Busted

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We all of us have a favorite Monty Python skit. (All of us of a certain age, that is.) Maybe it’s a classic like Dead Parrot or Argument Clinic. Could be the Silly Walks or the Spanish Inquisition. Maybe it’s more obscure. Upper Class Twit of the Year, anyone? Or maybe you’re just a sucker for the exploding sheep.

But anyone with a tendency to theorize has to go with Anne Elk’s Theory of Brontosauruses. “That is my theory. It is mine. It belongs to me.” So what if the theory is that the brontosaurus is thin on one end, much thicker in the middle, and thin again on the other end? She came up with it all by herself.

I know the feeling.

This time, the theory in question concerns oysters and housekeeping, and I posted a survey a couple posts back to test that theory. I didn’t say exactly what the theory was, but astute commenter Joan took a wild-ass guess and postulated: “A love of wild, slippery, sloppery shellfish is surely incompatible with a well-organised, alphabetically arranged kitchen cupboard.”

Surely! Don’t think I can say it any better. I’d have spelled “organized” with a z, but that’s about the only change I would have made.

Now that the results are in, though, I’m going to have to make significant changes. Although there’s not a lot of variation in the reported housekeeping among the different levels of oyster affinity, those of you who find them vile are a little bit sloppier than those of you who find them delicious.

I didn’t do any sophisticated analysis. I merely averaged the housekeeping score for each of the five oyster-affinity levels. Here’s the chart of the 178 responses (with the low and high numbers lopped off the y-axis – a data no-no – so you can actually see the differences):

When the numbers didn’t pan out, I thought about taking refuge behind some sophisticated analysis. I considered calling in my friend Randy Cohen, who taught me all about data analysis back when we worked together at Ziff-Davis. (Now he’s got his own market research company, Advertiser Perceptions, and I’m still laboring in obscurity, so perhaps I should have paid closer attention.) When it came right down to it, though, I couldn’t quite picture myself asking him to expend time and skill just to be able to tell me that the difference among the answers wasn’t statistically significant.

Instead, I’ll just reason it out. The differences can’t be statistically significant because, if they were, I would be forced to conclude that oyster lovers keep cleaner houses than oyster haters, which would mean I was … are you ready for this? … wrong. And we know that can’t be right.  Because it’s clear to anyone who knows anything that people who love slippery, sloppery shellfish don’t keep their houses as clean as people who recoil at the very idea.

This theory, which is mine, is mine.

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Comments

  1. How Not To Be Seen

    But as for your theory…
    I think you may be on to something, but I think you’re failing to account for the regional variation in responses that will naturally arise as a result of having a worldwide readership.

    When you grow up deep within the Appalachians, you aren’t exposed to much seafood. Some freshwater fish like trout and smallmouth bass, sure – but the only seafood you ever taste comes in a box with the Gorton’s Fisherman on it.

    So a person like me, who probably should like oysters, and would have fallen solidly in the “sloppy” category, ends up not encountering them until late in life, and is never quite able to escape the idea that they resemble little cups of snot.

  2. I’m in total agreement on the theory, but Ken’s response, which suggests that there are too many variables, probably explains your results. If your sample was large enough, I’m sure the data would bear you out.

  3. Well, I fed your survey with the completely correct answers.

    “Hello, my name is Brenda and I am a slovenly oyster lover.”

    and just now I heard a little chorus of voices in my head saying….

    “Hi, Brenda!”

    There must be quite a few of us if there was a chorus of voices.

    🙂

  4. Greg the Beeman says:

    Preposterous! You could not be wrong. You were just too busy raising delicious oysters to write a valid survey question. Too many variables and way too small a sample. There was no opportunity for true randomization. The population size remains undefined. If you need some more, just let me know. LOL

  5. My lovely bride,

    1st Everyone knows the best skit was the fish license skit featuring “my pet halibut Eric!”

    2nd Oysters, like living in squalor, is an acquired taste.

    3rd You’re beautiful when you’re wrong.

  6. You will never get tenure if you declare your hypothesis in advance. The recommended procedure is:

    1. Make sure your sample size is unrandomized, and too small. (Check.)

    2. Ask a whole bunch of questions.

    3 Slice and dice the data until you find a statistically significant correlation. Something will always correlate significantly with something, as long as you ask enough questions (see #2).

    4. Publish results where no one will read them. (Check.) Declare victory.

  7. See?! Now I have independent confirmation. Thanks to all you squalor-dwelling oyster lovers. Not only do you agree with me, you give me a few excellent ways to weasel out of having to believe my data.

    As for you, Aaron, you could at least give me credit for not doing 2 and 3 even though it guarantees I won’t be teaching any time soon.

  8. there is no relativity here. i maintain an active google doc of my freezer inventory and an active adoration for oysters.

    course- it *could* be an age thing 🙂

    (ducking)

  9. Hi Tamar,

    In expiation for my dislike of raw oysters , I will admit to the sacrilege of loving oysters grilled in their shells and served with a beurre blanc sauce. Effete ? Moi?

    I fully subscribe to your theory: you are right. My husband will eat oysters at every opportunity and he’s not renowned for his manic house-cleaning.

    Best Wishes for a happy, healthy 2012.

    Joan.

  10. You’ll have to excuse my messy house, it’s statistically prone to be that way because I am an oyster lover. Brilliant! You got to crunch data!

  11. On the other side of the coin, Steve admitted that he doesn’t really like raw oysters (so we quit wasting them on him) and when it comes down to it, he’s a much better housekeeper than I am.

    I’m with Laura on the original post and want to know just where exactly my servants are, since I do love oysters and would be much better off with them (servants), or quite possibly, a keeper.

  12. Sheep do explode… if you leave a dead sheep sitting out in a field for a couple of days in the hot New Mexico sun… well… let’s just say it can panic your animal sitter.