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.

Pocket Rocket

My pockets weigh something in the neighborhood of six metric tons.  This is neither a result of gold plating, nor is it a by-product of knocking over an arcade and/or a particularly successful laundromat.  In fact, before someone concludes that my dead body in some dark alley might yield a healthy R.O.I., I feel compelled to point out that the amount of weight on my person allocated to currency, coin, and gold bullion is somewhere in the neighborhood of three ounces, which equals approximately one dollar and forty-three cents.  I’m an English major, remember.  Regardless, the vast majority of the mass in my pants, and I tip my hat to those of you who made it through the clause without snickering, is dedicated to the large array of portable multi-tools I carry with me at all times.  For those who might be wondering about the remaining three percent, it is a fairly even distribution between guitar picks, pocket lint, and items that I found on the floor and fully intend to eat at some point in the indefinite future.  But, as is my want, I digress.

Fruits, vegetable, dairy, grains, and stuff found in the couch – the five basic food groups.

Fruits, vegetable, dairy, grains, and stuff found in the couch – the five basic food groups.

It is my assumption that the ability of the average man to turn his trousers into a scaled down version of an Ace Hardware is a somewhat recent phenomenon.  In times long ago, a more primitive man’s toolbox was both clunky and stationary, consisting primarily of sticks of varying sizes and a large rock.  Advances in manufacturing and ISO certification, however, have brought to us newer, lighter, smaller multi-purpose tools that seem to boast enough potential functionality to delay a modern man nearly sixty seconds before he retreats to the garage in order to forage for sticks of varying sizes and a hammer.  Yes, look how far we’ve come.  Indeed, thanks to the modern, pocket-sized multi-tools, men no longer have to wait until they get home to act on the often felt yet rarely spoken urge to disassemble unoffending and completely functional devices that they know nothing about.  Courtesy of alcohol and cheap foreign labor, your husband now has the ability to disassemble your best friend’s VCR using only the contents of his pockets, and let me be the first to assure you that said device will never eat another tape again.  Granted, it will never play another tape again, but at least the time-keeping function still works… sometimes… if you hit it.

Because portable tools are by necessity somewhat bulky, even if considerably less so than their larger and more useful toolbox brethren, it goes without saying that one can have too much of a good thing.  This becomes very apparent when one examines what I used to run with as a standard operational payload.  I had, at one point, all of the following at my disposal and on my person: four knife blades, three can openers, one bottle opener, one corkscrew, pliers, a 2-½” ruler, two Phillips screwdrivers, three flathead screwdrivers, a tiny (and useless) hacksaw, a pocket-watch, and a flashlight.  In retrospect, that was a little much – I really only needed three knives.

No masonry bit? Sheesh, what a joke.

There are other arguments for restraint in preparing for situations that, for most normal individuals, should not happen on a daily basis.  For example, the more tools one has, the more one is exposed to certain hazards.  Finding one’s car keys, particularly when they share a pocket with a Swiss Army knife and forty-three cents in change, would be a challenge for a team of Army Rangers.  Furthermore, as a consequence of your average convenience store employee expecting to take a bullet or a shiv in the line of duty, producing half a dozen knives of varying sizes before you are able to produce a wallet tends to have a negative effect on the level of customer service you can expect.  Couple all this with the nefarious corkscrew attachment – which will inevitably (and unbeknownst to you) snag your pocket material, swing out, and nearly perform some awkward exploratory surgery – and a good argument can be made for taking only what one needs to survive through the day.

This is, of course, a sentiment echoed by my wife, who really has no reason to talk.  According to her, pockets exist solely for the purpose of fashion; therefore, due to the possibility for unsightly bulges, said pockets are not to be used for anything that can be said to have mass and take up space.  Of course, she carries a purse of such diameter that I am seriously considering having myself buried in it, but to do that, it would have to be emptied.  This would be no simple feat, as it is presently serving as a sort of Noah’s ark for hygiene products.  Within her purse, by my approximation, there is at least two of every cleaning, scenting, and moisturizing product ever created.  Given some of the miscellany we occasionally find within, I have a strong reason to suspect there is a tiny, indigenous people that live in her handbag and make occasional offerings to their kiwi-scented goddess – usually Tic Tacs.

We offer this mint to the Goddess Halitosis.

Ultimately, I suppose, one complements the other.  Friends are often appreciative when one can clean his own blood off the DVD player before sheepishly returning to his seat.  And suffice it to say, I am not equipped to do that on my own.  Simultaneously, were my wife left to her own devices in the opening of clam-shell packaging, I’m fairly certain her only recourse would be filing her teeth to cannibal-esque points and attempting to gnaw her way through.  Either way, I’m eagerly awaiting power versions of the pocket-sized hand tool – provided they refrain from automating the corkscrew attachment.  Nothing good could come of that.