or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Friday, June 01, 2007


I think I've mentioned Cockeyed.com before. It's a pretty funny website, lots of imaginative pseudo-science experiments and Hallowe'en costumes and the like. The guy who runs it seems to know a lot of people, so sometimes one of these people will ask for his help in some project or other. Someone wants to collect people's stories of "shopdropping", which, the opposite of shoplifting, means leaving stuff in commercial locations as a way of making a political statement.

I don't necessarily endorse it, but I can see the point of it. However, the collector of stories on Cockeyed.com doesn't, apparently:

<-Pet shopdropping - a pragmatic issue:
Someone who had a pet (think: parents whose kids (callously) have lost interest in the family's pet mouse, snake, lizard for instance)  but had a difficult time finding a new home for it. So, they took it to a pet store where they were confident it would be well cared for and they left it there surreptitiously. Anyone have stories of this sort?

-Guerilla recycling:
Someone who had some item that is not supposed to be thrown away. Maybe it is best recycled because it has things in it that are not good for landfill (think: window air conditioner unit, refrigerator, a car). So they found a shop-dropping type method of getting rid of it. Maybe they dropped it off at a repair shop for an "estimate" and never picked it up. Perhaps it was the guy with the old desktop in his garage that he stopped using ten years ago but knows that he should not put in the trash can. Maybe - with a car - they left it on street for it to be towed. Looking for stories on this.

-Targeting book stores:
Someone writes a book. Their local bookstore isn't carrying it. The author calls the bookstore pretending to be a professor or whatever and asks for the bookstore to order a bunch of copies that they will pick up and pay for once the copies arrive. Then they never pick them up in hopes that bookstore will just put the books out on shelf. Anyone ever done that? Small-time photographers or poets looking to get noticed slip copies of their work into books as they peruse local bookstore. Anyone done that? Someone who doesn't want to throw away their used books but they cant find someone willing to buy them so they discretely leave a box of them in the corner of the nearby used bookstore. Anyone? Other tales welcome.

We are looking for any other examples that constitute shop-dropping but that are motivated by everyday pragmatics rather than by art/politics.

For the most part, that's not "everyday pragmatics": that's just flat-out douchebaggery. Leaving your garbage in a public place so someone else will cart it off? Dropping off a (possibly diseased) unwanted pet in a pet store? Bringing in something for repairs and never picking it up, saddling the repair shop with not only the cost of repairing it but the task of disposing of it? That's nasty behaviour in any decent person's book.

But this rant is not why I quoted it; I quoted it because of the misuse of the word "discretely", which drives me up the wall.

There are two very similar words in English, "discreet" and "discrete". They come from the same source, but then their meanings and usages diverged over time, something which happens all the time in English. Both words come from Latin "discretus", "separated", which, interestingly, is also the source of "discern". Both words emerged at around 1350.

But "discrete" means "apart" or "separate", whereas "discreet" means "judicious" or "prudent". Their meanings don't overlap in any way any more. They went their separate ways hundreds of years ago, and if you use one when you mean the other, then you look careless, or worse. If you use the wrong one when suggesting that people do cheap and unpleasant things and call them "pragmatic", well, then you also look like a douchebag.


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