About Melissa

“That wench is stark mad or wonderful froward.” ~William Shakespeare, The Taming of the Shrew (I. i. 69)

Popular Fallacies of 1924: Part One

Pulled from the musty archives of a library book sale, dusted off (slightly), and dragged into the light of day for the first time in nine decades, we present you with a selection of popular fallacies of 1924, as documented in Popular Fallacies Explained and Corrected, published in 1924 by A.S.E. Ackermann.

Popular fallacy number one: “That green wall-paper is the only kind that is likely to be dangerous on account of it possibly containing arsenic.”

Au contraire, “this is an absolute fallacy, for other coloured papers may contain arsenic.”

It ain't easy being green.

It ain’t easy being green.

Popular fallacy number two: “That cats suck the breath out of sleeping children.”

The author thankfully reassures us, “the formation of the cat’s mouth makes it impossible for it to interrupt respiration by the mouth and the nose of the child at the same time. Hence we see that while it is by no means desirable to let a cat sleep on top of a child, when this does occur it is not from any malice prepense on the part of puss.”

grumpy cat

Popular fallacy number three: “That glycerine is inflammable.”

“Being transparent and viscid it looks much like ‘refined liquid paraffin,’ the popular laxative, which is slightly inflammable, but glycerine is certainly not inflammable.”

Not a laxative. Not a fire-putter-outter.

Not a laxative. Not a fire-putter-outter.

Popular fallacy number four: “That only evil smelling odours are dangerous.”

“Chloroform has a pleasant smell, and a nice taste, but of course produces fatal results if too much is taken and the same remarks apply to sulphuric ether.”

The effects of liquid chloroform on Sir J. Y. Simpson and his friends.  ca. 1840 Chloroform: Not for candle parties anymore.

The effects of liquid chloroform on Sir J. Y. Simpson and his friends. ca. 1840
Chloroform: Not for candle parties anymore.

Popular fallacy number five: “That tobacco is a good thing with which to stop bleeding.”

On the contrary, Dr. Peter Shepherd (circa 1924) assures us, “The plan of trying to stop bleeding with tobacco must never be used, as there is great danger of the patient becoming poisoned.”

tobacco band aid

Popular fallacy number six: “That porpoise boots and shoes are made of material obtained from porpoises.”

Of course, we know this cannot be true since “porpoises have no skin, that is hide, the blubber or coating of lard which encases them being covered by a black substance, as thin as tissue paper.  The porpoise hide of the boot maker is really leather made from the skin of the Beluga, or ‘White Whale,’ which is found only in the far north.”

porpoise boots

Ms. Double Interrobang

by The Untamed Shrew and Rampage Productions

That cliché about judging a book by its cover?

It’s wrong.

It takes me a paragraph.  This was made very apparent to me when, upon enrolling in an online graduate program, I was tasked with my first assignment – a one-paragraph introduction to my digital classmates posted on the class discussion board.  No problem, I thought, forgetting I was an English major.  Ten minutes later, I was the first one done – my paragraph a beacon of hope and proper grammar for all to see.  Apparently, it was so awesome it blinded all who read it, for it took nearly seven days for the other responses to trickle in.  And then, even once those other responses trickled in, they were not text that could be read so much as deciphered.  That said and from what I could glean, the menagerie that is my classmates consists of the following:

Ms. Double Interrobang

Named for her favorite form of punctuation – the “?!?!” – she strikes me as one of those individuals for whom replays are just as exciting as real life.  Were she to be, hypothetically speaking, reincarnated in the Hindu tradition, she’d probably come back as a breed of dog with “miniature” tacked in front of its name.  Based on her grammar, she is simultaneously confused and startled by a wide range of topics, including her city of origin, her employment, her morning commute, dogs, babies, and jogging.

Ms. Messy Divorce

Despite the fact I have never met her, nor ever intend to meet her, and sincerely hope not to meet her, I know that she is currently going through “a messy divorce.”  She’s a big fan of clichés, alternating back and forth between such bold, declarative statements as “gonna live life to its fullest” and railing about her husband who left her for an iguana or whatever.

Mr. Nice to “Meet” You

This fellow is sort of a modern day Invisible Man in the Ralph Ellison tradition.  I don’t know anything about him.  No one knows anything about him.  He stubbornly refuses to post anything about his own state of being, but each time someone else introduces themselves, he responds by posting, “Nice to ‘meet’ you,” presumably under the impression that adding quotation marks to the statement made on an online message board makes it ironic and/or funny.   To be fair, he is generating some humor, but it’s not the sort he intends given you have exchanges like this happening:

Ms. Messy Divorce: My husband left me for an iguana.

Mr. Nice to “Meet” You: It’s nice to “meet” you!

Ms. Jammies

She proudly proclaims she has structured her days, nay her very existence, around being able to do things in her “jammies.”  Jammies, in this case, is what those of us over the age of four would term our pajamas.  She works from home… in her jammies.  She attends class… in her jammies.  Does she own pants?  Damned if we know, but why would she need to so long as she doesn’t engage the webcam?  Or, failing that, keep the view from the waist up.

Mr. Types with His Face

It takes a special sort of man to turn “no” into a four-letter word – and not that type of four-letter word.  Rather, a four-letter word that is wrong on every conceivable level: “nooe”.  Frankly, I’m pretty sure he just rams his forehead into the keyboard a few times, hits enter, and que sera, sera.

The Missing Link

They, personally, are missing a link – specifically, the link between their Smith Corona typewriter and the iPad 43 or whatever they were issued for the purpose of taking this class.  The Missing Link has offered one post to date wherein he/she does not acknowledge a gender but does acknowledge eligibility for an AARP card and a general sense of bafflement regarding anything not powered by steam.  His/her singular post is less an introduction than a cry for help with the requisite technology, begging, of course, the question of why he/she enrolled in an online program to begin with.

There are, of course, others amongst the colorful cast of characters assaulting the message boards.  However, time and space dictate that such a recanting must inevitably end.  Thus, I will not further detail the individual who chose a squatting toddler making a “gonna poop” face for their professional profile photo…or the individual who lists “covert ops” as an “interest” although they are currently unemployed and have never worked in law enforcement.  Yet of this much be assured: the online learning experience has imparted at least one bit of knowledge – the internet tubes’ filters aren’t strong enough.

Gangnam (APA) Style

by The Untamed Shrew and Rampage Productions

In the immortal words of Cleavon Little, excuse me while I whip this out.  This, in this particular context, is my APA style book and not… You know what – I’m going to abort this sentence.  Now.  Right now.

I’m not sure what the general familiarity is with academic citation.  Presuming none, let it be said that it’s a generally accepted practice in college-level writing that, upon making a claim, one references the book, magazine, journal, or cosmic vibe that put such a harebrained thought into your skull.  This is for the convenience of other academics who will then use the information to mock you in their own papers conclusively disproving your thesis, which you can then counter-use to conclusively disprove the academics who conclusively disproved your previous thesis while simultaneously implying they’re doo-doo heads.

And so the circle of passive aggressiveness continues.

I feel an Elton John moment coming on.

The CIRCLE OF LIIIIIIFE!

The CIRCLE OF LIIIIIIFE!

Returning to the act of citation – or, as it is known by college students the world over, “that thing you sometimes do when you’re mostly sober” – APA (American Psychological Association) style is something of an unknown to me, being an English major and having forged the steel of my literary ability in MLA (Modern Language Association) style, also known as “that thing they keep changing every other freakin’ year.”  Yet my entrance into graduate academia has brought the foreign scourge of APA upon our household.  Enter the internets and the Purdue OWL.

Grammar Owl says, “Whom?” not “Who?”

Grammar Owl says, “Whom?” not “Who?”

My findings, in relation to APA style, are as follows (quotations in italics):

1. Pronouns are, apparently, of the devil.

APA does not recommend replacing “he” with “he or she,” “she or he,” “he/she,” “(s)he,” “s/he,” or alternating between “he” and “she” because these substitutions are awkward and can distract the reader from the point you are trying to make. The pronouns “he” or “she” inevitably cause the reader to think of only that gender, which may not be what you intend.

Apparently, when using APA style, one’s target audience is an ambiguously gendered snail.

Apparently, when using APA style, one’s target audience is an ambiguously gendered snail.

They go on to recommend replacing the pronoun with a noun – person, individual, child, researcher, etc. – as if somehow that will be less annoying.  My husband, a veritable paragon of helpfulness, recommended I just replace all my pronouns with “yo’ mama”; however, I rained on his parade when I pointed out “mama” was gendered.  Instead, it would have to be something like “yo’ caretaker” or “yo’ guardian,” which I think we can all agree detracts from the overall intent.

2. Identify people, but in a way that no can recognize them.

Use adjectives to serve as descriptors rather than labels. When you use terms such as “the elderly” or “the amnesiacs,” the people lose their individuality.

No they don’t.

They’re the amnesiacs.

That is their individuality.  I’d venture to say amnesia is a relatively defining characteristic.

And the good news is that odds are against them remembering their offense long enough to get their disapproval published in any sort of academic journal anyone cares about.

Yay scholarly writing!

3. Don’t write in verse?  Just try and stop me.

Writing papers in APA style is unlike writing in more creative or literary styles that draw on poetic expressions and figurative language. Such linguistic devices can detract from conveying your information clearly…. Therefore, you should minimize the amount of figurative language…such as metaphors and analogies…; and avoid rhyming schemes, alliteration, or other poetic devices typically found in verse.

I think that I shall never see

A paper written coherently

That did not when eyes read it first

Wish was writ in metered verse.

Alliteration-lacking phrase

Leaves the eyes in great malaise.

Why waste time on such fodder?

Why not chug wine instead of water?

The proud, albeit unwitting, sponsor of my graduate thesis.

The proud, albeit unwitting, sponsor of my graduate thesis.