Isabella Whitworth

probably more than natural and synthetic dyes, wax, resists, and history

It’s all gone a bit Rumsfeld..


“… there are known knowns; there are things we know that we know.
There are known unknowns; that is to say, there are things that we now know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns – there are things we do not know we don’t know.” 

United States Secretary of Defence, Donald Rumsfeld, 2002 


With the Christmas break just round the corner I know that if I don’t hit certain things right now it will be endlessly harder to pick them up in the New Year. So I have stopped making new work (see above) and am  organising the references for my co-authored DHA paper.

I am into Harvard References. I don’t have an academic background but occasionally I stray into Dark Territory and have to abide by the mighty rules, one of which is correct referencing. Writing up the DHA paper has meant revisiting texts read and absorbed maybe five years back. I have been favoured with a good memory and this means I sometimes remember very well that I know something, but don’t remember how or why. If I recognised the need to know at time of reading I will have taken a note of a source.  But as is the way with research, sometimes I don’t always know the relevance of a fact or a comment until a few years down the line. Then it can become vital – and that’s when it all goes a bit Rumsfeld.

So to his much lampooned statement (which I have always felt is more sane than many suppose) I’d add the following:

“… there are known knowns; there are things we know that we know. We just don’t know where we read them…”

And I recommend the University of Exeter’s helpful online resource here.

8 thoughts on “It’s all gone a bit Rumsfeld..

  1. Oh how true. I’ve used this Rumsfeld quotation myself, and I agree with you that it there’s a lot of truth in it, but you know what…? I know I’ve used it, I know I know I’ve used it, but where I used it (on my blog?) is an unknown. It’s a known unknown. Well, I think I know I know it’s an unknown. But who knows? Happy referencing, I think your approach and application is a lot more “academic” that some bona fide academics I know I’ve known.

    • Reminds me of Dame Celia Molestrangler and ageing juvenile Binkie Huckaback from ‘Round the Horne.’ Were you a fan? Dates us a bit if you were. Their conversations always ended with something like:

      ‘I know, Charles’
      ‘Oh, Fiona, I know that you know’
      ‘I know you know that I know..’
      ‘I know…..’

      Ok. I know. I’ll go and do something useful now

      • Haven’t strangled a mole for a long time but yes sadly I do remember. For callow youths, repeated regularly now on BBC Radio 4Extra in UK and probably across the world on t’internet.

  2. Delightfully galling post. I have collected some oak apples, too, so will try your recipe links etc. Plus you do, as usual, some wordsmithing extraordinaire, Isabella.

  3. I always thought he absolutely excelled himself with his known unknowns. The world laughed, but who’s got the last laugh…?

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