Slate's Unidentifiable Wedding Gift Contest.

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June 22 2006 4:17 PM

I Love It. What Is It?

Slate's Unidentifiable Wedding Gift Contest.

Illustration by Rob Donnelly. Click image to expand.

June means weddings—and that means some of you are currently unable to access your bathroom because it's barricaded behind a wall of Crate & Barrel boxes. Others among you may now be investigating the best way to cryogenically preserve a white dress that cost more than your mortgage. Still others are probably starting to work your way through the pile of thank-you notes—and that in turn suggests you may have stumbled onto the gerunkensplunk problem.

Dahlia Lithwick Dahlia Lithwick

Dahlia Lithwick writes about the courts and the law for Slate

My husband and I received the gerunkensplunk for our wedding five years ago: an object so-named because we couldn't, for the life of us, figure out what it actually was. We even called the store from which it had been purchased and described the thing to the salesgirl. She had no idea. At some point we learned that if you simply leave your gerunkensplunk lying around the kitchen long enough, someday some guest will amble up and begin to use it for its intended purpose. Then you will pounce upon them in wonderment and gratitude, understand its true nature, and finally get on with the business of being happily married.

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Needless to say, writing the thank-you note for the unidentifiable wedding gift is an excruciating proposition. After several failed attempts, I finally settled on something like: Dear Aunt Masie and Uncle Oscar, Thank you so much for the lovely gift. We will think of you both fondly whenever we see/use (written blurrily) it. Thanks for the thoughtfulness/generosity (written blurrily).

A cursory inquiry among friends and colleagues suggests that while we may have received the original gerunkensplunk, others have been the lucky recipients of the original sniggerdaggle, a similar gift that has no discernible use or purpose. A couple we know received an object that leaked when flowers were jauntily tucked inside yet proved utterly useless when it came to slicing bagels. We have had several friends who have just given up and elected to hang a perplexing gift on the living room wall only to be asked—years later—by brunch guest why they were using their waffle iron as a decorative wall-hanging.

One of our friends received this as a wedding gift and ultimately used it to hold car keys:

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Another was given this and sent around a perplexed e-mail, to which one respondent suggested, hopefully: "pesto bong?" The mystery was solved only when a Cuban friend weighed in to explain that it was a maté gourd, used by only the entire population of South America to drink yerba maté:

1_123125_123050_2133481_2142763_2144175_060621_cb_gift2tn
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Yet another was the recipient of this little item, and he still can't quite bring himself to speak of it without being overcome by despair:

So, it seems you've got questions. Well, Slate hopes to bring you the answers. Send us a picture of your most baffling wedding gift—not the ugliest; that's another contest—at Dahlia.lithwick@hotmail.com. We will try to either identify the thing or produce some piece of service journalism that will, we hope, finally eradicate the problem of gerunkensplunks for all time.

And as for my own gerunkensplunk? I fear I cannot disclose its identity at this time. (Uncle Oscar is a huge Slate fan). But, Uncle Oscar, if you are indeed reading this, please know that we think of you every time we use your gift to shirr eggs/emboss invitations or as a pesto bong.

By entering this contest you grant Slate permission to use your name and the accompanying image, unless you expressly request otherwise.

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