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

Sparrow Spelunker

To: PBS Kids

From: Rampage Productions

Subject: Sparrow Spelunker

Let’s not beat around the bush.

You have a thing for avians.

big bird

I have one lodged in the exhaust pipe of my furnace.

house sparrow

You could do with some fresh IP.

IP intellectual property

I need $100 to extract the fresh IP from the exhaust pipe of my furnace.

100 dollar bill

You seek to excite and education your young audience.

the more you know star

I suspect the three or four nanoseconds of life that sparrow had when it encountered the exhaust blower, which to him must have seemed like a ten thousand RPM birdie buzzsaw, were both exciting and educational.

furnace blower

So without further ado, I give you your children’s television flagship property: Sparrow Spelunker.

Sparrow Spelunker

Sparrow Spelunker

It’s a show as unafraid as its protagonist(s) to grapple with the tough issues.  Issues like:

  • Why you really shouldn’t go in there

  • What will happen to you if you go in there

  • How much it will cost some innocent homeowner to scrape you out again after you do go in there

This said, I admit the title of the series is somewhat misleading in using the singular form of sparrow – it will probably require a new protagonist pretty much every episode.  While this might seem like a lot of work from a characterization standpoint, I feel the script leaves both adequate room for characterization as well as presents the opportunity to vary the racial, familial, and political history of the sparrow for a true multicultural experience.  In fact, based on the flying communist who entered my furnace in an ill-fated attempt to seize the means of heat production, I’ve put together a script outline for your consideration.

  1. Opening theme

  2. Recap of previous week

    1. “O’ Righ’ – On last week’s episode o’ Sparrow Spelunker, ol’ SS explored the exhaust on a 100,000 BTU Luxair.  Didn’t end so well for him, poor chap.  But that was then, so hang onto yer hats, kiddies, ’cause this week we’re going in the intake o’ that same 100,000 BTU Luxaire!”

  3. Spelunking

  4. Audience of British-sounding-children, in Spongebob Squarepants fashion, shouts the show’s catchphase: “Oh no, Sparrow Spelunker!  You mustn’t spelunk in there!”

  5. Furnace fires up

  6. Closing theme

I also have drafts for other possible episodes of Sparrow Spelunker.  These include such exotic, spelunk-worthy locations as a wood chipper, a fractionating tower, a muscle car air intake, and – my personal favorite – the depths of some pachyderm’s wazoo.  The last, of course, is where I sincerely wish the sparrow that inspired all of this would have flown.  You know, instead of my furnace exhaust pipe.  I could have done without meeting the furnace repair guy, who in his defense was a very nice man and more than willing to convert a bird oubliette back into an exhaust pipe in return for a picture of Benjamin Franklin.

This, of course, is where you come in, PBS.  Just send that check to Rampage Productions.

And maybe a Sparrow Spelunker t-shirt.

Bad Grammar Jesus

Anyone here remember Sister Redempta – the one who’d take a ruler to your knuckles whenever you so much as missed a comma?  Well, I do.  And I’m pretty certain that if she A) had access to your Facebook account and B) caught you grunting this out…

bad grammar jesus

…she would have taken a 2’x4’ to your face.

Yes, the above is from Facebook, and yes, starting a sentence with a period is a uniquely bold grammatical maneuver.  Also – a little English major pro tip here – there is a point where “and” ceases acting as a conjunction and instead changes into an indicator that the author has no idea where his/her sentence is going – or, for that matter, what it might do when it gets there.  Also, the individual who cobbled together the above (read: took a literary number two) seems to have something of a vendetta against apostrophes when used to indicate possession (“In Jesus name”) or a contraction (“Stop what your doing”).

So yes, let’s keep this going.  Specifically, let’s keep it going to the nearest grammatically inclined nun with sufficient upper body strength to take action.  I will air mail the 2’x4’.

And while she’s at it, Facebook has made me aware of a couple other pictorial theological attempts that should, in the words of the Book of Fife, be good and properly nipped.

In the bud.

barney fife

This next one is entitled, “Do you believe in angels?”

bad grammar angels

In my opinion, to get the full effect of the “do you believe in angels” schtick, you need to read it with a Brooklyn accent.  I’m also not entirely convinced that “angels” isn’t some sort of euphemism for the mob:

“Hey!  Hey, you!  Benny ‘n me – we heard ‘bout those problems you’ve been havin’.  An’ we jus’ came by to let you know, we’re gonna take care o’ them.  We gonna take care o’ them real good.  Now, just so we’re clear, we ain’ doin’ this for nothin’.  Someday, and that day may never come , we might be callin’ you to do us a little favor.  Know what I mean?  But for now, you can jus’ fuhgeddaboudit.  …So who we whackin’ again?”

Our last exhibit doesn’t so much fail the grammar test of Facebook spirituality as it does the test of logical thought.

bible cell phones

And here are the answers:

1. We’d have sore arms.

2. We’d be late.

3. We’d be issued a tinfoil hat.

4. We’d turn some heads at the ER.

5. We’d find a way to make it play Angry Birds.

If nothing else, all of this has given me a new understanding of history.  Romulus did not, in fact, slay Remus for jumping over his wall.  He slayed him for posting crap like this on his wall.  Not only was it the first documented homicide, it was, in the court of proper grammar (i.e., the only court that matters), the first documented justifiable homicide.