visitors," said a committee member, "would expect a niche site dealing, exclusively, with the combined EQs of Paris Hilton and Brittany Spears."

Another hotly debated site name was "The CIA in Peace and War." This, too, was dismissed. "Any site so named," said another committee member, "is doomed to failure before it starts." We hoped for a shot at some small success.

A third name, given considerable attention, was "googol." In the 1930s, mathematician, Edward Gasner, asked his 9 year old nephew to name a large number. "Googol" was the response. Gasner defined a googol as a 1 followed by one hundred zeros. A still larger number, according to Gasner, is a googolplex, 1 followed by a googol of zeros. Conventionally, googol is pronounced "goog-el."

So much information in such a small space, a number, is consistent with our goals. Numbers are infinitely informative. The best guess, for example, of the age of anything is 42 and the number of times any type of event occurs, randomly, is 7 plus or minus two.

Ha! Ha! These guesses are meaningless, but good examples of the humour of sociometricians. We're a satirical bunch.

What googol didn't reflect, adequately, was creation. Archimedes authored, but didn't create, numbers. We're interested in the creators and the information they provide; googol allowed for one primary author and many, probably five to nine, contributors, most of whom were padding their curriculum vitae.

What name might join information and authorship, creatively, in the most general sense and, at the same time, remain usefully specific? Ha! Ha! This is more sociometricial satire.

As dinner time passed, one rainy Thursday evening, a hungry committee member said, "Let's grab some grub on Elgin Street." Mindlessly, we set out for Woodys.

As we walked, someone spoke of grub and street, in a wistful, but not unusual manner. The comment came much the way Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) compared truth to a woman and concluded that life, as we know it, would end in the 20th century because no woman would lay with him, in the 19th century.

Eureka! The perfect name for our purposes. Yes, the sitcom, "Frasier," was, in part, produced by Grub Street Productions and there's a haven for writers, on-line and off, in Boston, called Grub Street. No matter, our purpose varied and we'd get it right.

Grub Street has a long history, as a thoroughfare and an ideal. Fittingly, the name derives from "grube," meaning ditch, from which many of our writers are routinely retrieved. Grub Street, in London, England, ran along and into a sewage ditch, which is how "they" label our ideas. As early as 1100 CE, the street was called "grobstrat" or grobbestrate"; no jokes about the Dutch are offered, they are a serious, pious people believed oblivious to humour.

Around 1500 CE, a few hundred words, on any topic, could be had for a small fee on Grub Street. The street was in Moorfields, an area of extreme poverty. Residents of the street were mostly low-end yet talented writers and thinkers, for whom performance metaphors were as close to gawd as a human could get, although they believed pygmy chimps were on speaking terms with gawd, herself.

By 1626, Grub Street was home to idealistic Bohemian writers. These writers put principle ahead of commerce; irony, satire and opinion ahead of inverted pyramids. They traded doing right, telling the truth, for a hedonistic life of depraved debauchery, and were never boring: for them, thoughts made amends and they were always thinking. Bill Hicks fit like a glove.

In the mid-1700s, Samuel Johnson, existing on the periphery of the area, defined Grub Street, in "The Dictionary," as where "writers of small histories, dictionaries and temporary poems [live], whence any mean production is called grubstreet." Johnson used many Grub Street ne'er-do-wells, money poor and syntax rich, to help with the dictionary. Writers, distracted by the neuro-chemical thrill of a correctly placed semi-colon, are easily exploited, often and in different ways.

Defined as an inexpensive, which is our budget, source of well-written new ideas and refurbished old ideas, which is our goal, made Grub Street the ideal name for this website.

Renamed Milton Street, in 1830, to honour a prominent builder, Grub Street is a central part of artistic lore. The irony of the renaming isn't lost. It's an ever-present reminder, in the Terry Southern sense, of how deep exploiters stoop to scoop what passes as legitimacy, in their world. At this point, you may break-up into small groups to discuss the upcoming rally or sing labour songs.

In North America, a "grubstreeter" is a writer down on his or her luck. In other words, a grubstreeter is a writer punished by the exploiters for promoting a collective consciousness, despite the phantasies provided as distractions. Again, this reflects our budget and cash flow, well: over-exploited phantasies.

No better name, than Grub Street, exists for a website that promotes high-minded idealism and principle; features little or no advertising, by choice, and urges writers and thinkers to act on their art and express their ideals and ideas, without kowtowing to the lowest common denominator.

Streeter Click is editor of GrubStreet.ca.

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