2129: "1921 Fact Checker"

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PM 2Ring
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Re: 2129: "1921 Fact Checker"

Postby PM 2Ring » Mon Apr 01, 2019 11:41 am UTC

Eebster the Great wrote:EDIT: On the note above, I assume lamp oil was edible, right? What was the property of whale oil that made it so prized for lamps over other animal fats in the 18th and early 19th centuries, and did this make it inferior as a cooking oil? Was whale oil even used in the early 1600s?

The lamp oil may have been edible, but it may have contained castor oil, which can be toxic. But even if it didn't, it probably wasn't very sanitary.

FWIW, one of the issues with traditional oil lamps that used vegetable oil was preventing mice from consuming the oil, and drowning rhemselves in the lamp or oil reservoir. I've never smelled burning oily mouse, but I imagine it's not pleasant. :mrgreen:

Whale oil was definitely available by the 16th century, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whaling

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Re: 2129: "1921 Fact Checker"

Postby Sableagle » Mon Apr 01, 2019 1:39 pm UTC

Not exactly a factcheck on it being a problem back then, but verification that it could have been:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BxxFNkNf6q8
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Re: 2129: "1921 Fact Checker"

Postby svenman » Tue Apr 02, 2019 7:28 pm UTC

Eebster the Great wrote:
svenman wrote:Or maybe the writer did not even bother to think about what kind of cereal the term "corn" in the alleged historical document would have referred to and what possibly different kind of cereal their contemporary readers might understand when reading that word, given that they seemed to be of the opinion that nothing of importance hinged on the truth or falsity of that statement, let alone the accuracy of their report of it.

It's absolutely possible that the unnamed "investigator" made this mistake, I agree. Honestly, it doesn't even seem unlikely. The backhanded mention in the corner of a local 1920s newspaper is hardly a compliment. He certainly could have read a document that used the word "corn" and assumed it meant maize when it didn't.

But he could have been way more full of shit even than that. I like the comic because this was so inconsequential and so long ago that there is almost no way to critique the person directly. We might know for sure whether or not the claim is true (somebody probably knows that), but we still couldn't figure out where they went wrong.

Actually, the more I think about it, the more a scenario along the following lines unfolds before my mind's eye:

Editor in chief: (Hands notice to junior reporter) Here, quickly write that up for tomorrow's paper. I have two inches in the left column to fill on page 20.
Junior reporter: (glances at notice) Uh, sir, are you sure this could be correct? Corn wasn't -
Editor in chief: Whatever. The typesetter needs to have it in 15 minutes.
Junior reporter: Still, I'd like to factcheck -
Editor in chief: Son, you're still new in this job. Fact-check all you need to on something important, but not on a trifle like this. This goes in the paper for our readers' amusement, and to fill two inches in a column, that's all.
Junior reporter: But the library is still open, I could at least nip over and -
Editor in chief: NO! Under no circumstances are you to waste time and effort on such a silly matter! Nothing whatsoever of importance hinges on the truth or falsity of this statement! You will get to your typewriter now and write a short piece with that in mind! HAVE I MADE MYSELF CLEAR?
Junior reporter: ...Yes, sir.
Editor in chief: Good. When you're done, give it straight to the typesetter. I'm off for my usual Thursday evening round of Whist.
Junior reporter: (goes off to write his article in a passive-aggressive mood)
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Re: 2129: "1921 Fact Checker"

Postby Eebster the Great » Tue Apr 02, 2019 8:11 pm UTC

I'm sort of imagining it the other way. The editor asked the writer to fact-check a bunch of stuff, and by the time he got to this stupid blurb, he was fed up and just decided it didn't matter.

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Re: 2129: "1921 Fact Checker"

Postby svenman » Tue Apr 02, 2019 8:25 pm UTC

Sure, it could have been like that too.

I still like my scenario better. But that may be because I'm projecting a little bit. :)
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Re: 2129: "1921 Fact Checker"

Postby Quizatzhaderac » Wed Apr 03, 2019 5:37 pm UTC

Eebster the Great wrote:On the note above, I assume lamp oil was edible, right? What was the property of whale oil that made it so prized for lamps over other animal fats in the 18th and early 19th centuries, and did this make it inferior as a cooking oil? Was whale oil even used in the early 1600s?
My uninformed guess was that it was cheaper. For cooking, people on land would prefer fresh oils, which would come from land animals which were already being butchered in all population centers.

Whales were (per pound) cheaper than other animals and more blubbery. The oil was rendered on ship and so was cheapest first on whaling ships, and second at ports, and most expensive inland.

As for specific properties, whale oil has a low viscosity compared to other oils available at the time, and also produced an odor when burned. The odor, I think, might explain why literature would mention whale oil lamps as opposed to just lamps, or not mentioning lamps a all; when one smells whale oil burning, they now they're in for a rough-and-ready, age-of-sail, ships-of-wood: men-of-iron, noun-dash-conjunction-dash-noun, high-seas adventure!
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Re: 2129: "1921 Fact Checker"

Postby xtifr » Wed Apr 03, 2019 6:11 pm UTC

svenman wrote:Junior reporter: (glances at notice) Uh, sir, are you sure this could be correct? Corn wasn't -

The problem I have with this is that people in Kansas in 1921 were unlikely to realize that corn wasn't...

Not just the readers of the newspaper--it seems unlikely that the writers would notice the apparent discrepancy.

That said, I like your scenario. I am now hoping it's true. It just seems a bit more likely to me that nobody involved realized there was a problem to clarify. But your scenario is at least plausible, so I'm happy to go along with it. :)
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Re: 2129: "1921 Fact Checker"

Postby leeharveyosmond » Fri Apr 05, 2019 9:45 am UTC

Soupspoon wrote:In modernish British English, corn is pretty much "wheat" ...


Although not so commonly now, ‘corn’ can refer to any kind of grain.

What is commonly called ‘corned beef’, in the rest of the world as bully beef, is minced beef with corns (ie grains) of salt.

Then we have gunpowder: corned (coarse grain) vs serpentine (finely ground).

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Re: 2129: "1921 Fact Checker"

Postby Quizatzhaderac » Fri Apr 05, 2019 3:41 pm UTC

xtifr wrote:The problem I have with this is that people in Kansas in 1921 were unlikely to realize that corn wasn't...

Not just the readers of the newspaper--it seems unlikely that the writers would notice the apparent discrepancy.
Why wouldn't people know were maize comes from?

It's not like it's something that was only discovered recently, or in fact, at all. More something that was always know to Americans. Also, proportionately more people were farmers then (especially in Kansas), so I'd figure they'd be more interested in corny facts.

If anything this looks like somebody knowing the fact that "British people call cereal grains 'corn'" without thinking it through things like why they wouldn't say "flour" or why people would have to bring specific supplies, but the required supplies don't include necessary things.
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Re: 2129: "1921 Fact Checker"

Postby Hominid » Sat Apr 13, 2019 10:59 pm UTC

Corn can mean a lot of different things, but has "corn meal" ever meant anything besides ground maize?


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