Every folklorist I know should listen to the Radio Lab short podcast entitled “Loop the Loop” which tells the story of Lincoln Beachey, a daredevil pilot who established many of the genres of air show acrobatics. More importantly, he is all but forgotten to history, except for his presence in a jump rope rhyme:
Lincoln Beachey had a little dream
To go up to Heaven in a flying machine
The machine broke down and down he fell
He thought he’d go to Heaven but he went to…
As is often the case, Radio Lab does good work here. If this podcast excited you, then you should also listen to their podcast on Tic-Tac-Toe where they first sent listeners to ask for the game by that name, and got few results, but when they sent listeners out to demonstrate the game, they found it was quite common. I plan to use this with my field research class as an example of being careful how you ask a question. (There’s a lot more to unpack there, but I think most of my folklore colleagues will get it.)
By the way, RadioLab people, if you are reading this, then you don’t always get it right. Your hosts completely blew it in the episode on talking to machines when they belittled the computer scientists for staying inside too much and not knowing enough about the “real world.” Hmmm. Sounds a lot like the pot calling the kettle black when you have your show narrated by two guys sitting in a sound booth. That is, we all have our moments when we spend too much time inside — be it rooms or just our heads — and when we need to get outside, whatever that outside may be.