Mark Liberman has a Log post taking the hapless NY Times science writer Nicholas Wade out behind the woodshed for a well-deserved thrashing in regard to his credulous reporting of the “language gene” (a real thing even if the popular name is misleading) and the “god gene” (not a real thing); I was pushed over the edge into blogging it by his conclusion:

The beauty part is the universality of this argument. My current favorite application leads us to postulate the Hat Gene. […] Think of the manifold advantages of head-coverings to paleolithic hunter-gatherers, and the near-universality of head coverings among human groups at all subsequent stages of development — the Hat Gene hypothesis is a winner all around.

It sure is, and now, when anyone asks me why I always wear headgear when I’m outside, I can just say “It’s genetic.”


  1. Hmm. Maybe we’re related then. Though both of my parents must have had it since I also wear hats indoors.

  2. In that case, it’s possible to grow a new gene, since I started wearing a hat (outdoors) after I started reading this blog.

  3. My own hat gene had to be suppressed by social convention for many years, but this past summer I was able to fully express it by buying and wearing a large sunhat on all possible occasions, including sometimes indoors.

  4. Obviously I am merely a mutated chimpanzee, in that case, since I plainly lack the Hat Gene in all its forms.

  5. I wish I had the hat gene. With milliners an extinct species here, I can’t get a hat big enough for my head.

  6. Are descriptivist and prescriptivist genes textilely compatible? Can nucleic fabric in either be used to patch holes in the arguments, or at least the tolerance for argument, of the other?

  7. Can the hat gene express itself elsewhere than the scalp? Like on a foot, or a golf club, or a sewing finger?

  8. Victor Latrine says

    Wasn’t Rochester Wedding Music a W. H. Auden poem?

  9. Stuart : Try an Akubra.

  10. Are descriptivist and prescriptivist genes textilely compatible?

    Yes, but it’s scripturally unsound, cf. ass and oxen pulling together.

  11. Wot abaht the baseball cap gene? Is it recessive or dominant?

  12. marie-lucie says

    Stuart, there is also the Canadian “Tilley hat”, made in 13 sizes and several styles.

  13. The Tilley hat used to be available by mail order from the New Yorker, probably still is.

  14. Terry Collmann says

    dearime – Wot abaht the baseball cap gene? Is it recessive or dominant?
    It’s only recessive if you’re wearing it backwards,

  15. Does anyone know of the first visual image of someone wearing a baseball cap backwards? The farthest back I can get in memory is The Little Rascals – I think one of them wore his cap recessively.

  16. Abraham Lincoln wore one to his inauguration as president. In those days it was a signal that that you were gay.

  17. Whoops. Sorry, Language! (He doesn’t believe the evidence that Lincoln was gay.)

  18. He was actually quite jolly until his wife went mad.

  19. marie-lucie says

    Stuart, google “Tilley Endurables” for the Tilley Hat(s). They ship internationally.

  20. Tilley with hats, including backwards baseball.

  21. marie lucie, mercy buckets for the link to tilley’s. they really seem like a viable answer. Our fierce Aotearoa sun makes a hat pretty essential these days, so it’s nice to find a likely solution. Molto danke.

  22. marie-lucie says

    You are welcome, Stuart. I have one myself. They are supposed to last forever too.

  23. I’d be pretty mad too if my husband was gay (assuming I wasn’t a man).

  24. (assuming I wasn’t a man)
    Time for a little Wodehouse. (From “What ho, Jeeves”, Ch. 2)
    “But you aren’t a male newt.”
    “I wish I were. Do you know how a male newt proposes, Bertie? He just stands in front of the female newt vibrating his tail and bending his body in a semi-circle. I could do that on my head. No, you wouldn’t find me grousing if I were a male newt.”
    “But if you were a male newt, Madeline Bassett wouldn’t look at you. Not with the eye of love, I mean.”
    “She would, if she were a female newt.”
    “But she isn’t a female newt.”
    “No, but suppose she was.”
    “Well, if she was, you wouldn’t be in love with her.”
    “Yes, I would, if I were a male newt.”
    A slight throbbing about the temples told me that this discussion had reached saturation point.

  25. “Time for a little Wodehouse.”
    It is ALWAYS time for a little Wodehouse.

  26. Does anyone know of the first visual image of someone wearing a baseball cap backwards?
    I’ll make no such claim, but here‘s King Kelly as a baby from 1887.

  27. Nice find, but when a catcher wears the cap backwards it’s not backwards.

  28. Sir Bedevere: What makes you think she’s a witch?
    Peasant 3: Well, she turned me into a newt!
    Sir Bedevere: A newt?
    Peasant 3: [meekly after a long pause] … I got better.

  29. mutant gene….

  30. tilley hats says

    The Tilley TH8 comes in four sizes and has two cords, front and back, to make sure it stays on, even in a windstorm. The sweatband is very comfortable and the hat is well balanced and feels suitably luxurious.The Tilley TH8 is pretty pricey, but well, life really can look better from under the brim of a beautiful hat.The hat is seriously constructed, durable and UV protective.
    [I usually delete spam, but how can I delete this charming ad? I eliminated the URL and am leaving it at that. –LH]

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