The story behind the letter below is that there is this nutball in Newport, Rhode
Island named Scott Williams. What he does is dig things out of his backyard and
then send them to the Smithsonian Institute. Scot labels his exhibits with
scientific names, insisting that they are actual archaeological finds.
This man really exists and does this in his spare time!
the actual response from the Smithsonian Institution. Bear this letter in mind next time you think you are challenged in your
to respond to a difficult situation in writing.
Smithsonian Institute, 207 Pennsylvania Avenue Washington, DC 20078 Dear Mr. Williams,
Thank you for your latest submission to the Institute, labelled '93211-D, layer seven, next to the clothesline post... Hominid skull.'
We have given this specimen a careful and detailed examination, and
regret to inform you that we disagree with your theory that it represents conclusive proof of the presence of Early Man in Charleston County two million years ago. Rather, it appears that what you have found is
the head of a Barbie doll, of the variety that one of our staff, who has small children, believes to be 'Malibu Barbie.'
It is evident that you have given a great deal of thought to the analysis of this
specimen, and you may be quite certain that those of us who are familiar with your prior work in the field were loathe to come to contradict your findings. However, we do feel that there are a number of
physical attributes of the specimen which might have tipped you off to its modern origin:
1. The material is moulded plastic. Ancient hominid remains are typically fossilised bone.
2. The cranial capacity
of the specimen is approximately 9 cubic centimetres, well below the threshold of even the earliest identified proto-hominids.
3. The dentition pattern evident on the skull is more consistent with the common
domesticated dog than it is with the ravenous man-eating Pliocene clams you speculate roamed the wetlands during that time.
This latter finding is certainly one of the most intriguing hypotheses you have
submitted in your history with this institution, but the evidence seems to weigh rather heavily against it. Without going into too much detail, let us say that:
1. The specimen looks like the head of a
Barbie doll that a dog has chewed on.
2. Clams don't
It is with feelings tinged with melancholy that we must deny your request to have the specimen carbon-dated. This is partially due
to the heavy load our lab must bear in its normal operation, and partly due to carbon-datings notorious inaccuracy in fossils of recent geologic record.
To the best of our knowledge, no Barbie dolls were
produced prior to 1956 AD, and carbon-dating is likely to produce wildly inaccurate results.
Sadly, we must also deny your request that we approach the National Science Foundation Phylogeny Department with
the concept of assigning your specimen the scientific name Australopithecus spiff-arino. Speaking personally, I, for one, fought tenaciously for the acceptance of your proposed taxonomy, but was ultimately
voted down because the species name you selected was hyphenated, and didn't
really sound like it might be Latin.
However, we gladly accept your generous donation of this fascinating specimen to the museum.
While it is undoubtedly not a Hominid fossil, it is, nonetheless, yet another riveting example of the great body of work you seem to accumulate here so effortlessly. You should know that our Director has
reserved a special shelf in his own office for the display of the specimens you have previously submitted to the Institution, and the entire staff speculates daily on what you will happen upon next in your
digs at the site you have discovered in your Newport back yard.
We eagerly anticipate your trip to our nation's
capital that you proposed in your last letter, and several of us are pressing the Director to
pay for it. We are particularly interested in hearing you expand on your theories surrounding the trans-positating fillifitation of ferrous ions in a structural matrix that makes the excellent juvenile
Tyrannosaurus Rex femur you recently discovered take on the deceptive appearance of a rusty 9-mm Sears Craftsman automotive crescent wrench.
Yours in Science, Harvey Rowe Chief Curator-Antiquities
Footnote to the Smithsonian letter:
When I discovered that the Barbie Smithsonian letter was an urban myth, it was
nearly as devastating as when, aged 7, I realized that Father Christmas was a
phoney. As Will and Guy never shy away from the truth, we have to expose
this brilliant hoax.
Just as when you realize Father Christmas is your parent, the whole myth is
burst, so investigating the Barbie Smithsonian Exhibit uncovers facts that don't
fit with the myth. At first there are small things, there has never been
an Antiquities department in the Smithsonian Institute. Furthermore,
research reveals that the Smithsonian are fed up of people ringing up seeking to
verify the 'Barbie' exhibit which does not exist.
Finally, it has come to our attention that the original prankster is Dr.
Harvey Rowe, who conceived the Barbie Smithsonian Letter back in 1994. A
few emails to friends started one of the best ever urban myths.
Please send us your funny true story to compensate for our 'loss' of
the Smithsonian Exhibit.
Divorced Barbie Doll
One day a father gets out of work and on his way home he suddenly
remembers that it's his daughter's birthday. He pulls over to a Toy Shop and
asks the sales person, 'How much for one of those Barbie's in the display
The salesperson answers, 'Which one do you mean, Sir? We have:
Work Out Barbie for $19.95
Shopping Barbie for $19.95
Beach Barbie for $19.95
Disco Barbie for $19.95
Ballerina Barbie for $19.95
and Divorced Barbie for $265.95'.
The amazed father asks: 'It's what? Why is the Divorced Barbie $265.95
and the others only $19.95?'
The annoyed salesperson rolls her eyes, sighs and answers: "Sir, Divorced
Barbie comes with: Ken's Car, Ken's House, Ken's Boat, Ken's Furniture,
Ken's Computer, one of Ken's Friends and a key chain made with Ken's private
Cheryl Sent Us This True Story
Loved it, reminds me of my brother coming home with a T-rex leg bone (T-rex's
being the ONLY dinosaurs kids are into) he wanted to take it to the world
famous Royal Tyrell museum in
Drumheller to have it verified. He was devastated when my mother (who
had grown up in the area) told him in was a horse leg bone from the mink
ranch that was on the site. Mink ranches were for farm raised mink for
fur coats back in the 30's, 40's and 50's, the mink were fed horse meat.
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