Breaking into Popular Culture

By Petroski, Henry | ASEE Prism, December 1, 2016 | Go to article overview

Breaking into Popular Culture


Petroski, Henry, ASEE Prism


The New York Times crossword puzzle is widely acknowledged to be the gold standard of the popular pastime. Like the content of the newspaper of record itself, puzzle clues and answers range across broad spectra from ancient history to current events, from fine arts to pop culture, from science to silliness.

It is not uncommon to encounter in a single puzzle clues like 55 Across, "First of the Minor Prophets" (Answer: HOSEA); 6 Down, "Bambi's aunt" (ENA); 28 Across, "Approx. time it takes for light to travel one foot" (NSEC); 11 Down, "Night light?" (FIREFLY).

But the one subject I have seldom found even alluded to in a crossword is engineering. It was thus a pleasant surprise to encounter in a recent puzzle the clue to 8 Across reading, "___ Kappa Nu, engineering honor society." The answer is, of course, "ETA", to complete the name of the electrical engineering organization.

The reason such an occurrence is remarkable is that engineers and engineering are simply not considered part of general knowledge or popular culture. As such, neither allusions nor direct references to them spring to the mind of a typical crossword puzzle creator or solver. In contrast, references to medical doctors, lawyers, and their associations appear regularly

Engineering educators as a group cannot be blamed for this sorry state of affairs. Except in some rare cases it is not we who are responsible for introducing non-engineering majors to the specialized technical knowledge or the social and technical appurtenances of our profession. And we certainly are not expected to prepare students for the occasional engineering clue in a general interest crossword puzzle.

But why isn't the topic of engineering a more integral part of everyday conversation? After all, it is engineering that is essential to providing the underlying infrastructure of civilization, and engineers who are the linchpins between ideas and reality.

With a few notable exceptions-such as in the Virginia public schools-engineering is absent from the general curriculum throughout the K-12 experience, where students learn the rudiments of civilization and culture. This separation prevails into college and continues into the "real world" of jobs and family and recreation, including doing crossword puzzles. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Breaking into Popular Culture
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.