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In which John discusses paper towns, paper streets, mountweazels, and other fictitious entries. Why do encyclopedia editors and lexicographers and cartographers occasionally make things up on purpose? And do these fictional nonfictions say anything about the relationship between the imagined and the real?

IN OTHER NEWS: The Paper Towns movie trailer will debut on The Today Show on Thursday morning!

ALSO: Check out Hold Me Closer, David Levithan's new book!

AND: If you support crash course or SciShow through subbable, head over to http://subbable.com to move your subscription to Patreon, which is like Subbable only better.


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Good morning, Hank, it's Tuesday. You'll never guess where I am...I'm in an airport!

I was last in this airport so recently that my log-in to the wireless hasn't expired.

OK, so, yesterday, Subbable was acquired by Patreon; that was great news, and more great news: today is the publication day of Hold Me Closer, David Levithan's musical novel companion to the book we wrote together -- Will Grayson, Will Grayson.

It's like the actual Tiny Cooper musical from Will Grayson, Will Grayson; it's fantastic.

And in even more great news: the Paper Towns trailer comes out on Thursday which is why I'm in the airport; because I have to go be on The Today Show.

Also, 100% of my current children have vomited on me in the past 24 hours, so I'm a little nervous that I might get a stomach bug and then throw up on The Today Show, which would be very problematic on a number of fronts, but especially, like, the GIFs? I just keep imagining the GIFs of me throwing up on Matt Lauer...

Anyway, giving the forthcoming release of the trailer, I've been thinking a lot about the phrase "Paper Towns". Like in the book it means different things to Q, the narrator, at different points in the story.

But in real life, as you know Hank, the phrase "Paper Towns" is about copyright. Like mapmakers create fictitious entries in their map to make sure that no one else is copying them. Like if you put my fake place on your map, I know that you've stolen from me.

Every map company does this, Hank. Like Google Maps does it all the time; they probably created a paper town called Argleton in England. But you see it all the time.

It's usually not paper towns; it's usually like paper streets or paper bridges. My favorite example of this aside from Agloe, New York (the one that I use in Paper Towns) is Beatosu, Ohio, which is a town created by mapmakers who were fans of the University of Michigan's football team and wanted them to "beat OSU."

But Hank, these copyright traps aren't just limited to mapmaking; you see them everywhere. In encyclopedias, in dictionaries, in paleontology textbooks. Like in Paper Towns, Margo's dog is named Myrna Mountweasel in honor of this fictitious entry from the New Columbia Encyclopedia about Lillian Virginia Mountweasel.

The encyclopedia said that she was a fountain designer and photographer who died in an explosion while on assignment for Combustibles Magazine.

I'm just totally fascinated by how much fictional information is floating around in the non-fictional world, you know? Like Google recently used fictitious entries against Bing. The Billboard Charts have used them; but my favorite example comes from the New Oxford American Dictionary. The word esquivesence...nope, it's esquivalence... I'm sorry, sometimes I mix up my nonexistent words.

Esquivalence or maybe it's esquivalience...it occurs to me that I have no idea how to pronounce this fictional word. Anyway, it's defined as avoiding one's official responsibilities, you know, as a thieving lexicographer would.

And the crazy thing about esquivalience is that like Agloe, NY and many other fictitious entries, it has kind of become real. Like it's in a bunch of dictionaries now, and the Apple dictionary even gives it a fictional etymology.

Now, like obviously this is an appealing idea for a writer because I need to believe that made-up stories can really matter in the lives of real people. But it also reminds me that yes, obviously language shapes the dictionary, but the dictionary also shapes the language.

And Hank, I guess I kind of think it is the official responsibility of us as human beings to try to imagine the world around us as complexly and interestingly as we can. And on that front at least, let us endeavor not to be esquivalient.

I hope you like the Paper Towns movie trailer; it comes out on Thursday. I will see you on Friday!