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

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.

Being a Man

“Have you wondered about what it means to be free in the face of your responsibilities as a man?  Have you chafed under the assumption that men are supposed to know everything?  Have you felt the pressures of meeting the expectations of females in your world?”  If so, the seventies called.  They want their hair back.

(Anyone else think he looks like he's giving her a great deal on a low mileage sedan?

Anyone else think he looks like he’s giving her a great deal on a low mileage sedan?

I am led to believe that the man of dubious grooming is one J. Kilgore.  Who, you might ask, is J. Kilgore?  Damned if I know, I reply, but I found two of his books on a table of free stuff.  The opening quote is from the back cover of Being a Man in a Woman’s World.

I’m waiting for the For Dummies version…or is that an oxymoron?

I’m waiting for the For Dummies version…or is that an oxymoron?

Given that I loathe most organized sports, am ambivalent towards automobiles, rely on my wife to kill spiders, and (most importantly) majored in English, it can be safely assumed that I need all the help “Being a Man” that I can get.

So do you even have go to the barber, or is that hair injection molded?

So do you even have go to the barber, or is that hair injection molded?

And, let me reiterate, the book was free.  I feel this is important to note.  That done, and so long as Kilgore’s tent revival hair isn’t contagious, I’m willing to give this a go.

Employing my usual “open the book at random and take things wildly out of context” strategy, I immediately turned to page twenty-seven where six bolded words asked, “What Kind of Man Are You?”  Intrigued, and a little intimidated, I read on: “If you find yourself uneasy, shy, and reserved, probably you will develop a ‘cowboy’ stance in life.  You may engage in heroic feats and enjoy your ‘silent strength.’  However, your loneliness in relationships will remain.  Very often your ‘bashfulness’ can be a manipulative way of getting attention from women.  You may have mastered, knowingly or unwittingly, the art of using your silent strength to turn on the admiration of women.  The maternal juices of many women flow strongly towards the shy and introverted man.”

Ignoring the obvious problems with that paragraph – namely, everything – I find Mr. Kilgore leaves me with one particularly burning question.  Specifically, what the hell is a “cowboy stance”?  I imagine it involves my feet extending out beyond my shoulders and my right hand hovering over my shooting iron, either because I’m getting ready to draw on Black Bart or because I’m saddle sore and in dire need of Preparation H.  As for the rest of it, I’m not certain I can recall the last time I’ve managed to manipulate someone with the raw power of my timidity – though I suppose it is possible that I simply didn’t understand the power of my silent strength at the time.  Ladies, let me take this opportunity to apologize…provided you promise not to hit me.  On a similar note, and from my fetal position here on the floor, I hope you won’t take offense when I ask that you kindly keep your maternal juices to yourself.  They don’t sound particularly hygienic, and this is my last clean shirt.

Did the Jedi Council break into focus groups or what?

Did the Jedi Council break into focus groups or what?

Not ten pages after the brilliant expose on what sort of man I am – i.e., highly defective – I encountered another bold subheading entitled “True Maturity.”  Since I’ve spent the last ten minutes, in adolescent fashion, questioning Kilgore’s gel/hair ratio, I figured the least I could do was give him an opportunity to give me a literary kick in the teeth.  Thus, I resumed reading.  “The greatest gift an adult woman has given to me as an adult man is the rediscovery of my ‘inner child.’ My wife is the ‘eternal child’ – ever fascinated with little accomplishments and always thrilled by the smallest of gifts.”  Uh…huh.  I’m not entirely certain what would happen were I to write the two previous sentences in regards to my own wife and publish them.  At the very least, I suspect it would preclude any need on my part to write a sequel.  Unless, of course, I didn’t object to it being published posthumously.

invisible kitteh

Deciding I shall always lack “True Maturity,” I continue leafing forward.  From page thirty-five, I make it to page thirty-one where I am presented with what promises to be the greatest chapter ever written.  Describing it with mere words will not suffice, as no one would ever believe me.  A picture must be employed.

BOY ARE THEY...oh…sorry, dear.

BOY ARE THEY…oh…sorry, dear.

I…I don’t even know where to begin.  Fate, working through J. Kilgore and his hair, has conspired to provide me with the ultimate comedic set-up.  But now that it’s here, I don’t know where to go with it.  Opportunity, far from merely knocking, has barged in, drunk all the wine, and passed out on my sofa, but the only thing I can think to do is wait for it to sober up and leave.

Enough.  Forty-one pages in is where we shall end our voyage of self-discovery.  This is purely for my own protection.  I’m starting to get this strange urge to watch NASCAR while crushing beer cans on my forehead.  If I don’t go read some Jane Austen stat, I’m going to end up in Lambeau Field when it’s forty below wearing nothing but green and yellow paint and a giant piece of Styrofoam cheese on my head.  In short, I’m not sure I’m ready to “Be A Man.”

Is...that the Fonz?

Is…that the Fonz?