The Great Transatlantic Sock Wars: An History

Variously known as the “Sock Wars,” the “Transatlantic Sock Wars,” the “Spaghetti War,” and “Dueling Bloggers,” this bitter exchange brought “diplomatic gardening relations” between the United States and the United Kingdom “to an all time low,” as one esteemed historian put it.

List of the Original Posts (see bottom of page)
History of the Exchange
Analysis of Impact
On International Relations
On the English Language
On Internet Use


Pictures of socks flew across the Atlantic, black and white–

competing with brilliantly colored–

the neatly paired, as in the two photographs above, with the totally disarrayed, as in the one below.

Threats involving noodles, dibbers, fish, and dueling pistols were traded with an abandon that paid little heed to possible long-term international consequences, and the price of potting soil plunged worldwide. Oblivious to this catastrophe, gardeners throughout the US and the UK took sides, exchanging insults the likes of which had never been heard in the normally peaceable and polite gardening community. Terms such as “dastardly” and “blackguard” were freely used.

Eventually, diplomats from Kissinger to Mandela were brought in to broker a peace, but the contestants could not agree on the degree of gardening expertise required of a mediator, and after one side sent Kissinger packing, there was little hope that the other side would accept any mediator. Unfortunately, the dispute happened to occur over the Fourth of July, when Americans celebrate their independence from Britain–a coincidence that perhaps sharpened both the rhetoric and the appetite for blood of all those involved. Riots broke out iin a number of major cities in the U.S., during which people ripped up and burnt beds of English Ivy, vowing to rename it “Freedom Ivy” and to burn anyone who dared grow it. One man who tried to point out a perceived failure of logic here was bundled into the middle of a great ball of ivy and rolled down the longest, steepest hill in Kansas, a distance of at least ten feet. He suffered two bruises and a scrape, and staggered from the scene, a sadder and wiser man.

In recent years, many have pooh-poohed the seriousness of the events, as did this commentator:

“Really, the whole thing was quite old hat, all overblown rhetoric and outworn insults. If it weren’t for the tragic international repercussions, leading to France’s withdrawal from NATO (and, of course, the odd incident of the fish-flavored spaghetti, from which Italy’s pasta industry has never recovered) no one would bother with it today. The only truly memorable aspect of the entire bruhaha is the remarkably chic pair of socks that appeared on VP’s blog in the very early days of the controversy, before it degenerated into the farcical shifts in allegiance, the endless one-upmanship, that characterizes it today, ten years later.”


    On the English Language

It is widely suspected that a number of colloquialisms that we now take for granted actually had their genesis in the Sock Wars. For instance, some linguists believe that “to wet-fish” as in, “Don’t you wet-fish me!” can be traced to the suggestion that wet fish be used as weapons in the constantly threatened duel around which the “wars” revolved.

On the Internet

An unprecedented number of bloggers (one) started filing posts under the new category “silliness.”


7/3   The Manic Gardener                           
“Dueling Bloggers”

7/4    Blogging from Blackpitts Garden   
“This Time, It Is Serious”

Aunt Debbie’s Garden
            “High Noon…the Spaghetti War Begins”
The Garden Monkey
            “Garden Monkey’s Guide to Horticultural Limericks #3”

7/5    Blogging from Blackpitts Garden
            “It Is Still A Bit Serious”
Veg Plotting
            “Dibbers at Dawn?”

7/6    Veg Plotting                                        
“Dibbers at Dawn: The Backstory   

Blogging from Blackpitts Garden
            “Vroom, Vroom”
Veg Plot
            “Blog Warfare”
Daphne’s Dandelions
            “Succession Crops”

7/7   Veg Plot                                                 

7/8   The Manic Gardener
            “Dueling Limericks: So there, VP!”

7/9   The Garden Monkey
          “Garden Monkey’s Guide to Horticultural Limericks #4”

7/10   The Manic Gardener                          
“Truce Just in Time: ‘Speech, Speech'”

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