PG stumbled onto over a tweet while waiting for a phone call. He knew that nothing good would come of this, but took the plunge anyway. The tweet was: @tejucole Want to be depressed by humanity? In the Google search box, type “is,” followed by a space bar.
When you type a phrase into google, four suggested searches appear. For “is”, the suggested searches are is lil wayne gay, is anderson cooper gay, is john travolta gay, is frank ocean gay. There are “About 25,270,000,000 results (0.18 seconds.) Yes, that is trillions, like the national debt.
The top result at google is typically paid for. For “is”, the top spot belongs to is.gd. “Shortening 675,999,170 URLs, That have been accessed 33,400,546,003 times. is.gd is an ethical URL shortener supported by MEMSET.®”
.gd does not stand for G-d damn, but represents the internet the domain for Grenada. This was the site of an American military intervention in 1983. Operation Urgent Fury was the war Ronald Reagan won. For all his love of recreational saber rattling, Nancy’s husband was not so foolish to start anything he could not finish.
The second result typically goes to wikipedia. “Is” powers a number of abbreviations, and at least two towns: “Is or Hit, an Iraqi town on the Euphrates River,” and “Is or Ys (also Ker-Ys or Ville d’Issy), a mythical city in the 5th-century Britain in France.”
Dictionary.com features a header ad for, ho ho ho, Green Giant frozen vegetables. The google teaser says “3rd person singular present indicative of be. Relevant Questions. Is Santa Claus Real? Is Miley Cyrus Pregnant? Definition of Is? Is Ciara a Man? Idiom. 2. as is.”
To those of a certain age, discussions of “is” bring us back to Bill Clinton. 1998 was a simpler, gentler time. There were no American wars, except for a few distraction bombings of Iraq. The economy was in good shape. The only thing for the media to worry about was the sexual activity in the oval office. Bill Clinton and the Meaning of “Is”, was written September 13, 1998, three years before 911.
Years from now, when we look back on Bill Clinton’s presidency, its defining moment may well be Clinton’s rationalization to the grand jury about why he wasn’t lying when he said to his top aides that with respect to Monica Lewinsky, “there’s nothing going on between us.” How can this be? Here’s what Clinton told the grand jury (according to footnote 1,128 in Starr’s report): “It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is. If the–if he–if ‘is’ means is and never has been, that is not–that is one thing. If it means there is none, that was a completely true statement….Now, if someone had asked me on that day, are you having any kind of sexual relations with Ms. Lewinsky, that is, asked me a question in the present tense, I would have said no. And it would have been completely true.”
The distinction between “is” and “was” was seized on by the commentariat when Clinton told Jim Lehrer of PBS right after the Lewinsky story broke, “There is no improper relationship.” Chatterbox confesses that at the time he thought all these beltway domes were hyperanalyzing, and in need of a little fresh air. But it turns out they were right: Bill Clinton really is a guy who’s willing to think carefully about “what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.” This is way beyond slick. Perhaps we should start calling him, “Existential Willie.”
Pictures today are from The Library of Congress. Cory Doctorow. writes like this.
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