Friday, August 19, 2016

Crab Bucket

Terry Pratchett taught me about “crab bucket” in Unseen Academicals [1]. I don’t know if it’s a metaphor of his part of England, or if it’s unique to the Discworld.

… She reached down and picked a crab out of a bucket. As it came up it turned out that three more were hanging on to it…

… ‘Oh that’s crabs for you,’ said Verity … ‘Thick as planks the lot of them. That’s why you can keep them in a bucket without a lid. Any that tries to get out gets pulled back…’

Crab bucket, thought Glenda … That’s how it works. People from the Sisters disapproving when a girl takes the trolley bus … Practically everything me mum ever told me…

I did find a wikipedia entry for “crab mentality”, which led to a 1994 article

When teachers at Frank W. Ballou … talk about the crab bucket syndrome …

But the author doesn’t describe where the term comes from. It’s a useful concept; reminds me again how much we need to recreate anthropology.

[1] Written when Pratchett was well into his eventually terminal dementia syndrome, so while it’s very enjoyable for fans it’s not his best work.

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