THE FIRST OF MAY.

I am not about to reproduce here the vulgar little ditty with which this entry is, regrettably, concerned. I know that my readership is largely composed of persons of refined sensibilities who would, if not swoon, certainly raise their eyebrows in a fashion that I’m not sure I could bear. I urge such persons to ignore this ignoble entry. Others, however—those of you who (like my ignoble self) have not attained to a respectable spiritual level—should go here, read the rhyme beginning “Hooray, hooray,” and let me know in the comments whether you’re familiar with it, and if so whether the words are the ones you know. Myself, I have (to my shame) delighted in it for thirty years or so, but I have always said “starts today,” which of course makes for a better rhythm. Ahem. That is all.

Comments

  1. Dag.. No, never heard of this-un.. and thanks for “Black Sun” post.

  2. I woke up this morning thinking of the phone calls I used to get on May 1. Woo, my old boss at The Wheel (a bar where I worked during undergrad), used to get up and call pretty much everyone he knew and proudly proclaim, “Hooray, Hooray, The first of May – Outdoor screwing begins today. I never really knew what it meant or why he did it, but it was always a treat. He was a big golfer, and I guess I just always assumed that it was related to how he could now start taking money off of his buddies on the golf course. Now tonight, I find that a couple of other people are familiar with the same saying.
    http://sasnak.org/archives/000033.html

  3. Have never heard of this rhyme, but weren’t the “merry-be-gots” — illegitimate children with surnames like Greenwood and Merrywood and the like — supposed to be conceived in the month of May?

  4. Actually, “begins” makes for a better rhythm, he said syncopoetically. –It needs to be a little sprung to get, er, sprightly. (“F—ing” for whatever reason works better all crammed up into one beat instead of stretched out over a full trochee.)

  5. It’s always been “starts” to me, although frankly the weather hasn’t been all that.

  6. Never heard it! Was my “upstate” childhood that sheltered? In any event, it seems destined to become a fixture now — my husband is still laughing…
    moira, that’s interesting. I think the May Day rituals (with the poles and ribbons and dances) marked a day of “revelry” that included sexual free-for-all; I’ll try to check on that today.

  7. I’ve never encountered that one before, and frankly I’m apalled 😉

  8. My maternal grandmother, who was an upper-class Bostonian, is the one I heard that from. I’m glad not to be the only one going around with those words ringing in my head but they don’t have good associations for me–my grandmother sadistically sexually abused me (I’m a woman).

  9. Google’s on your side, for one thing.

  10. I’d heard of it, many years ago, and strangely forgotten all about it. Thanks for the reminder!

  11. Am I missing something?
    Where do people actually celebrate May 1st as a holiday?
    I thought it was something from 60 years ago.

  12. Definitely “starts”.
    “Hurray, hurray, it’s the first of May; outdoor (that word you didn’t want in your blog) starts today!”
    Anything else is heresy. (For speculation on when it ends, see “http://www.davidchess.com/words/log.20020426.html#20020502”).

  13. Good point, David. Here‘s the direct link, and the suggested end-of-season date given there is the autumnal equinox. Oh, and thanks for your support on the vital question of wording.

  14. No. I’ve never heard it or anything that resembles it before.
    Hooray Hooray
    It’s the first day of May
    Let go out and garden today

  15. Growing up in South Africa, never heard it — not strange, given the opposite arrangement of seasons — but what a good idea. Pity that my beloved chose May 1 to fly back there, for a month apart!

  16. Geeeeze… I can’t believe I found this Web Page. Been calling and sending cards since the early seventies to remind friends (lust they forget) of the pending joys of the season. This is awesome.
    Thanx, Doug

  17. and don’t forget the second stanza
    Alas, alas, the first of November
    outdoor *** ends, remember

  18. and now for a comment completely irrelevant to outdoor procreation. in University of Chicago, there is a sculpture outside of Albert Pick Hall
    for International Studies. the sculpture itself is abstract, but on the first of May at noon it casts a shadow in the perfect shape of a hammer and sickle. heh heh.

  19. I know it to be… “Horray, Horray the first of May. Outdoor humping starts today”. Which I guess is a slightly “nicer” version; but, no matter how you say it, it still means the same thing.

  20. Thanks for reviving this ancient thread!

  21. David Eddyshaw says:

    “A thread is never finished, it is only abandoned.”

  22. None of the links in this post and thread are alive. The time is out of joint, something is rotten in the state of Denmark, or something like that.

  23. David Eddyshaw says:

    In view of the significant global warming that has taken place since 2004, the date has been advanced to April, causing loss of rhyme and rhythm, and consequent cultural impoverishment.

  24. Thus making outdoor humping coincide with the Feast of All Fools, a most conceited and metaphysical conclusion.

  25. David Marjanović says:

    “This is not a coincidence, because nothing is ever a coincidence.”

  26. Oh, another Unsongbook fan? I admire it greatly, but my feeling is that it’s clever but fairly heartless, except for the defense of NYC against Hell by Ed Koch, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, and Golem Liberty. But then I’m a NYC patriot.

  27. January First-of-May says:

    “This is not a coincidence, because nothing is ever a coincidence.”

    This comment nonwithstanding, I want to take the opportunity to note that the second part of my online nickname of the last (nearly) ten years originates from the Moscow metro station (and thus indirectly from the Soviet holiday), and as such has entirely no relation to this particular ditty (or, for that matter, to the same-named song by the Bee Gees).

  28. And yet, rarely do I get so perfect an opportunity to tell someone “This post has your name written all over it.”

  29. Trond Engen says:

    Oh, another Unsongbook fan?

    Count me in. Your fault. You linked to it.

    I admire it greatly, but my feeling is that it’s clever but fairly heartless,

    Yes! I sort of fell out of it somewhere, decided I had been reading too fast, and took a break. I forgot to start reading again, and now I know why: I didn’t fall in love with the characters. But now that I’m reminded of it, I miss them. I’ll go back.

  30. David Marjanović says:

    Your fault. You linked to it.

    Exactly.

    my feeling is that it’s clever but fairly heartless

    Oh, it’s cruel, and there’s no reason to expect a happy end or even just something as clean as a Bolivian Army Ending. But so far there’s enough suspense and cleverness for me to read on.

    (For the record, the latest idea in quantum physics is that everything is a coincidence – that causality is just a gross simplification over the probabilities at which things happen because they can.)

  31. I’m sure that’s an overstatement, but it’s a more useful one than the reverse, which is so natural to us meaning-seeking humans. I’m constantly telling people that something is “just a coincidence,” which is hard to accept.

  32. the latest idea — I thought that was implicit in the version of statistical mechanics they taught me nearly 40 years ago. All the nice numbers that thermodynamics work with ‘really’ represent averages over random processes, and it is only probably true that they will behave as expected.

    But then you put Avogadro’s Number over Planck’s Constant in the exponent and your confidence interval to one minus inverse googolplex becomes immeasurably small.

    So what’s new? (Serious question)

  33. David Marjanović says:

    statistical mechanics

    Ah, but I mean the mechanics of individual particles, too – idealized Newtonian billiard balls, not just real ones.

    I can’t find my source anymore, but here’s the idea that space is just an epiphenomenon of entanglement…

  34. The idea of entropic gravity has been around for a while, and it hasn’t really gotten anywhere useful. It’s a fascinating idea, but it has some serious problems that tend to get swept under the rug. And unfortunately, I can attest, from personal interactions, that a number of prominent figures working on the topic do not actually understand statistical mechanics all that well.

  35. I’m too rusty on all this to see how the very interesting idea that David linked leads to the conclusion that causality is an illusion — especially since Cao, Carroll and Michalakis are still working in a model without a time dimension.

    It does look a bit like entropic gravity, but I didn’t see anything about the asymptotic linearity / elimination of dark energy that seems to be the raison d’être of entropic gravity.

  36. David Marjanović says:

    I’m too rusty on all this to see how the very interesting idea that David linked leads to the conclusion that causality is an illusion —

    It doesn’t. I posted something else interesting instead, because, as I said, I can’t find my source anymore.

  37. And now for something completely different! (Or, as the French say, du coq à l’âne.)

  38. It doesn’t. Ah. All is now explained.

  39. Lars (the same one) says:

    Another variant: https://youtu.be/gEjRHFom1Kk — with backing signers.

  40. Lars (the original one) says:

    Oh, and turn on closed captions, it has both the words and the signs. I feel like I already know a lot of ASL after this.

    (In case you wonder about the name change, I had clearly used up my posting quota according to some gremlin inside WordPress. So we route around it. And now every edited comment goes into moderation. Come on, WP!)

  41. Great song, great subtitles! Alas, it’s more like the first of March here; if you go outside you need a winter coat.

  42. Lars (the original one) says:

    Here it’s actually been good spring weather all weekend (and today counts as weekend since Sweden never stopped celebrating St. Valpurga — the tradition pyromania and debauchery of the night before meant that nobody dared touch it even before the new meanings added to it in the 20th century. So I am pretty sure that contrary to the rule, at least some al fresco paternity events will have happened last night though it was down in the forties by 9pm already).

  43. January First-of-May says:

    Here it’s actually been good spring weather all weekend

    Same here (in Moscow).

    My mother told me that the weather forecast predicted +20° (Celsius, i.e. 68°F) for Saturday, and that she didn’t believe it at all. But it really was extremely warm that day (and the next one too).

  44. Stephen C. Carlson says:

    Sweden never stopped celebrating St. Valpurga
    Valborg! One of the best things about living in Uppsala (though three years ago it snowed during the bonfires).

  45. Good “autumn” weather here (Mars), but pissing with rain (schools to be closed on 2nd May). There’s definitely been a change of season around during the last days.

    a number of prominent figures working on the topic do not actually understand statistical mechanics all that well

    Same thing, I’d say, when it comes to designing structures. Nowadays, all design codes are supposed to be probabilistic, or at least semi-probabilistic, but that’s usually far from the mind of most engineers (including me), who just apply the various mathematical formulas to get a sizing, and that’s it. It requires a quantum leap — if I may — to think and admit that your brand new house / tower / bridge / quay has a probability of failure, no matter how small, even if you designed it perfectly well. Trond might explain that better than I can.

  46. …space is just an epiphenomenon of entanglement

    You should make it into a pick-up line.

  47. David Marjanović says:

    It’s all yours! However preferable it is to the classic Just call me helicase – I’d like to unzip your genes!, that’s not a social situation I’m ever in…

  48. Trond Engen says:

    I might say something about statistics in structural design later. But there’s the complicating factor that unlike linguistics it’s something I’m actually supposed to know something about.

  49. Trond Engen says:

    I don’t really have that much to add, but one might elaborate on the “semi-probabilistic” thing, One might also say that the design of the design codes is based in probabilistic methods, at least in theory, but that the codes themselves are quasi-the-opposite-of-probabilist-ic. The different design values for loads and material properties are supposed to represent certain low percentiles of probability for variation to the unsafe side. For live loads, which are stochastic, and some material properties, which may change, there’s a specified time interval. The safety coefficients we use on top of this are supposed to represent the different degrees of variability in the different loads and properties (as well as the probability of flaws in the mathematical model). E,g, wind loads and snow loads have larger coefficients than self loads, and masonry has larger coefficients than wood and concrete, which in turn have larger coefficients than metals. But in our daily lives, we just set up the codified equatiions, fill in the codified properties, apply the codified coefficients, and get e result. After all, that’s what the codes are for: Simplifying the process into a set of criterions that are [technical term]deemed to comply[/technical term],

    The reason I said I was supposed to know something about it, however, is that I did my hovedoppgave [~ master’s thesis] on reliability theory. Never used it since, and that’s no wonder, because I got really bored with it before I was finished, and delivered a thesis nobody in their right mind would want to read. Bored by my thesis subject, that is. which was an analysis of parameters that wer part of a doctoral student’s much more interesting thesis. Reliability theory itself is interesting. Essentially it’s about identifying the different variables that affect the design, estimate their statistical properties (including co-variability), and define a safe zone within a multi-dimensional space. This is not something worth applying for your average four-storey building with concrete slabs and steel support system, but it could potentially save both lives and money by focusing the design on the factors most vulnerable to errors or most efficiently improved in complex expensive designs like (say) offshore petroleum installations, innovative bridge structures, urban infrastructure, or space installations.

  50. Trond Engen says:

    (I went back and added the first paragraph by expanding in the first sentence. But the first sentence doesn’t really fit anymore.)

  51. David Marjanović says:

    (For the record, the latest idea in quantum physics is that everything is a coincidence – that causality is just a gross simplification over the probabilities at which things happen because they can.)

    Probably (heh), what I was thinking of was some outgrowth of this:

    Thus Bell’s 1976 theorem can be restated as: either causal influences are not limited to the speed of light, or events can be correlated for no reason.

    This, I suggest, is the best way to reconcile the two camps. It enables them to agree on a single Bell’s theorem, and what logical options it offers, even if they prefer different options.

    Those who insist that correlations are explicable must conclude that causal influences can go faster than light. A challenge for these non-localists is: why does nature nevertheless conspire to prevent faster-than-light signalling?

    Those who hold Einstein’s principle to be inviolable (the localists) must conclude that some events are correlated for no reason. A challenge for them is: if correlations do not necessarily imply a cause, when should scientists look for causes, and why?

    and this:

    The group measured polarization and other features in a beam of photons and found a level of overlap that could not be explained by the ignorance models [which say that Schrödinger’s cat is either alive or dead, we just don’t know which before we open the box]. The results support the alternative view that, if objective reality exists, then the wavefunction is real.

  52. But in our daily lives, we just set up the codified equations, fill in the codified properties, apply the codified coefficients, and get a result.

    Which is why about one bridge falls down every generation, as Henry Petroski teaches us.

    if correlations do not necessarily imply a cause, when should scientists look for causes, and why?

    Hume was right to discredit metaphysical necessity.

  53. Trond Engen says:

    Which is why about one bridge falls down every generation, as Henry Petroski teaches us.

    No, not really. Design codes and reliabilty theory both accept that there’s no such thing as 100% safety, only degree of reliability, In any distribution, and with any measures taken, there will always be a tail end risk that society has to accept. Modern design codes typically define the acceptable risk differently for different types of structures. As a professional you have to know where to stop and not spend the client’s money and scarce resources for little added effect.

    That said, like in any field that is tested against reality, methods and understanding evolve in steps, one major failure at the time. When engineers hear news of a structural collapse, apart from the normal layman’s human reactions, there’s a multi-step professional’s human reaction. At first you’re terrified, then relieved it wasn’t you, and finally intellectually stimulated by the situation.

  54. Petroski at least thinks there is a pattern of hybris and nemesis to it. After a bridge collapse, people are more careful for quite a while, but eventually a new generation of architects and engineers that knows not Joseph arises, and they continue to push the design envelope until there is another crash.

  55. David Marjanović says:

    Hume was right to discredit metaphysical necessity.

    Probably so; but this is about physical necessity – is that necessarily the same?

  56. Nobody knows. Is this world the only possible world? It seems intuitively unlikely, at least if you believe in free will.

  57. David Marjanović says:

    Free will meaning what exactly?

  58. The intuition we have that we are capable of deciding to do one thing rather than another. If free will is a delusion, then it may be that everything that happens is exactly what must happen, that things could not be otherwise than they are, and speaking about “what if Donald Trump had not been elected President” is just as incoherent as “what if 2 + 2 = 5”. Note that the latter term is to be understood de re: we are not talking about a world in which what we call “4” is known as “5”, but a world where adding two and two really does get you what we call five. By the same token, the first term is not about a world in which Fred Trump doesn’t name his son “Donald”, but one in which the Donald we know loses the election. Could that be the case? If no, then necessity and possibility are the same thing.

  59. David Marjanović says:

    If free will is a delusion, then it may be that everything that happens is exactly what must happen, that things could not be otherwise than they are

    …but it may also be that quantum randomness interferes with the predetermined course of the Newtonian billiard balls: there is a third option.

    That said, Roger Penrose’s attempt to connect free will to quantum state superpositions inside microtubuli in the cells of the brain fails: microtubuli are way too large (there are lots of water molecules inside!) and way too warm to function as boxes in which Schrödinger’s cat could live and not live.

  60. January First-of-May says:

    Sometimes the proper response to bridge structural collapses doesn’t have much to do with architects.

    When Broughton Suspension Bridge, over the river Irwell, collapsed in 1831, (a major part of) the reason apparently was that a squad of soldiers marching in step had hit the resonanse frequency. The response, quite naturally, was that squads of soldiers marching over a bridge were advised to break step for that stretch.

    Other countries didn’t quite get the memo, and Angers Bridge (Angers, France) in 1850, and then Egyptian Bridge (Saint-Petersburg, Russia) in 1909, had apparently also collapsed for similar reasons – leading to similar “break step over bridge” acts in France and Russia, respectively.

    …In 2000, at the opening of the Millenium Bridge in London, it turned out that similar resonance effects can occur naturally if a sufficient number of pedestrians ended up on the bridge (apparently similar effects were actually recorded elsewhere even earlier, but this case was particularly high-profile).
    Fortunately, the bridge was sturdier than the other three, and did not collapse (and was eventually reconstructed so that the resonance frequency no longer was in the dangerous range).

  61. @David Marjanović: That idea of Penrose’s just demonstrated to me that not only did he not understand biology, he didn’t understand quantum mechanics either.

  62. Trond Engen says:

    Nobody understands quantum mechanics, but understanding can break down on very different scales.

  63. Once someone understands quantum mechanics, it is wrong.

  64. David Marjanović says:

    The quantum mechanics you can pin down and name is not the eternal quantum mechanics…

  65. Indeed, the M-Bridge was the overly risky bridge of its generation, but by sheer watchfulness it was fixed before it could collapse. It’s not as if the mathematics of bridge resonance were not known for sixty-some years already! No, just pushing the envelope. Here’s Petroski:

    In bridge design, as in all structural engineering, success can breed hubris and catastrophe, while failure nurtures humility and caution. Unfortunately, it does seem to take a collapse to re-sensitize inspectors and operators to the real dangers that lurk among rusting steel and cracking concrete. Let us hope that the lessons learned in Minneapolis [after a 2007 bridge collapse] are not forgotten once more.

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