Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Desert, dessert or deserted?

If there's a question I've always hated, it's "What books would take you with you to a desert island?". Particularly since I've always been certain that the meaning of "desert" in that sentence meant hot sand, the occasional oasis and guaranteed sunburns.

Here's the question: would the answer be different? Would I bring different books to a desert island as opposed to one that's simply deserted? I mean, if I'm on a deserted island, I'd probably want a really fat, fascinating book with lots of stories, characters and situations. Something dense and epic. On a desert island, I'd kind of want a survival guide. You know. Something that teaches me how to keep myself well-hydrated, how to avoid getting sand in my eyes, etc. Or Dune.

As for a dessert island book... I'd probably want a weight-loss guide.

8 comments:

  1. A dessert island - what a great idea! :--)

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  2. On either of those desert islands, I think I'd want an instruction book for how to build a raft and get home. :-)

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  3. This is one of those great oddities of English that I'm sure 99.9% of native speakers get "wrong." Desert, here, does mean deserted (though certainly the other meaning isn't foreclosed!). Merriam-Webster actually has "desolate and sparsely occupied or unoccupied [a desert island]" as it's first definition of "desert (adj.)." "of or relating to a desert" is second.

    It certainly doesn't help matters that the quintessential image of a desert island fits both senses.

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  4. I think "desert island" just calls to mind the dozens and dozens of cartoons we've all seen of people on desert islands in all sorts of situations. The answer wouldn't be different, but the question has cultural resonance. Maybe that's why?

    Also, I'm pretty sure I'd need a survival kind regardless of the climate of the island in question. But I pretend otherwise because I'm not wasting one of my precious five books on that.

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  5. Oh I laughed when you suggested Dune for a desert island! Perfect! And where might I find a vegan dessert island? They'd have to serve good, strong coffee to help wash down all the sweets.

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  6. I think you could bring a fat book to both, one for the company and one for the shade! But agreed on bringing instruction manual to get back to my own bookshelf

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  7. I'll take the dessert island over either of the other varieties any day. And I like your suggestion of Dune for a desert island. :-)

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