Bulletin Board, excerpt

About BMs:

Excerpt from (St. Paul Pioneer Press) Bulletin Board, January 31, 2003

Back to: Grab Bag

. . . . .

The Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon:

Reports Papa Carl of Mendota Heights:

"A B-M is almost spooky when it happens. "Last night, I looked up Dickens in an Encyclopedia, as my son has a 10-volume set of the 'Complete Works of Dickens,' published in 1870. Discovered that Dickens died in1870. Reading through a list of his books and stories, I was surprised to see how many I had read, seen in movies or on stage, or at least knew the titles. One title, 'Dombey and Son,' I had never heard before. I asked my wife if she had heard it before but it was foreign to her, also. "I then picked up Jonathan Raban's 'Passage to Juneau' and began to read. Within a few pages, he began to list some of the books he had aboard his boat to read on his journey. One was Dickens' 'Dombey and Son.' He gave an interesting anecdote from the book. "I can hardly believe this all happened within a span of 15 or 20 minutes."

Bulletin Board Loops

2002 2003

Today's Bulletin Board

Posted Wed., Aug. 20, 2003


Re: The Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon

Says A New Reader to the Bulletin Board: "This Baader-Meinhof experience is lost on me. The only thing I know about them is that they were a terrorist gang in Germany back in the '60s. Would you want to stick in a little explanation once in a while for those of us who are new to the column? We'd appreciate it. Thanks."

BULLETIN BOARD SAYS: We've done so before, and we'll do so again  today, here and now!

Ask, and thou shalt receive!

The explanation of the B-M Phenomenon is wholly enclosed in this call from Gigetto on Lincoln  which ran in the Bulletin Board of Oct. 16, 1994 (during an odd discussion of the odd frequency of public sightings of the number 23): "Many years ago, I identified a phenomenon so startling and so broad in its application that it encompasses the current wonder surrounding the number 23, as well as many other forms of eerie coincidence.

"I have dubbed it The Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon  named after the notorious West German gang of terrorists. The phenomenon goes like this: The first time you learn a new word, phrase or idea, you will see that word, phrase or idea again in print within 24 hours. (This does not apply to topical things  just obscure words, etc.)

"As you might guess, the phenomenon is named after an incident in which I was talking to a friend about the Baader-Meinhof gang (and this was many years after they were in the news). The next day, my friend phoned me and referred me to an article in that day's newspaper in which the Baader-Meinhof gang was mentioned. Quel surpris! [Bulletin Board notes: You may recall that on two occasions, The Wordsmith of St. Paul reported seeing a word a second time within a day after first encountering it and looking it up  but he didn't give the phenomenon a cute name.]

"Within my circle of friends, the expression 'Baader-Meinhof' is now well known  as in: 'I had the greatest Baader-Meinhof yesterday.' It instantly communicates this complex and puzzling experience of seeing something in print so soon after learning about it.

"There are many corollaries to the B-M Phenomenon, only one of which I will alert you to now. I call it The Comics Page Corollary: No matter what newspaper you read (provided it has a comics page), four or five times a year, two comics will appear on the same day with the same punch line. Again, to qualify, it cannot be topical; raking leaves, back-to-school antics, Halloween  these references are to be expected. But every once in a while, completely out of the blue, two comics share the same joke. For example: On the same day, 'Mother Goose & Grimm' and 'Garfield' dealt with dogs drinking out of toilets.

"You are welcome to start using Baader-Meinhof to explain the inexplicable. I do."


From E.T.'s Wife of West St. Paul: "The other day we saw the movie 'Finding Nemo.' I couldn't get E.T. to a Pixar film before that, but he was fascinated. It's about a male clownfish and his devotion and love for his son, Nemo.

"The next day, I turned on a rerun of 'N.Y.P.D. Blue.' It was really an old one, because it was the first time Dennis Franz and Jimmy Smits met. Dennis (Andy) is explaining to Jimmy (Bobby) about his aquarium of saltwater fish. He said he had clownfish, and the female had just laid eggs. He said the male was so responsible and devoted, he even cleaned each one of the eggs and watched over them.

"What do you think? B-M?"

BULLETIN BOARD SAYS: An outstanding "Joy of juxtaposition"  but unless you'd never heard of a clownfish, no B-M.

From Linden Hills Girl: "Between the noon and dinnertime rounds of grilled brats, sparklers and potato salad, I had a genuine Freedom Day Baader-Meinhof (and still blush to even think of using that other euphemism):

"I was heading from southwest Minneapolis into our neighbor suburb St. Louis Park, which is reinventing its city center district in the most delightful way, with much new clustered residential and commercial construction under way. I passed a sign on a side street leading to 'my' Target store, which read 'Future Site of Wolfe Lake Business Center.' I knew of no Wolfe Lake in St. Louis Park  indeed of any lake whatsoever in this first-tier suburb.

"I went on with my errands and came home for a much-needed nap hour in quiet air-conditioned comfort on the couch, picked up the latest issue of the Minnesota DNR's Conservation Volunteer magazine, and opened directly to an article on Wolfe Lake in St. Louis Park, created on the site of an old quarry and which the DNR is stocking with fish.