Oct 14, 2005

Absurdly complex and fancifully impractical

is the definition of my new favorite word, Heath Robinson. Well, that's not really a word so much as it's two, but you get my drift.

The term was coined after W. Heath Robinson (1872-1944), a British artist known for drawing ingeniously complicated devices.

An excerpt from the Wordsmith website on the matter:
"It's not only mechanical devices that can be Heath Robinsonish. A few years back I came across a book titled "How to Wash Your Face". I'm not kidding--this 256-page tome was authored by a doctor and lists for $25. They say reality is stranger than fiction. The fiction that comes to mind here is a Heath Robinson contraption, or one devised by his US counterpart, Rube Goldberg. Check out their illustrations: Heath Robinson, Rube Goldberg.

Who knows, those illustrations might make you laugh, resulting in the coffee in your mug getting spilled on the tail of the pet cat on your lap, making the startled kitty jump and hit the ceiling, thus activating the fire-sprinkler and causing it to trigger the fire alarm, making you look up in curiosity, so that your face is splashed with the sprinkler water, thus saving you the $25 cost of the aforementioned book. Who said those devices were useless?"

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