back to article Google's Pankhurst doodle doo-doo shows the perils of using Google to find stuff out

Google appears to have relied on, er, crowd-sourced facts from Wikipedia for its latest Doodle, which celebrates the 156th birthday of British suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst. The vast advertising firm suggests in its sketch that the women's rights' campaigner was born on 15 July 1858. Googling "Emmeline Pankhurst" will also get …

What on earth is your point? June Purvis' biography of Pankhurst also says the birth certificate says the 15th. If you want to argue that the birth certificate is wrong, you should have some actual evidence. As there is none, Wikipedia correctly goes with the evidenced date.

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Anonymous Coward

Silly

How could you write an article about Google and Wikipedia being correct? For an article to exist, they must be wrong, and therefore the correct date is July 14th. QED.

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Yes, I was trying really hard to see some sort of ironic angle to this article, but I really can't. If there hadn't been a birth certificate or official record, or if there was some significant reason given to indicate that the official records were wrong, then there might be a case to answer, but that doesn't seem to be the case here. In fact it's the opposite, a good reason is suggested as to why Mrs Pankhurst might have claimed to have been born a day earlier than she actually was. Wikipedia is 100% in the right here.

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GBE

No point at all

I agree the story seems to be both pointless and wrong.

All the primary evidence seems to agree with Wikipedia and Google. I don't put much faith in her comments about being born on Bastille day.

I suppose the author could start claiming the birth certificate is a fake, but then I'm afraid he'd be lumped with with all the Fox-news right-wing wackos still harping on about their conspiracy theory that Obama was not really born in the US.

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Bronze badge

The birth certificate *does* say the 15th. But apparently the BBC is a more reliable source than the legal document that states unequivocally when she was born. Is it possible she was born extremely early on the 15th? Sure - wikipedia's entry is more factually accurate than the BBC or anybody else because it cites factual (legally prescribed) documentation stating her date of birth.

What I'd say to reg is if you're going to get all pedantry at least get it right.

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Facepalm

Like my birth certificate that states unequivocally the wrong spelling of my middle name?

It's the original hand written job from June 1954.

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Silver badge

Dunno about UK

Elsewhere in Europe up to the late 1940-es births were regularly recorded up to several days after the fact and birth certificates issued with dates different from the actual birthday. My late inlaw birth certificate was a couple of days out of date, one of my dad's best friends and university roommate had his 5 days out of date. To heck, some countries like Greece did not have a proper birth register and were recording births as they please up to a couple of years ago. That provided a lovely business model for some of the local "minorities" which claimed benefits for the same child 4-5 times based on registering the birth in neighbouring districts. Before pressing downvote google Maria+Greece+Blond (her "parents" had her birth registered 3? or 4? times).

So having a birth recorded a day late in the 19th century? Even in a well off family? I do not find this out of the ordinary. In fact, any date on a birth certificate not issued by a hospital and before the days of national birth registers is _NOT_ primary evidence.

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Anonymous Coward

The name on the birth certificate (even if it is spelt incorrectly) is your official name so you have two choices:

1. You can change your name by deed poll from the incorrect spelling to the correct spelling so your official name matches how you spell it,

2. You can apply to the General Register Office to have the birth certificate changed.

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By getting the spelling different to how your parents wanted it, that became the right (aka "official") spelling of your middle name. Like it or lump it.

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Silver badge

But what about the doodle?

14th or 15th, it's nice that she's being commemorated (but 156th anniversary? What's special about that?)

But at a slight tangent, I'm surpiseed at the doodle itself - why such an odd palette of black and sepia - shouldn't they have used the purple, green and white of the WSPU in there somewhere?

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Re: But what about the doodle?

156 is the number of strokes on the hour bell of a 12-hour clock in 24 hours. It's also the bus from Vauxhall to Wimbledon. I don't know what either of those has to do with the Pankhursts or the WSPU or votes for women.

It is odd that Google omitted the WSPU colours.

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TRT
Silver badge

Re: But what about the doodle?

The doodles appear over the space of two different dates anyway. Here, I've a microscope and a razor here if you want to split hairs.

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Silver badge

Re: But what about the doodle?

"but 156th anniversary? What's special about that?"

ISTR an interview with someone from Google being asked a question along those lines. I believe it was stated that they generally try to avoid the more usual/standard anniversaries precisely because everyone else tends to use 10, 20, 50, 75, 100 as number for anniversaries.

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Headmaster

Re: But what about the doodle?

Purple?

Shirley violet.

As in green white violet = Give Women the Vote.

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In memoriam

So farewell Emily Pankhurst

You were born

on the 14th or 15th

of July or some other month

and your name was Goulden

but my friend Keith's friend Adam's Mum

says you were born on Bastille day

(whenever that is)

and Keith's Mum says she's an expert.

- E.J. Thribb (59 1/2)

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Coat

Apparently tomorrow's Google Doodle is celebrating the first anniversary of 16th July 2013

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Anonymous Coward

So there is a difference of opinion over whether she was born on the 14th or the 15th with suspicion that she may have said the 14th so that it could coincide with Bastille day but no-one knows for sure. Google choose to go with the authoritative answer of the 15th as that is on her actual birth certificate but has made an error and has obviously copied Wikipedia - which also has to be wrong because it is Wikipedia?

WTF, seriously, stop scraping the barrel.

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You can imagine the editors panic when you get to 2 hours before knocking off time and they've only managed to come up with 5 articles criticizing Google.

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Devil

Does anyone else hate them newspapers

You know, the ones who type frantically to get a post up at the earliest opportunity so that when someone clicks on the Google Doodle, one of the top search results is their post. Normally its the independent or the daily mail. Yes, I KNOW that Google Doodle is celebrating xyz, I see that - that's why I clicked on it! Jees.

Can you imagine their SEO meetings - "Right, at midnight, soon as that doodle goes up, go to Wikipedia and copy and paste like you've never copy and pasted before! Let's beat Wikipedia boyz!"

Typical British press tw*ttishness .

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The Register = quite wrong here

As are all other pedants who think mediocre Google skills makes them feel a bit like god almighty. For two reasons, mainly:

1. Birth certificates in the 19th century certainly did not contain exactness for a couple of reasons, for example to keep within maximum registration periods. One needs to find out the date of registration and see it was perhaps around a six week window (or whatever was used at the time). Check with any historian and archivist, you know, real people with actual knowledge based on experience.

2. It's certainly not strange, or wrong, for biographies to select birth certificates over other claims or sources. Even if the person involved herself would make the claim. One might not agree personally but that's how it's done and Wikipedia is not different here from many formal biography projects. Same goes for spelling of names, if one has to be picked it's the one officially registered, if known, and not how someone might have decided to spell it over time. Ideally one would find the entry in both instances but that's not always a good idea.

Cheers.

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Bronze badge

Re: The Register = quite wrong here

> As are all other pedants who think mediocre Google skills makes them feel a bit like god almighty.

Don't lean on me, man, coz you can't afford the ticket.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: The Register = quite wrong here

Wham, bam - thank you Ma'am!

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Thumb Down

Not a real story

If she was born on Bastille day, and she wanted to identify with the storming of the Bastille there wouldn't be any uncertainty. Since there is uncertainty I conclude that she was probably born on the 15th.

Also her birth certificate says the 15th.

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Google isn't an encyclopaedia, it just list sites which match your search times. It strikes me you are falling into the same trap as those confused ECJ judges.

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Silver badge
Headmaster

Wiki "inaccuracies"

Watching the excellent Richard Herring Leicester Square Theatre Podcast (or, as all the cool kids are calling it: "rhlstp") he was chatting with Dara O'Briain about Wiki inaccuracies, and it was suggested that *some* celebrities deliberately leave inaccuracies in Wikipedia, as it gives them a quick handle on the calibre of journalist they are dealing with.

On a similar theme, there used to be an story about Van Halen insisting on a bowl of M&Ms in their dressing room with the brown ones taken out. How we laughed at precious stars and their whims. Then one of the band confirmed it, but crucially explained it. Apparently the same rider gives instructions on setting up bits of kit and stage layout. After an near-fatal incident where some equipment wasn't properly secured, they inserted the "no brown M&Ms" clause at the end of the rider as a quick check that the rider had actually been read.

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Joke

Who cares about her birthdate

Just save me from this Monstrous Regiment of Wiki Twiddlers.

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Facepalm

"Wikipedia, though, boldly insists that Pankhurst was born..."

...on the official date recorded by the Register's Office, as opposed to the date she just made up.

For shame, Wiki-tards, how dare you stick to those abominable "fact" things?

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Holy poop!

A woman in the early 1900s telling porky pies about her age?

Surely not!

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Silver badge

Sources

It's odd to see so many people here putting so much faith in paperwork. That's just the 19th-Century equivalent of "If the computer says it, it must be true." I'd hope IT people would be a bit more cynical about that, but apparently not.

Pankhurst, of course, did not misread her own birth certificate. She got her birthday from her parents, who one should assume might have had an inkling. Who you going to believe: the woman who actually gave birth or a piece of paper written on by a bureaucrat some days or weeks later?

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Facepalm

Re: Sources

> Who you going to believe: the woman who actually gave birth or a piece of paper written on by a bureaucrat some days or weeks later?

Since the 'bureaucrat' wasn't actually at the birth making notes, he probably asked the parents on what day the child was born when they turned up at his office to register the birth. Whether this is days or weeks later, I can't see the parents getting it wrong.

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Silver badge

Re: Sources

> I can't see the parents getting it wrong.

I can see the bureaucrat writing it down wrong, I can see the bureaucrat writing it down correctly but it then being copied incorrectly by another bureaucrat (seriously, is this something we're classing as unlikely these days?), and I can see the parents lying in order to comply with a time-limit dictat.

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Re: Sources

"I can see the bureaucrat writing it down wrong..."

Yep, transcription errors can occur, but they don't typically get it wrong by one day. A 7 could look like a 1 in bad handwriting, but a 4 or 5 are very different.

"and I can see the parents lying in order to comply with a time-limit dictat."

If that was the case, then her real birthday was over 6 weeks prior.

Pankhurst herself was there at her own birth but the one person who has the least knowledge of the event. If her parents had said that she was born on the 14th then why has she not said that. Instead Pankhurst says it should have been Bastille day, not because the 15th was wrong but because the 14th is more right for her cause.

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Holmes

Re: Sources

In a previous life, I had some experience matching people records across different datasets from different organisations. Often the same person would have their date of birth out by a day. It was remarkable that it was either identical or out by 1 day. One of the explanations was that parents often make innocent mistakes when notifying various official or semi-official agencies of the birth of a new child. The error persists until events such as the child starts school or applies for a driver licence or enrols to vote or applies for a passport, at which point some, but not all, of the databases correct their records. Or decide that they are the only source of truth and keep marching to their own beat.

it might be helpful to say that I was working in a country that has a federal system so that added a layer of extra pettiness about which record was truthiest.

(Two comments on the same topic. Where's my £5?)

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Silver badge

Re: Sources

> It was remarkable that it was either identical or out by 1 day. One of the explanations was that parents often make innocent mistakes when notifying various official or semi-official agencies of the birth of a new child.

From my own experience, I know that one reason for this is that a lot of babies are born in the small hours. If your baby is born at, say, 3am on the 18th after a 20-hour labour, you think of it as late on the 17th. Plus, of course, if your baby's born around midnight, there can be legitimate differences of opinion about what date it is, given that (a) there isn't really a precise moment of birth and (b) everyone's clocks don't always agree with each other.

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Bronze badge

missing the point

I think the real issue here is the way that Moss Side gets referred to as a "suburb" of Manchester by so many sources. From my own recollections "zone" or "theatre" might be better word choices.

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Sounds like this would be a Q.I. "Nobody Knows!" moment...

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Joke

XKCD's take

On the ball as always.

http://xkcd.com/386/

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Re: XKCD's take

You do recognize the last speech bubble could be inadvertently self-referential... ? Surly we all do, don't wee?

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Anonymous Coward

I DON'T GIVE A FLYING F***K

There are some significant dates and facts about her life and activities, if the date of birth was wrong by even a couple of years what difference would that make to anything?

BTW: I tried internet dating and I can assure you it's not uncommon for ladies to misrepresent their true age though, unlike Emmeline, they invariably do so to pass themselves off as younger.

FWIW: ladies, I now insist my dates bring birth certificate and passport and prefer to rely on that rather than any alternative information they may choose to offer.

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Re: I DON'T GIVE A FLYING F***K

"FWIW: ladies, I now insist my dates bring birth certificate and passport and prefer to rely on that rather than any alternative information they may choose to offer."

Once you've actually clapped eyes on them (or even talked to them!) and they passed muster, why does their documentation matter?

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Can I have my 2k back please?

Seriously? Is this REALLY newsworthy?

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Article crap; comments OK

In this particular instance Google and Wikipedia seem to be passably OK. Move on,everyone.

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And some extremely bored ass had to write 1000+ words to inform the masses of something that absolutely matters to nobody. Born in 1858. And can't remember the day.Either way dude, that was ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY SIX YEARS ago. Did you just happen to drop in off of a malfunctioning time machine?

And I thought El Reg produced useful things... Errr.. nevermind.

Why don't you write about someone who was never born next. I'm certain you could find some "Not yet on wiki" facts to bore us all with. After all, it is hard (but obviously not impossible) to dispute birth details about someone not yet born.

Just like it is when someone was born 156 years ago.

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Talent for self-promotion

It seems at least quite possible that Pankhurst chose to (slightly - big deal) misrepresent her birthday so that she could market herself as being born on Bastille Day, given it helped her narrative.

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I, for one, do not believe that Mrs. Pankhurst was ever born. *I* personally have never met the lady, and thus she does not, de facto, exist, per se, exactly. Yes, yes, I know - she's also dead - or supposedly so - but this only holds true (???) if she was in fact at some point in time ever actually alive, which I must say seems less and less likely given that no one can manage to state with clarity the date upon which she was supposedly "born", so-called. Frankly, I think there's far too much about the past that we don't know to state that we, in fact, know anything. Who was your great grandmother's great grandmother? Which one? I don't know - any of them! No, not the one you know about - the other ones! There, see, just goes to show. If you don't know that, then it's likely you don't exist either. Now, vanish in a puff of logic, there's a good lad...

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