Chimney, Orange, and Odd Connections

Dwayne Phillips
2 min readJul 19, 2021


by Dwayne Phillips

The words “chimney” and “orange” rhyme, well, sort of, maybe not, but they are certainly connected.

In English, there is no word that rhymes with “orange.” At least that is what I have read. I’m not sure about that. I have heard the same about the word “chimney,” but once again I am not sure about that.

Oranges and chimneys, however, are strongly connected. Today, chimneys are decorations, things that give us the picture perfect of a Christmas scene or something like that. At one time, chimneys were essential to warmth in the winter in northern climates. The history of the world — as viewed by those who lived in norther climates — has been determined by those who live in northern climates. Hence, the chimney was essential to world history.

Persons had to keep the inside of chimneys clean of inflammable residue. If not clean, there would be a chimney fire. No one could extinguish that fire, and the home would burn to the ground.

Now enter the humble orange. Take a fresh orange peel, squeeze it gently between thumb and fingers, and out shoots some liquid. Hold a match near that liquid, and it lights. The liquid in the peel of an orange is inflammable. It is oil or sugar or something — I don’t know what it is — that burns. Toss old orange peels into a fireplace and that inflammable liquid will coat the inside of the chimney and one day…poof.

The same is true for most fruits and vegetables. There is something in them that is inflammable. Burn enough of it in the fireplace and poof — chimney fire.

Folks back in the day when chimneys were essential for warmth in northern climates knew all this. They were careful. They knew that even though there was neither a rhyme for “orange” nor “chimney,” those two items were dangerously linked.

All that backstory leads me to a principle of general systems thinking:

There are occasions when the representation of items are not connected, but the actual items are connected and connected in a critical manner.

And that leads to another principle of general systems thinking:

Do not confuse the representation of an item with the item.

Failure to heed this second principle can be disastrous. Human history shows we have failed in this manner and failed often.



Dwayne Phillips

Engineer, computing, consulting, writing, teaching, and a few other things in an effort to make us all better and smarter.