When Grandpa Was A Boy, Were There Any Dinosaurs?

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Freudian Quip

1905: Two examples from Sigmund Freud’s The Joke and Its Relation to the Unconscious:

A physician visits a sick woman. As he’s leaving, he shakes his head and says to the woman’s husband: “I don’t like the look of your wife.”

The husband agrees: “I haven’t liked the look of her for a long time.”

Here is another joke, which Freud considered “rather coarse-grained”:

Two Jews are talking about bathing. One says to the other: “I take a bath every year, whether I need it or not.”

Source: Sigmund Freud, The Joke and Its Relation to the Unconscious (2002), pp. 30, 62

Unit Of Time

1904: On 31 March, a British military expedition advancing into southern Tibet clashed with a ragtag defence force near the village of Guru. Tibetan muskets were no match for Maxim machine guns, and amulets offered no protection against shrapnel. “A hail of bullets came down on us,” wrote one of the defenders. “The sound of firing continued for the length of time it would take six successive cups of hot tea to cool.” In that brief time, 628 Tibetans were killed and 222 wounded.

Source: Patrick French, Younghusband: The Last Great Imperial Adventurer (1994), pp. 221, 224

Chicago Conflagration

1903: One month after it opened to great fanfare, the Iroquois Theatre in Chicago was gutted by fire. A floodlight ignited drapery during an afternoon performance of Mr. Bluebeard. The fire curtain at the front of the stage was probably not fireproof, and anyway, it got stuck. Theatre staff dithered; the audience panicked; emergency doors jammed. Result: 602 members of the audience died, many of them children. Burned, trampled, suffocated.

Carl Prinzler, a hardware salesman, had a ticket for the show, but cancelled at the last minute. The one benefit to emerge from the disaster was that Prinzler and two colleagues devised a panic-release bar for emergency exit doors.

Source: Joanna Bourke, Fear: A Cultural History (2005), pp. 51–2, 58

Window Envelope

1901: Americus Callahan of Chicago filed a patent application for an “envelop” with “a section of transparent material” covering a hole cut in the front “through which the sending address upon the inclosure may be readily observed”. In other words, a window envelope.

Source: www.freepatentsonline.com/
701839.pdf

Racist Vitriol

1900: An outbreak of plague in the Chinatown district of San Francisco was seized on by Organized Labor as an excuse to print racist vitriol. “The almond-eyed Mongolian is watching for his opportunity,” the journal warned its readers, “waiting to assassinate you.”

Source: Robert Sullivan, Rats: Observations on the History and Habitat of the City’s Most Unwanted Inhabitants (2004), p. 156

Limited Contact

1999: Long days working at the office, evenings carousing with male colleagues, and a cultural tendency to leave childcare to women, meant that Japanese fathers spent limited time with their children. In 1999, the average was only 17 minutes per day, although this represented a substantial increase from the 1981 figure of three minutes.

Source: Men, Wage Work and Family, ed. Paula McDonald and Emma Jeanes (2012), p. 22

Knuckle Cracking

1998: Does habitually cracking your knuckles lead long-term to arthritis, or is that an old wives’ tale? Ignoring warnings from a number of old wives – “his mother, several aunts, and, later, his mother-in-law” – Donald Unger conducted an experiment, cracking the knuckles of his left hand, but not his right, at least twice a day.

After keeping up his daily routine for half a century, Unger checked both hands and found no evidence of arthritis. “There is no apparent relationship,” he concluded, “between knuckle cracking and the subsequent development of arthritis of the fingers.”

Source: Arthritis & Rheumatism, May 1998

Finicky Feeders

1997: Dung beetles are finicky feeders. Research in Kuwait by Wasmia Al-Houty and Faten Al-Musalam revealed that the beetles’ favourite is horse dung, which they prefer to the dung of sheep, camels, dogs and foxes. Al-Houty and Al-Musalam referred to earlier research from Australia that also showed a preference for the dung of horses, followed by that of sheep, cattle and kangaroos. (Not many kangaroos in Kuwait.)

Source: Journal of Arid Environments, March 1997