Topical Guide 162
AN ASIDE. So much depends on chance. The coincidence of our having last names that began with the same letter of the alphabet, or at least with letters that were close in the alphabet, meant that certain of us would remain in each other’s company throughout most of every day for the next couple of years.
Little Follies, “Take the Long Way Home”
It is the dangerous hour of clear understanding. Oh, for a kindly hand to tap at my door! Oh, for a face to come between me and the made-up counselor spying on me out of the mirror! Chance, my friend and master, will surely deign to send again, to help me, the familiar devils of his unruly kingdom! l have no faith, except in him—and in myself. Particularly in him, for, when I sink, he fishes me up again, and grips and shakes me like a rescuing dog, whose teeth every time meet in my skin! So that every time I sink, I do not expect a final catastrophe, but only some adventure, some trivial, commonplace miracle which, like a sparkling link, may close up again the necklace of my days.
Renée Néré in Colette’s La Vagabonde
(translated by Charlotte Remfry Kidd)
After reading Mr. Simone’s process of dividing the students into classroom-size groups, you are undoubtedly asking yourself, “What is the percent distribution of first letters in last names in the United States?”
Well, here it is (per the US 2000 Census table of all valid last names appearing 100 or more times [covering 90% of responses]):
“wikiuser” at math.answers.com
So, for example, if the percent distribution of first letters in last names in Babbington in 1951 or 1952 was the same as the percent distribution of first letters in last names in the US in 2000, slightly more than five out of every hundred students would have had last names beginning with L, such as Leroy or Lodkochnikov.
Mr. Simone’s first division for the sixth grade split the students into A-K (49.15% of them) and L-M (50.85% of them), very nearly an equal distribution. Nice job, Simone. However, his next division, A-F (30.40%) and G-K (18.75%) was ill-advised. Perhaps he did not have access to a table of the percent distribution of first letters in last names. If he continued in that fashion, basing his divisions on who-knows-what, but not on the actual percent distribution of first letters in last names in Babbington, I shudder when I picture the result: some classrooms overcrowded, others sparsely populated. That’s the sort of thing that worries me sometimes. Keeps me awake, actually.
Population Pressure: Effects of
The population of Babbington continued to grow rapidly during that time, and school building could not keep pace with the growth, so Mr. Simone continued to shuffle the students’ schedules to try to squeeze us into what space was available.
Little Follies, “Take the Long Way Home”
I recognize the folly of looking too earnestly for a parallel between Babbington and Babylon, but I feel compelled to point out that—according to Population, a report prepared by Lee E. Koppelman and Alison R. Sawyer for the Suffolk County Department of Planning in May of 1963—the population of the town of Babylon grew from 24,297 to 45,556 from 1940 to 1950 (an increase of 87.5%) and from 45,556 to 112,125 by 1957 (an increase of 146% from 1950 and an increase of 361% from 1940).
Population pressure, a term summarizing the stress brought about by an excessive population density and its consequences, is used both in conjunction with human overpopulation and with other animal populations that suffer from too many individuals per area (or volume in the case of aquatic organisms). …
“Pressure” is to be understood metaphorically and hints at the analogy between a gas or fluid that under pressure will tend to escape a bounded container. Similarly, “population pressure” in animal populations in general usually leads to migration activity, and in humans, it may additionally cause land loss because of land conversion of previously-uninhabited areas and development [such as building a new elementary school in formerly untouched and picturesque Musgrave Swamp —MD].
See also: Chance TG 9; Coincidence; Chance; Fate; Luck TG 13
[more to come on Wednesday, December 29, 2021]
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