Ask the “Misfortune” Teller: Amusing Search Terms

Ask the Misfortune TellerOne of the fun parts of blogging is seeing the search terms that lead people to my little piece of the internet.  Those terms are a glimpse into other people’s minds, giving me a sense of the topics people find interesting enough to type into a search engine.  My favorite search terms are the ones in full sentences beginning with Who, What, Where, When, Why, or How.  Sometimes the content on my blog answers these questions; other times it does not.

Here, I address directly some of the amusing questions my blog has received recently.

(1)  “Is it illegal to write about a deceased author without them knowing[?]”

Well, I’m not sure how you’re supposed to go about contacting a deceased author, unless you believe in Ouija boards or mediums.

If the googler was asking whether it is unlawful to quote the work of a deceased author without contacting the holder of the copyright and paying a royalty, then William Faulkner’s estate wants the answer to be “yes.”  However, I disagree with the Faulkner estate, as explained in my posts, When Someone Quotes You, Say “Thank You,” Not “F-You” and “Manners” for Authors: On Being Quoted.

(2)  “Why I love bird watching essays”

The only one who can know why you love bird watching essays is you, but a search engine apparently thought I was one with the answer.  It probably directed this reader to my post, The Things I Love: Objects and Activities that Help Ideas Flow Rather than “Burst,” in which I say there’s no such thing as too many bird pictures.  But that’s probably not what this person wanted to find.

I’ve been wondering whether this person was looking for author Jonathan Franzen’s My Bird Problem, which is part of The Discomfort Zone: A Personal History.  In this rambling essay, Franzen captures the addictive quality of birding and discusses how it furthered his interest in conservationism (interspersed with a loosely connected history of his personal relationships).  Those who consider a visit by a masked duck akin to a celebrity sighting may want to read this essay, particularly if they are Franzen fans.

(3)  “Why are children’s book reviews shorter than average reviews[?]”

There are several truisms in this world, like “Don’t eat anything larger than your head.” Similarly, a review should not be much longer than that which it reviews. A 1,000 word review of Eric Carle’s 11 word My Very First Book of Colors would be insufferable.


  1. The most recent search to get to our blog this past week has been “Heidi Umbridge,” which makes me feel like I’ve somehow fused and become this super villain. Very strange… 😉 I don’t know if you’ve ever followed The Bloggess, but she posts some of the truly bizarre-o things people search for that lead to her blog. Then again, she does post on those topics, too, so I guess it all fits. 🙂

  2. I read your post earlier today, but did not have time to comment. So funny. I like the first one the best, like duh!!!! I got one a couple of months ago that said, “Taking a Nude Garden Walk?” My husband wanted me to draw up a post of flowers walking nude down a street. You gotta wonder what people are thinking when they type.

  3. I love this post! Sometimes I wonder…on my photography webpage I get ones that make sense–slammed VW is the most popular one, and of course I have lots of picture of slammed VWs so that works for them. My writing blog has been getting lots of hits for people searching for lyrics for songs because of my Music Mondays. The strange one was “Johnny Cash Death Body”…I wonder if it’s a song he wrote, or if that person wanted to see him dead? I got a few “freebie giovanni” which made me wonder if they were looking for free books, or something else by another Giovanni. They are quite amusing, and I really enjoyed reading your responses!

  4. Queen of poo! Sloth sex!! Man, all i get are “sex girl movies,” often misspelled. But these are, indeed, constantly amusing.

    1. What’s amusing to me is how those types of searches lead people to my book blog! It seems like a pretty high percentage of people are using the internet to search for porn, not books.

  5. A consistent search term used to find me is “porn cake.” I laugh every time I see it. I posted a picture of a… there is no other word for it… porn cake. I guess if you want to see it, you’ll have to plug in that search term and stop by. ;/

    1. Ha! I’ll have to check it out. I get lots of pornographic search terms, too, and some that are extremely disturbing that could only be looking for child porn. There have also been kind of sad search terms, like people looking for resources to escape abuse and someone who searched for “how to read gay novel without mom knowing.”

  6. This is great; and I agree, some of the search terms I get are also totally bizarre. And I have NO idea how those searches lead to my blog. I get lots pertaining to sex. Very strange.

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