On pegging down taxonomy

Tonight I watched The Collectors on ABC TV – good to have the show back in 2008. One of the featured collections was the peg collection of Mike Bradley. Yes, that’s right, a collection of clothes pegs!

There were some really interesting moments (yes, truly) in this segment on pegs. Firstly, Mike Bradley was terrific at telling his story about the whys and wherefores of his collection. He postulated that his penchant for pegs may have stemmed from his gypsy heritage (gypsies introduced pegs to the world, apparently). The stories were personal, interesting, and humorous.

He told a great story about a trip to India and the purchase of some unusual pegs – the guide/translator telling the storekeeper about “this idiot who loves pegs” and then arranging a higher price than normal and splitting the difference! Mike also related a shopping trip to “plastic city” in China where he bought a load of plastic pegs with different designs. Returning to Australia, the customs officer wanted to know about the metal clips showing up in the X-ray image. Mike replied that they were pegs he was bringing back from overseas, to which the customs officer replied: “don’t we make pegs in Australia?”.

Mike reckons he has the largest collection of pegs in the world, albeit only about 50% of the total number of different pegs out there. And he admitted to not being shy in swapping an ordinary peg for one not in his collection if he comes across such a specimen on someone’s backyard clothesline! You have been warned.

Mike turned a potentially lacklustre story into a great feature on collecting; turning the mundane into something special with his natural storytelling abilities. The storytelling worked. [Note to ABC TV – a podcast or videocast of such segments would be really worthwhile].

Then there was the in-studio discussion between Mike and Collector panelists Nicole and “The Professor” (and this strikes at the heart of taxonomy, can you believe it?). Nicole admitted to hanging clothes on the line with a pair of pegs that had to be the same colour. She wanted to reassemble and order Mike’s peg collection by colour. Mike actually ordered his collection by size and type of clip. The Professor had no such preference for peg order. And now let me confess, that when I hang out the washing the pair of pegs for each article of clothing must be of the same type – no mix and match here!

Now if there was a manual for the “correct” way of pairing pegs or assembling pegs in a collection, what would be the one-size-fits-all determining taxonomy? Would it be chronological (historical or purchase date?), or colour, or size, or type, or shape, or country of origin,  or type of use, or complete randomness (perhaps the order being determined by the position of different clothes on the clothesline itself)? You see, it all depends on what means the most to the individual, if in fact it means anything at all.

The moral of the story: don’t put a square peg in a round hole … or can you?

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