Monday, October 01, 2007

Joel Stein is Plagiarizing Me

Okay, the title's not really true, but there are some amazing similarities between Stein's recent piece in Time and my last feature in Stanford magazine. First of all, they're both about Brian Wansink and his work on the psychology of eating at Cornell University, and since mine came out about a month ago and Stein is a Stanford grad and probably gets the alumni magazine, it's reasonable to assume that my article influenced him, and may have even introduced him to Wansink and his research.

And then there are the little parallelisms in syntax and phrasing. I tell a story about Wansink deceiving theater-goers into eating stale popcorn, and then revealing the trick, and say, "And Wansink took delight in pointing this out to them." Stein tells how Wansink fooled professional bartenders trying to pour same-sized shots into different-sized glasses, and then surmises, "All of this delights Brian Wansink."

Me describing Wansink: "...with his high brow, rimless glasses and mischievous smirk, [he] looks a little like a high school chemistry teacher."

Stein describing Wansink: He "has all the nerdlike characteristics you'd expect from a mad professor."

Elsewhere, I note the charming congruence in the fact that his wife studied the culinary arts at France's Le Cordon Bleu; so does Joel.

Despite what you might think so far, I'm not mad. You've heard the old trope, imitation is the sincerest form of blah blah blah. And I know that Stein isn't a plagiarist - I've met him, he's a decent guy, and journalism is a giant echo chamber anyway - we all get our best ideas from things that other people have already written. So color me flattered. Nice piece, Joel. Now thank me by taking me to lunch.