n. a person who is five-eighths black and three-eighths white by descent
n. a person who is three-fourths black and one-fourth white
n. a person having one white and one black parent
The ultimate in racist lunacy was reached in Haiti in the eighteenth century, where Saint-Mery developed a classification of physical types based on the notion that each individual was divisible into no less than 128 separate parts (rather like genes):
‘Thus a blanc (white) had 128 parts white, a nègre (Negro) 128 parts black, and the offspring a mulâtre (mulatto) 64 parts white and 64 parts black. In addition, he also listed sacatra (8 to 23 parts white), griffe (24 to 39 parts white), marabou (40 to 48); quateron (71 to 100); metif (101 to 112); mamelouc (113 to 120); quateronné (121 to 124) and finally a sang-mêlé (125 to 127).’
Given the additional presence of Indians as well as Negroes, Mexican castas were even more complex.
– Peter Worsley, The Three Worlds: Culture and World Development, 1984
An invitation sent by Madame de Lignerole to Augustus Hare, Aug. 1, 1851:
Will you be so very kind as to allow me to take the liberty of entreating you to have the kindness to confer the favor upon me of giving me the happiness of your company on Friday?
Ambrose Bierce defined politeness as “the most acceptable hypocrisy.”
As he enters the room, he knows what awaits him. Resistance is useless. He cannot escape; there are simply too many of them, and there is nowhere to hide anyway. Hands take hold of him and strap him tightly. Now he cannot move. They have total control over him. They set to work quickly, efficiently, and without malice. They follow a strict protocol, their actions being exquisitely coordinated toward a single end. They begin to kill him, deliberately and methodically. This is not their first time to take life. They make no attempt to conceal their intentions or their actions. On the contrary, they do everything in public, before an audience who watch as his life ebbs away.
“If premeditation is central to the handling of homicide, this killing ought to evoke considerable severity. But it does not,” write University of Georgia sociologist Mark Cooney. “In fact, the law tolerates it, and some people even praise it highly. The words ‘homicide’ and ‘killing’ are rarely used to describe it. Instead it goes by another name: ‘capital punishment.’”
(From Cooney’s 2009 book Is Killing Wrong?)
Besieged by Spain in 1572, the people of Leyden, Holland, ran out of silver. In order to have a currency for everyday trade, they tore pages from books and stamped them in coin dies, producing the first paper money in Europe.
During World War I the Fanning Islands could not receive currency from Australia, so they arranged to have one-pound notes printed in Hawaii. When peace came, these temporary notes were cut in half and used as movie tickets.
“I have enough money to last me the rest of my life,” said Jackie Mason, “unless I buy something.”
I have fully considered the project of these our modern Dædalists, and am resolved so far to discourage it, as to prevent any person from flying in my time. It would fill the world with innumerable immoralities, and give such occasions for intrigues as people cannot meet with who have nothing but legs to carry them. You should have a couple of lovers make a midnight assignation upon the top of the monument, and see the cupola of St. Paul’s covered with both sexes like the outside of a pigeon-house. Nothing would be more frequent than to see a beau flying in at a garret window, or a gallant giving chaos to his mistress, like a hawk after a lark. There would be no walking in a shady wood without springing a covey of toasts. The poor husband could not dream what was doing over his head. If he were jealous, indeed, he might clip his wife’s wings, but what would this avail when there were flocks of whore-masters perpetually hovering over his house? What concern would the father of a family be in all the time his daughter was upon the wing?
– Joseph Addison, Guardian, July 20, 1713
A Gentleman ought not to run or walk too fast in the Streets, lest he be suspected to be going [delivering] a Message; nor ought his pace to be too slow; nor must he take large Steps, nor too stiff and stately, nor lift his Legs too high, nor stamp hard on the Ground; neither must he swing his Arms backward and forward, nor must he carry his knees too close, nor must he go wagging his Breech, nor with his feet in a straight Line, but with the Inside of his Feet a little out; nor with his Eyes looking down, nor too much elevated, nor looking hither and thither, but with a sedate Countenance.
– Adam Petrie, Rules of Good Deportment, 1720
From the diary of Wilfrid Scawen Blunt, May 1, 1900:
To the Danes to see Lady Lytton, travelling there with Betty Balfour, who told amusing stories about Ireland, one being of a voyage the Queen [Victoria] had made in her yacht. The Queen used to be a good sailor, but is disturbed now if it is at all rough and likes the doctor to sit with her in the cabin and look after her. It came on to blow and a wave struck the ship rather roughly, which alarmed and made her indignant. ‘Go up at once,’ she said, ‘Sir James, and give the Admiral my compliments and tell him the thing must not occur again.’
DR. GALL: You see, so many Robots are being manufactured that people are becoming superfluous; man is really a survival. But that he should begin to die out, after a paltry thirty years of competition! That’s the awful part of it. You might think that nature was offended at the manufacture of the Robots. All the universities are sending in long petitions to restrict their production. Otherwise, they say, mankind will become extinct through lack of fertility. But the R.U.R. shareholders, of course, won’t hear of it. All the governments, on the other hand, are clamoring for an increase in production, to raise the standards of their armies. And all the manufacturers in the world are ordering Robots like mad.
HELENA: And has no one demanded that the manufacture should cease altogether?
DR. GALL: No one has the courage.
DR. GALL: People would stone him to death. You see, after all, it’s more convenient to get your work done by the Robots.
HELENA: Oh, Doctor, what’s going to become of people?
DR. GALL: God knows, Madame Helena, it looks to us scientists like the end!
– From Karel Čapek’s 1920 play R.U.R., which introduced the word robot
A Moral Principle met a Material Interest on a bridge wide enough for but one.
‘Down, you base thing!’ thundered the Moral Principle, ‘and let me pass over you!’
The Material Interest merely looked in the other’s eyes without saying anything.
‘Ah,’ said the Moral Principle, hesitatingly, ‘let us draw lots to see which shall retire till the other has crossed.’
The Material Interest maintained an unbroken silence and an unwavering stare.
‘In order to avoid a conflict,’ the Moral Principle resumed, somewhat uneasily, ‘I shall myself lie down and let you walk over me.’
Then the Material Interest found a tongue, and by a strange coincidence it was its own tongue. ‘I don’t think you are very good walking,’ it said. ‘I am a little particular about what I have underfoot. Suppose you get off into the water.’
It occurred that way.
— Ambrose Bierce, Fantastic Fables, 1898
Acknowledgment from an anonymous doctoral dissertation in the University Microforms International database:
If I had a dime for every time my wife threatened to divorce me during the past three years, I would be wealthy and not have to take a postdoctoral position which will only make me a little less poor and will keep me away from home and in the lab even more than graduate school and all because my committee read this manuscript and said that the only alternative to signing the approval to this dissertation was to give me a job mowing the grass on campus but the Physical Plant would not hire me on account of they said I was over-educated and needed to improve my dexterity skills like picking my nose while driving a tractor-mower over poor defenseless squirrels that were eating the nuts they stole from the medical students’ lunches on Tuesday afternoon following the Biochemistry quiz which they all did not pass and blamed on me because they said a tutor was supposed to come with a 30-day money-back guarantee and I am supposed to thank someone for all this?!!
(From a UMI press release, quoted in The Whole Library Handbook 2, 1995)
Morality turns on whether the pleasure precedes the pain or follows it (provided it is sufficient). Thus, it is immoral to get drunk because the headache comes after the drinking, but if the headache came first, and the drunkenness afterwards, it would be moral to get drunk.
– Samuel Butler, Notebooks, 1912
adj. useless; unprofitable
One Day a Caddy sat in the Long Grass near the Ninth Hole and wondered if he had a Soul. His Number was 27, and he almost had forgotten his Real Name.
As he sat and Meditated, two Players passed him. They were going the Long Round, and the Frenzy was upon them. They followed the Gutta Percha Balls with the intent swiftness of trained Bird Dogs, and each talked feverishly of Brassy Lies, and getting past the Bunker, and Lofting to the Green, and Slicing into the Bramble — each telling his own Game to the Ambient Air, and ignoring what the other Fellow had to say.
As they did the St. Andrews Full Swing for eighty Yards apiece and then Followed Through with the usual Explanations of how it Happened, the Caddy looked at them and Reflected that they were much inferior to his Father.
His Father was too Serious a Man to get out in Mardi Gras Clothes and hammer a Ball from one Red Flag to another.
His Father worked in a Lumber Yard.
He was an Earnest Citizen, who seldom Smiled, and he knew all about the Silver Question and how J. Pierpont Morgan done up a Free People on the Bond Issue.
The Caddy wondered why it was that his Father, a really Great Man, had to shove Lumber all day and could seldom get one Dollar to rub against another, while these superficial Johnnies who played Golf all the Time had Money to Throw at the Birds. The more he Thought the more his Head ached.
MORAL: Don’t try to Account for Anything.
– George Ade, Fables in Slang, 1899
From the diary of Wilfrid Scawen Blunt, Nov. 20, 1898:
To luncheon at Malwood. Sir William in excellent form, principally about the bishops, with whom he is now in violent conflict. He narrated to us a conversation he had had with the Duke of Devonshire as to the nomination to a bishopric. The Duke’s account of it was this: ‘He had written two letters to Salisbury, recommending a fellow, he couldn’t remember the fellow’s name, and Salisbury hadn’t even answered. He had written because Courtney and another fellow, he couldn’t remember his name either, had wanted it.’ On inquiry it had turned out that the proposed nominee was Page Roberts, and Sir William had taken an opportunity of asking Lord Salisbury why he hadn’t made Page Roberts a bishop. ‘The fact is,’ said Salisbury, ‘I thought they were talking of Page Hopps, and we gave it to some one else.’ ‘That,’ said Sir William, ‘is the way they make bishops.’
“The perfect hostess will see to it that the works of male and female authors be properly separated on her bookshelves. Their proximity, unless they happen to be married, should not be tolerated.”
– Lady Gough, Etiquette, 1863
“No matter what the fashion may be, the gloves of a well-dressed woman are never so tight that her hands have the appearance of sausages.”
– Margery Wilson, The New Etiquette, 1947
“A beautiful eyelash is an important adjunct to the eye. The lashes may be lengthened by trimming them occasionally in childhood. Care should be taken that this trimming is done neatly and evenly, and especially that the points of the scissors do not penetrate the eye.”
– Eliza Bisbee Duffey, The Ladies’ and Gentlemen’s Etiquette, 1877
In 1969, as NASA was preparing to send the first men to the moon, it invited world leaders to compose goodwill messages to be recorded on a silicon disc and left on the Sea of Tranquility.
Most of them sent rather banal greetings, but Félix Houphouët-Boigny, president of Ivory Coast, sent this:
At the moment when man’s oldest dream is becoming a reality, I am very thankful for NASA’s kind attention in offering me the services of the first human messenger to set foot on the Moon and carry the words of the Ivory Coast. I would hope that when this passenger from the sky leaves man’s imprint on lunar soil, he will feel how proud we are to belong to the generation which has accomplished this feat.
I hope also that he would tell the Moon how beautiful it is when it illuminates the nights of the Ivory Coast. I especially wish that he would turn towards our planet Earth and cry out how insignificant the problems which torture men are, when viewed from up there.
We are sick of the röntgen rays … you can see other people’s bones with the naked eye, and also see through eight inches of solid wood. On the revolting indecency of this there is no need to dwell.
– Pall Mall Gazette, March 1896
On a voyage to England in 1757, Ben Franklin narrowly escaped shipwreck.
Afterward, he wrote to his wife, “The bell ringing for church, we went thither immediately, and with hearts full of gratitude, returned sincere thanks to God for the mercies we had received.
“Were I a Roman Catholic, perhaps I should on this occasion vow to build a chapel to some saint, but as I am not, if I were to vow at all, it should be to build a light-house.”
Issei Sagawa took an unlikely path to fame — after killing and cannibalizing a Dutch woman in Paris in 1981, he wrote a fictionalized account of the crime, In the Mist, that sold 200,000 copies in his native Japan:
There is a loud sound and her body falls from the chair onto the floor. It is like she is watching me. I see her cheeks, her eyes, her nose and mouth, the blood pouring from her head. I try to talk to her, but she no longer answers. There is blood all over the floor. I try to wipe it up, but I realize I cannot stop the flow of blood from her head. It is very quiet here. There is only the silence of death.
Since his release from a Japanese psychiatric hospital in 1985, Sagawa has parlayed his reputation into a ghoulish industry. He has produced four novels, written a weekly column for a Japanese tabloid, appeared on the cover of a gourmet magazine, and is a regular subject of television documentaries. His crime inspired the Rolling Stones’ song “Too Much Blood.”
“The public has made me the godfather of cannibalism, and I am happy about that,” he said. “I will always look at the world through the eyes of a cannibal.”
There is also another matter to be mentioned for which both present and future ages have good reason to bless the name of Jonas Hanway. He was the first person who had the courage to hold an umbrella over his head in walking along the streets of London. ‘The eighteenth century,’ writes Chambers, ‘was half elapsed before the umbrella had even begun to be used in England. General Wolfe, writing from Paris in 1752, remarks: “The people here use umbrellas in hot weather to defend them from the sun, and something of the same kind to save them from the snow and the rain. I wonder that a practice so useful is not introduced in England.” Just about that time, however, a gentleman did exercise the moral courage to use an umbrella in the streets of London. He was the noted Jonas Hanway, then newly returned form Persia, and in delicate health, by which, of course, his using such a convenience was justified both to himself and to the public. “A parapluie,” we are told, defended Mr. Hanway’s face and wig. For a time no other than dainty beings, then called “Macaronies,” ventured to carry an umbrella; and any one doing so was sure to be hailed by the mob as a “mincing Frenchman.” One John Macdonald, a footman, who has favored the public with his memoirs, found as late as 1770 that, on appearing with a fine silk umbrella which he had brought from Spain, he was saluted with the cry of “Frenchman, why don’t you get a coach?”‘
– “Jonas Hanway, the Philanthropist,” Frank Leslie’s Popular Monthly, April 1884
The U.S. Constitution requires that the president be at least 35 years old. But legal scholar Mark V. Tushnet imagines a loophole by which, say, a 16-year-old guru might be elected:
“Suppose that the guru’s supporters sincerely claim that their religion includes among its tenets a belief in reincarnation. Even on the narrowest definition of ‘age,’ they say, their guru is well over thirty-five years old even though the guru emerged from the latest womb sixteen years ago.
“Further, it would have been an establishment of religion for the President of the Senate to reject their definition of ‘age,’ and it would violate their rights under the free exercise clause … for the courts to overturn the decision made by the political branches.”
His point is that even the most seemingly straightforward provisions in the Constitution can require interpretation.
(“Interpretation Symposium: Constitutional Interpretation: Comment: A Note on the Revival of Textualism in Constitutional Theory,” Southern California Law Review, January 1985)
A canal stockholder’s argument against railways, from the Vincennes, Ind., Western Sun, July 24, 1830:
He saw what would be the effect of it; that it would set the whole world a-gadding. Twenty miles an hour, sir! Why, you will not be able to keep an apprentice-boy at his work: every Saturday evening he must take a trip to Ohio, to spend the Sabbath with his sweetheart. Grave plodding citizens will be flying about like comets. All local attachments must be at an end. It will encourage flightiness of intellect. Veracious people will turn into the most immeasurable liars; all their conceptions will be exaggerated by their magnificent notions of distance. ‘Only a hundred miles off! Tut, nonsense, I’ll step across, madam, and bring your fan!’ ‘Pray, sir, will you dine with me to-day at my little box at Alleghany?’ ‘Why, indeed, I don’t know — I shall be in town until twelve. Well, I shall be there; but you must let me off in time for the theatre.’ And then, sir, there will be barrels of pork, and cargoes of flour, and chaldrons of coals, and even lead and whiskey, and such like sober things, that have always been used to sober travelling, whisking away like a set of skyrockets. It will upset all the gravity of the nation. If two gentlemen have an affair of honour, they have only to steal off to the Rocky Mountains, and there no jurisdiction can touch them. And then, sir, think of flying for debt! A set of bailiffs, mounted on bomb-shells, would not overtake an absconded debtor — only give him a fair start. Upon the whole, sir, it is a pestilential, topsy-turvy, harum-scarum whirligig. Give me the old, solemn, straightforward, regular Dutch canal — three miles an hour for expresses, and two for jog-and-trot journeys — with a yoke of oxen for a heavy load! I go for beasts of burthen: it is more primitive and scriptural, and suits a moral and religious people better. None of your hop-skip-and-jump whimsies for me.
In 1922, magician Harry Price published “Cold Light on Spiritualistic Phenomena” in the Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, showing that so-called “spirit photographs” could be created using simple double exposures. In support of the exposé, Harry Houdini had himself photographed with Abraham Lincoln.
Anarchist Josiah Warren believed that the only just measure of a product’s value was the amount of labor that went into producing it. Charging more than this was “cannibalism” — interest, rent, and profit were state-sanctioned usury. Accordingly, he proposed a system where goods would be traded explicitly on this basis — “he who employs five or ten hours of his time, in the service of another, receives five or ten hours labour of the other in return.”
As an experiment, Warren opened a “time store” at the corner of Fifth and Elm Streets in Cincinnati in 1827. He priced all the goods at the amount he had paid for them, plus a small surcharge to cover overhead (his books were available for inspection at the back of the store), and customers could buy goods using “labor notes” — promises to perform labor, like the one above. As he accumulated notes, Warren would redeem those that he could use and endorse the rest, using them to buy more goods, following a list of their average cost in labor. In this way he set up a small economy among like-minded citizens in Cincinnati — each received fair compensation for his labors, but none could gouge another merely because “the market would bear it.”
In like spirit, Warren charged for his own time in running the store, using a clock — if it took him half an hour to help a customer buy groceries, 25 cents would be added to the customer’s bill. “This arrangement sweeps away at once all the higgling and chaffering about prices, so disgusting in the present system, but which is inseparably connected with it,” he explained in his 1852 book Equitable Commerce.
The store operated successfully for three years, with such low prices that the competitor on the next corner asked Warren’s help in coverting his own store to Warren’s system. Warren closed the time store voluntarily in May 1830 — because, according to one account, he felt he had no claim to the increase in value of the land on which it stood.
Letter from Charles Dickens to a chimney sweep, March 15, 1864:
Since you last swept my study chimney it has developed some peculiar eccentricities. Smoke has indeed proceeded from the cowl that surmounts it, but it has seemingly been undergoing internal agonies of a most distressing nature, and pours forth disastrous volumes of swarthy vapour into the apartment wherein I habitually labour. Although a comforting relief probably to the chimney, this is not altogether convenient to me. If you can send a confidential sub-sweep, with whom the chimney can engage in social intercourse, it might be induced to disclose the cause of the departure from its normal functions.