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


Emily Post Part III: The Taming of the Chauffeur

Allow us to return, for a fleeting moment, to a more genteel era: When mustachioed butlers were burned at the stake of public ridicule (Emily Post Part I).  When the color of a footman’s livery was not generally described as “cirrhosis” (Emily Post Part II).  When one minded one’s Ps and Qs rather than burped them.  Yes, dear gentlefolk, it is time once more to allow Mrs. Emily Post to conduct us to that bygone era via her 1942 Blue Book of etiquette.  In this chapter, we learn how to attempt domestication of the most elusive, feral servant breed of all – the savage chauffeur.

First off, how can the chauffeur be discerned from other servant species?  Mrs. Post helpfully distinguishes their behavioral tendencies, “The position of the chauffeur differs from that of the other servants in two respects.  The first is that he has no regular days out.”

(This accounts for the particularly dour, loathing, hostile tendencies of chauffeurs throughout the world.  The real mark of a great lady of the house is channeling this burning, homicidal rage into efficient, obsessive car polishing.)

The chauffeur’s habitat also sets the breed apart: “Second, he usually finds (and pays for) his own board and lodging.”

(This accounts for all those fellows with signs standing outside Wal-Mart advertising their requests rather than walking inside said department store to procure a job application.  Having already procured a position, they must at least pretend they do not chug Jim Beam and slumber in their masters’ cars while off duty.)

As to the chauffeur’s eating habits: “Sometimes a single man eats with the servants in the kitchen, but this is not usual.”

This is not usual, as chauffeurs are social creatures who gather for communal readings of Motor Trend magazine and feast in large packs on the flesh of puppies and virgins.  If maintained singly in captivity, the chauffeur should be confined to the outdoors and held in check by chains applied to the hands and feet, taking care that the chains coordinate with the livery of the outside footmen.

Though with that said, let it never be uttered that Mrs. Post is heartless: “Sometimes, too, there may be a room over the garage or perhaps a whole apartment – especially above a garage that has been converted from a stable – in which he and his family may live.”

We say “especially above a garage that has been converted from a stable” since it reminds the chauffeur and his genetic derivatives of the level of esteem in which they are held by the lady and gentleman of the house.  Specifically, it is the level of esteem that is shared only with the dung of the master’s and mistress’s late horses.  Remember the golden rule of the well-appointed house: An ounce of bourgeoisie suppression is worth a pound of proletariat uprising.

(There is presently a spirited disagreement among the well-to-do as to whether the chauffer should be taught to read.  On the one hand, it will not do for a menial servant to start getting ideas in his little head – ideas like “minimum wage” and “women’s suffrage.”  But on the other hand, while there is little difference between a Rolls Royce and the U.S.S. Monitor, it’s considered poor form to batter one’s way through a four-way stop because the chauffer hasn’t the foggiest idea what the red hexagon is trying to convey.)

The Red October of automobiles

Mrs. Post continues, “His duties are irregular, sometimes extremely so.  In a large family, particularly where there are half-grown or grown daughters, a chauffeur’s life can be inhumanly strenuous.”

The footman bet the butler five bucks that the chauffeur is one late night pick-up of the grown daughter from parking that Rolls on her foot.

Of course, “certain humane as well as very rich employers have two chauffeurs who drive in alternate shifts.”

But the majority of good society knows that this practice is very silly indeed, as it implies chauffeurs are real people.  Though, perhaps there is some value to it in the ability to take one chauffeur out back and humanely dispose of him should his performance not be up to par.  For example, if he forgets the following:

“No chauffer ever carries a robe on his arm as a footman does when waiting at the door for his employer.  Properly, the lap robe is laid in deep full-length folds on the far side of the seat.  As soon as the occupants have taken their places the chauffeur reaches across and, holding the edge of the fold, draws it toward him across their laps.”

Wait…you can pay someone to do that?

Never trust a man who can slam off your head in a car door. Repeatedly.

Emily Post Part II: Of Frogs and Footmen

by The Untamed Shrew and Rampage Productions

The Emily Post Blue Book of Etiquette, circa 1942: a tome from a time when the men wore dinner jackets, the women ruled the table with an iron fork, and having one’s butler put to death for sporting a mustache was not only permissible but fashionable.  Though, on that note and in a rare moment of oversight from Mrs. Post, there appears to be no guidance offered for mustachioed plumbers.

Someone remind me. When did making this movie ever seem like a good idea?

Regardless, our purpose today is not to deduce how Lady Post would have us subtly convey to a member of the pipe fitting profession that our commode needs attention for reasons we are not particularly proud to relate.  No, today our discussion relates to our footman – our footman who apparently has a drinking problem, as there seems much concern over the state of his liver.

Let us begin, for clarity, with a picture of a footman:

Google assures me this is a properly clad footman.

“All house servants who assist in waiting on the table come under the direction of the butler, and are known as footmen.  One who never comes into the dining-room is known as a useful man.”

The useful man, of course, is not to be confused with the useless man, who is more commonly referred to as “the husband.”  That distinction aside, the above quote is the primary reason one should never disrespect their butler.  If our picture of a footman is to be believed, he has an army at his disposal.

“The duties of the footman (and useful man) include [insert extensive laundry list of tedious household duties ad nauseum] writing down messages, and – incessantly and ceaselessly – cleaning and polishing silver.  In a small house the butler polishes silver, but in a very big house one of the footmen is silver specialist and does nothing else.  Nothing!”

In 2012, the American Medical Association reported that silver specialists had the highest rate of suicide by profession for the fifth consecutive year.*

*Completely made up fact.

No tarnish. No mercy.

“In houses of great ceremony […] there are always two footmen at the door if anyone is to be admitted: one to open the door and the other to conduct a guest into the drawing-room.”

In houses of really great ceremony, there are always three footmen at the door if anyone is to be admitted: one to open the door, one to conduct a guest into the drawing room, and one to call as the rider approaches, “One if by land!  Two if by sea!”

It should also be noted that, should any individual admitted be a spy for the Red Coats, the footman will conduct them to the drawing room at sword point.  However, a wise footman always refrains from beheading traitors without first checking with the butler, and then only after conducting the guest to a room where the blood stain will not be noticeable.

The Footman’s Livery

“People who have big houses usually choose a color for their livery and never change it.”

I don’t know about those who live in big houses, but I personally prefer that my livery remain red.  And internal.

A healthy – and refined – livery.

“Maroon and buff, for instance are the colors of the Gildings; all their motor cars are maroon with buff lines and cream-colored or maroon linings.  The chauffeurs and outside footmen wear maroon liveries.”

Well, thank all that is holy that the chauffeurs and outside footmen don’t have to go buff like the cars.  Or, apparently, the house footman:

“A house footman wears this same livery no matter what hour of the day, except of course when he is actually engaged in doing his work, at which time he wears an apron and shirt sleeves and does not appear in the front part of the house.”

If the house footman is merely wearing an apron and shirt sleeves when engaged in his work, it is no wonder that he is not allowed to appear in the front part of the house.

“The number of buttons on the tails of the coats is a question of the host’s personal idea of smartness.”

So…what are we proposing here?  A button per IQ point?  I mean, I suppose I could get behind that, but if any of the staff ever joins Mensa, it’s going to take them twenty or thirty minutes to get their coat on or off, which might have an adverse effect on both their productivity and on their ability to do whatever it is footmen do while buck naked in the backyard.

“The ‘court’ coat with frogs and lace cravat and epaulettes and white stockings, etc., has gone completely out of style.”

Because cleaning up the frog remnants after galas was just gross.  And the white stockings weren’t terribly white after such events, necessitating the purchase of a great many new white stockings and an overall lack of economy in maintaining such a style long term.

Historically speaking, it hasn’t been easy being green.

Footmen Wars: The Frogs Strike Back – After much oppression, the frogs rebel. And lo, thus it came to pass that the frogs wore the footmen.

“To choose servants who are naturally well-groomed is more important than to put them into smart liveries.”

Although leaving a naturally well-groomed servant in their natural state without putting them in any livery whatsoever is generally inadvisable in polite society.  But if you must, at least keep them out of the front yard.

“Men who are smart must have at least moderately slim figures, and hold themselves, not stiffly, but with a suggestion of military bearing. They must, of course, be smooth-shaven and have their hair well cut.  Their linen must be immaculate, their shoes polished, their clothes brushed and in press, and their fingernails clean and well cared for.  If a man’s fingers are indelibly stained he must wear white cotton gloves.”

So…let me see if I have all that.  The ideal footman is two dimensional, arthritic, and able to kill a man with his bare hands in such a way that blood does not, under any circumstances, get under his fingernails.  They are preferably devoid of body hair.  At no time should a footman be more than three feet from an outlet and not in possession of an electric clothing iron, which they should use on themselves constantly.

Unless they’re in the back yard.  Because that would really, really hurt.

Do YOU know where your footman has been?