The Sociology of Yellow Highlighters
The free market
responds to changes in demand. Thus, when we see a new array of
widely used products offered for sale, and the old array disappears
from public view, we can safely conclude that either a major sociological
transformation has taken place or else what was commonly assumed
to be a common practice in fact was not.
I became a
user of yellow highlighters late in my career. For decades, I marked
up my books and articles with a reliable old-fashioned pen. I mean
the real thing: a fountain pen with a refillable ink converter in
it. I bought bottles of ink. I still do. I still occasionally write
on paper, and when I do, I use a fountain pen for anything important.
There are millions of people today who have never seen a bottle
of ink. You must special order it. Hooray for the Web!
Anyway, I finally
switched to highlighters in the late 1980s. I like yellow because
I can easily read the words highlighted. Darker highlight colors
are more opaque.
tried to buy a box of yellow highlighters. Every brand used fluorescent
Google for highlighter florescent yellow and got 92,400 hits.
Then I searched for highlighter non-florescent yellow. I
got 136 hits, and most of these were not products offered for sale.
with florescent yellow marks is that they fade into near-invisibility
under incandescent light, meaning a standard light bulb. However,
the marks are brighter than non-florescent yellow in sunlight or
florescent light, which is close to sunlight. So, in a business
office lighted by florescent lights, florescent yellow is more visible
than non-florescent yellow.
What does this
tell us? If we assume that most reading rooms at home are lighted
by incandescent bulbs — a safe assumption — it tells
us that most people do not think carefully about what they read
at home. If they highlight something at home, it is only for detailed
thought and action at work, where they can see what they have highlighted.
is for marking important information that we do not want to forget.
It appears that this does not apply to what most people read at
office is not a good environment for thoughtful contemplation. The
home study is. The preponderance of incandescent lighting next to
an easy chair or even at the study's desk tells us that people are
not spending time at home reading with a yellow marker in hand,
unlike how they read at the office.
The free market
has responded to this sociological reality. It is now more difficult
to buy a box of non-florescent yellow highlighters than it is to
buy a bottle of ink. I have a mental image of a seedy looking man
standing in an alley located close to a public library. "Pssst.
Buddy. You interested in some non-florescent yellow highlighters?
Take home one of them. It's free. Try it out after the little woman
goes to bed."
I am making
the switch to verbal note-taking: the Naturally Speaking voice-recognition
program coupled with the free EverNote data base program. My hoard
of aging non-florescent yellow highlighters may keep me going until
the transition is complete. The old technology was great while it
lasted, but time marches on, as Westbook van Voorhees reminded us
weekly for three decades.
assured, I am not about to give up my Waterman Phileas fountain
pen. They will have to pry my Waterman out of my cold, dead hand.
But I am concerned that Congress may eventually try to register
© 2006 LewRockwell.com