Saturday, March 31, 2012

Wine, Stings and the Surprisingly Literary Scales for Each

When describing the sizes of a given thing or the vividness in which a thing might be experienced, you could take the standard soda fountain or T-shirt route and refer to the gradations in an obvious, straightforward manner: small, medium and large. I would prefer that you put more creativity into it, however. That’s more interesting to write about.

Take wine bottles, for example. Did you know that the majority of sizes for wine bottles take their names from Biblical men of note? Sure, there are a few that don’t fit — the 1.5-liter magnum or the 25-liter sovereign — but most have an air of majesty to them. How cool is it that the 6-liter bottle is the methuselah or that the 15-liter is the nebuchadnezzar? Two wine bottles — the 12-liter balthazar and the 18-liter melchior — take their names from the Three Magi, leaving poor Gaspar uninvited to this wine-soaked party, but I’m fine with that, knowing that I could one day purchase a goliath bottle of champagne and have 27 liters of fun. Weirdly, the goliath isn’t the biggest. That honor goes to the 40-liter melchizedek. Go figure. Also? Go to the hospital.

Speaking of things that can kill you, a different sort of cleverness went into entomologist Justin O. Schmidt’s scale for the pain felt from insect stings. The result, the Schmidt Sting Pain Index, is surprisingly fun to read. On one end, you have the sweat bee, whose harmless sting Schmidt describes as “Light, ephemeral, almost fruity. A tiny spark has singed a single hair on your arm.” On the other end? The tarantula hawk, whose sting is ranked as a 4 on the scale described as “Blinding, fierce, shockingly electric. A running hair drier has been dropped into your bubble bath.” And yet that’s not even the worst sting. Earning a 4+ is the bullet ant, so-called because its sting is said to hurt like a bullet wound for around 24 hours. Schmidt describes it as follows: “Pure, intense, brilliant pain. Like fire-walking over flaming charcoal with a 3-inch rusty nail grinding into your heel.” I’m torn between two favorites. They’re both ranked as 2 on the scale, and their descriptions are beautifully vivid. The sting of the bald-faced hornet is described as “Rich, hearty, slightly crunchy. Similar to getting your hand mashed in a revolving door,” while the common yellow jacket gets “Hot and smoky, almost irreverent. Imagine W. C. Fields extinguishing a cigar on your tongue.” What’s most surprising about this, I think, is the malicious joy that Justin O. Schmidt seems to take in writing about them. Were he to author a book specifically about various people being stung by various horrible insects, I would totally read it.

No comments:

Post a Comment