Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The great pencil controversy

Yesterday was the 142nd birthday of the patent for a pencil with an attached eraser. Hymen Lipman (about whom nothing else is known) was issued Patent # 19,783 for his invention. But the patent was later rescinded when it was determined that he invented nothing; all he did was attach two existing things without altering their uses.

Which seems a little harsh, given that even as I type these words there is a #2 pencil with attached eraser sitting on my desk. Soon I will have to sharpen it. Additionally, Lipman’s attached eraser was designed to be sharpened, which could be a very wonderful thing for those of us who engage in creative erasing.

As with so many things, our choices about pencils say a lot about who we are. There are the mechanical pencil types, and the traditional pencil types. You know who you are.
No one will be surprised to learn that this house favored traditional pencils. CSB seems to have an unlimited supply from Rosenzweig lumber yard, but instead of being profligate with this store of pencils, he uses each one down to a stub. He is also – again, no surprise – a devotee of old fashioned manual pencil sharpeners, the kind normally screwed to the wall, generally on the way down to the basement. At least ours is.
While we are a one-style-pencil family, we do line up on opposite sides of the Great Sharpener Divide. I cannot give up my battery-operated pencil sharper, as I have a large stash of colored pencils and I like to keep their tips as pointy as my head. Also, our precious granddaughter enjoys the mechanical sharpener and can keep herself entertained for all of five minutes sharpening all our pencils into dangerous weapons that – unlike my fountain pens – should be forbidden from airplanes.

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