Category Archives: great typo

A summer gift for all those who correct English papers…

I just revisited a site recommended by a friend awhile ago. The first time I read this post I was reduced to tears. This time I was successfully brought to that state of euphoria that follows true hysteria. So today, a reblog of a piece by Debby Thompson published on the blog “Timothy McSweeney’s.” Enjoy!

http://www.mcsweeneys.net/articles/the-stages-of-grading

Enjoy!


“They are long last friends.”

Dylan Thomas enjoyed revisiting clichéed expressions, refreshing them to offer his reader new insights, experiences, lines of thought. Phrases such as “a dog among the fairies, The atlas-eater with a jaw for news, Bit out the mandrake with tomorrow’s scream” (“Altarwise by Owl light”) and “Dead men naked they shall be one  With the man in the wind and the west moon” (“And Death Shall Have No Dominion”) wake us up with a tug on the bell of familiarity. 

Sometimes a student error has the same effect. This is one such error.

The reader of student papers (as distinct from the reader of a Dylan Thomas poem) must of course first ask: “Is this just a typo?” We can be almost certain here that my writer was going for “long-lost friends,” and possibly all she did was hit “a” instead of “o” and omit the hyphen, a little mark students are generally not comfortable with anyway. The reader silently corrects and moves on. No problem. We knew what she meant.

Just as likely, though, is that my student has not heard the expression “long-lost friend” very often; she is, after all, only 18 or 19. How long can friends be lost for if one’s entire life is two decades or less? And if she hasn’t heard the expression very often, she may not have heard it correctly. I’ve looked at a lot of other errors that seem to have resulted from reaching into one’s own lexicon to interpret an unfamiliar term, and this may be one of those errors. She may have misunderstood what she heard.

If so, then what intention did she add to the phrase? We get to play with punctuation here, all the “little marks” that group words into concepts.

Did she mean “long, last friends”? That is, was she thinking of enduring relationships with people, possibly tall people, who were likely to be among the mourners at her gravesite? For some reason this strikes me as a kind of Dylan-Thomas-y thing to write.

Or are we seeing “long-last friends”—those sturdy ones who can be relied on through thick and thin, kind of like Levi’s jeans or Wearever cookware or Firestone tires—?

I like the latter. Rather than the poignancy of friends separated by space and time, meeting again in a joyous embrace, two bereft halves coalescing finally into a stable and satisfying whole, this phrase offers us the practical, workaday comfort of friends who are, as so many of my students like to say, “THERE for each other.”

I therefore offer you the companion phrase as something you might want to add to your lexicon. “At my high school reunion I enjoyed the thrill of seeing again some long-lost friends” can be joined by “When I got home I told Jane, my long-last friend, all about it.”

Remember to keep that hyphen in there, though, or you’ll have to be writing from a sickbed or coffin.

Medieval statues of Mourners—or Long, Last Friends. No reunions here. This image from an article on the exhibit “Mourners” at the Musée des Beaux Arts de Dijon.


“Orinso asks Viola (Cesario) to try to swoon Olivia to like him…”

You may think at first that my student was writing about Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, but the character-name “Orinso” suggests something more in the soap-opera line…

All right, yes: she was writing about Twelfth Night.  And I’m willing to assume, because the other names are correct, that “Orinso” is merely an o’typo—although that play has been through a number of strange variations at the hands of students, including one who seems to have thought it was an episode from The Morte d’Arthur.

The student error this sentence really reminds me of is a lovely misuse of the word “gander” as a transitive verb—I invite you to read my discussion of it, which may persuade you, as it has persuaded me, to adopt the error as part of your own colorful verbal armory.

I think I would have liked the sentence here better if it had ended after the ninth word: “Orinso asks Viola (Cesario) to try to swoon Olivia.” “Swoon” can be a noun (“a partial or total loss of consciousness…a state of bewilderment or ecstasy…a state of suspended animation,” says Webster) or a verb (“to faint…to become enraptured…to float or fade”). But, as Webster assures us, “swoon” is an INtransitive verb; that is, it takes no object. I suppose a writer could get away with writing “She swooned a swoon of joy,” but I can’t think of anything else one could swoon. Still, picturing Cesario/Viola trying to swoon Olivia is rather charming; perhaps it would involve putting a swooning spell on her? In my student’s mind, perhaps there could have been a vision of the comely Viola-in-Cesario-disguise standing before an Olivia fainting with rapture. I’d be willing to buy that as an explanation for the first nine words.

But she goes on. “To swoon Olivia to like him”? What is in her mind? Does she mean Cesario is to try to put a spell on Olivia to like Orinso? (Really, I have to apologize. I should be calling him “Orsino,” since I have confessed that I believe “Orinso” was bad typing rather than bad thinking—but I’m really, really getting a kick out of pretending Shakespeare named a character “Orinso.”) Anyway, Cesario trying to put a spell on Olivia to like him: could that be the intention?

No way of knowing. And of course there’s a little more. Here’s the whole sentence:

“Orinso asks Viola (Cesario) to try to swoon Olivia to like him and that’s when it really starts.”

Is this statement a companion piece to another, long-ago, student’s comment that “In Adam and Eve this is the first time man and woman have been together and right away there is trouble”? So young they are, and so jaded.

Does she mean that the play really starts when Orinso makes this difficult request of Viola? Or does she mean the attraction of Olivia to Viola? or the fun starts? or the trouble? Well, something really starts, anyway.

Let it be a lesson to us all. When we try to swoon people into doing things, we start something. And there’s no predicting how it will all turn out.

Happy New Year!


“Less radical than duking people into talking to a false identity…”

I learned a new term while reading student papers this past weekend: “catfish.” I thought I was relatively cyberliterate, but this one I hadn’t seen or heard. My student defined it for his reader: “Not the gill-bearing creature, but the person who creates a false identity on a social networking site to bait people to talk to him or her, and sometimes develop deep relationships. The ‘catfish’ most likely experienced some overwhelming event and uses the alias to escape the unpleasantness of that reality.” Now, I can’t vouch for the accuracy of the definition, but at any rate you can see that the writer is no slouch at putting words on paper.

But then, alas, his vocabulary lets him down:

“Less radical than duking people into talking to a false identity is luring them into accepting a reality show as ‘reality.'”

You and I know what he meant. He meant “duping.”

Was this a typo or a mistake? I just went to Word and typed in “duking,” confidently expecting the red underline that means “misspelling” to appear (I’m getting it reliably from WordPress). But evidently Bill Gates is okay with “duking,” because I got neither red underline nor notification when I ran spell-check. “P” and “K” are fairly close on the keyboard, although not close enough to be typed with the same finger…. So maybe it was just an unflagged typo.

Certainly, though, my friend Mr. Webster has no use for “duking.” As far as he’s concerned, “duke” is a noun. It might refer to a “sovereign ruler of a duchy” or other top-ranked hereditary nobleman; it might refer to a kind of hybrid cherry (no idea why); perhaps in relation to the power of the ruler, it might be slang for fist, “especially in the plural.” I could imagine a verbal form, but he doesn’t offer “to duke” as, perhaps, “to confer ducal rank on.”

Webster doesn’t allow a verb “to duke” meaning “to punch with one’s fists,” either, although of course that’s what leaped to my mind when I saw my student’s statement. “Duking people into talking to a false identity,” I imagined, was beating them into submission, into taking a lie for the truth, sort of like forcing them to bow down to a false idol. Or what Lucy said to Charlie Brown in one comic strip: “Admit I’m a lady or I’ll punch you again.”

I have to confess to falling a little in love with this new verb! It’s just one degree of force shy of “decking,” or “knocking down forcibly with the fists”: She duked him again and again, and finally decked him.

If my student had had violence in mind, his “duking” might have been a misspelling or mishearing of “decking,” for that matter. But most of his discussion has to do with deception, stealth, insinuation: not force. The (real) catfish is a bottom feeder and hangs out down there in the mud; I wonder if the cyberterm comes from the idea of lurking. Or maybe its barbels (nice word, that!) deceive observers into thinking it’s an actual cat (an underwater cat…?), and the cyberterm is meant to evoke this deceptive appearance. My student might be implying that the barbels look like worms and thereby attract other critters the catfish might prey on…. Or maybe those barbels, rather innocent-looking but in some species capable of stinging things that come too close, made the cybercoiner think merely of hidden or disguised danger. I have no idea, but I am willing to see in the term some association with false impressions. That’s how I know my student didn’t mean to write “decking.”

Yes, we can be sure he meant “duping.” All that’s unknown is whether he misspelled “duping” or actually thinks the word is “duking.” Until he tells me otherwise, I’m going to enjoy the possibility that it’s the latter.

A channel catfish. His barbels look like a false mustache! A disguise! What a duper. Image from http://www.usbr.gov/mp/ccao/newmelones/fish_species.html.

A channel catfish. His barbels look like a false mustache! A disguise! What a duper. Boxing nobleman, not so much. Image from http://www.usbr.gov/mp/ccao/newmelones/fish_species.html.


“The play consisted of many different people reading various monologues…”

Well, a play doesn’t actually consist of people, but we can let that pass. And I’m glad my student didn’t say “many different people reading different monologues”—so many of my students use “different” when they mean “various,” making the use of “different” to mean “different” difficult.  “…eight actresses each reading a monologue” or “…four women performing eight separate monologues” would have been much better, of course. There’s nothing like being specific.

My student had attended a performance of Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues to fulfill a requirement for my Intro to Theater course, and liked it quite a bit. Here’s the initial description of the production:

“The play consisted of many different people reading various monologues revolving around the different characteristics of female gentiles.”

Note the return of “different.”

And of course, here’s that confusion, again, about words that begin with “gen” and have an “l” somewhere. The intended word might be “gentle” or “genital,” but the error of choice is “gentile.” Why is that?

Those of us who can actually distinguish among “gentle,” “genital,” and “gentile” get a good laugh out of this, though. A little comedy about male and female gentiles might work, in fact. What would the “different” characteristics of female gentiles be, I wonder? Different from male gentiles, or different from female non-gentiles?

Should we indulge in a few stereotypes? In northeastern U.S. culture, the most common usage of “gentile” is to mean “non-Jew,” and since we’d certainly want to open our play in the City (you shouldn’t need to ask which!), we might as well go with that regional choice. Would we concentrate on “different” physical features, such as coloring, profile, and voice, or would we rather emphasize speech styles? Holiday observances? Sports preferences? Would we dare draw on “Jewish” jokes and “blonde” jokes? I don’t really know. Which “different characteristics” would be most entertaining in our play? Would we cast two best friends, or two neighbors, or even two in-laws, one Jewish and one “gentile”? Would we focus on Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, or Reconstructionist Judaism? And for the gentile, would we go all the way with Episcopalian, or settle for Methodist or Unaffiliated or agnostic? Or would the point be the different characteristics of various female gentiles, leaving the contrasting non-gentile out? Would dialogues be more fun, or should we stick with the monologue idea?

If we do monologues, we’d better be sure they revolve around the characteristics of female gentiles. (And suddenly “revolve around” in connection with the word the student actually meant is making me blush…)

Drama, to reach its audience, should very clearly limn the specific—a specific character in a specific situation at a specific time and place—but in such a way that the audience can also simultaneously understand in broader, more inclusively resonant terms. American theater has many fine plays that present specific individuals in specific cultural circumstances, celebrating like Walt Whitman all the distinct examples that make up the rich variety of America, all the separate songs that interweave into our astounding chorale. There are some plays that seem to speak for, or define, a particular culture. On the modern stage, say “Jewish” and Neil Simon might come to mind; say “gentile” and someone is bound to reply “A.R. Gurney.” These are two of many, varied, examples.

I’m not sure a vaguely-defined evening of revolving monologues about gentiles is really needed, no matter how much my student may have enjoyed it.


“Blessed are the gentile…”

For today, the Revised Nonstandard Version of several of the Beatitudes. Before sharing this enlightenment, I’ll remind everyone that The Beatitudes is the traditional name for part of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Christian Bible, Matthew 5 – 7; you can read the lovely King James Version on Bartleby if you don’t have a Bible handy), a litany of “blessed are”s describing the kind of person Jesus (and thereby God) approves and would like to encourage: collectively, a kind, patient, tolerant, selfless, and spiritually hopeful person whose deprivations on earth will be rewarded by a grateful Father in Heaven (and possibly also by the endorsement of similar individuals on earth).

The Beatitudes was one of the Bible excerpts in my World Lit I anthology, and I thought we had a nice discussion of the style, the message, and the ways in which the message compared with the teachings of the Hebrew Bible, the Qur’an, and several other Eastern texts. Later in the semester one of my students was moved to incorporate the Beatitudes in a paper, and here are the ones he thought were particularly noteworthy:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, because there is a kingdom of heaven.”

“Blessed are the gentile, because they shall inherit the earth.”

“Blessed are they who are hungry and thirsty for righteousness, because they shall be feed.”

To be fair: The Norton Anthology didn’t use the King James Version. Also to be fair: my student is not quoting the version the Norton did use, either.

Now, let us take a look at these words of direction and comfort.

The poor in spirit are blessed by the fact that there is a kingdom of heaven. As far as my student is concerned, this seems to be the most Jesus is willing to promise; no guarantees or even suggestions that the poor in spirit will actually go to the kingdom of heaven, let alone inherit it.

There’s no ambiguity or confusion about the next point: the gentile will inherit the earth. King James says the “meek” shall inherit the earth, but the translation the students read said the “gentle” would inherit the earth. Why do students have so much trouble with words that begin “gent” and have an “l” somewhere later? We have all, I’m sure, seen bizarre statements about the “genitals” by writers who were probably writing about “gentiles”…and vice versa.  And here my student must have thought he was talking about people who were meek, gentle. But he didn’t write that. I’d hate to think AutoCorrect has become so cynical, so “now,” as to assume that nobody ever means to write “gentle” anymore; but if I can’t blame AutoCorrect I’m going to have to blame my student. I certainly hope he didn’t actually mean “blessed are the gentile” here, because if so he was seriously disenfranchising the Jewish people, who were not only Jesus’ people and his principal audience but also the people who had been promised back there in the Hebrew Bible that they had been chosen by God to be his people. Now suddenly Jesus is promising the whole earth to the gentiles?  Actually, the word “gentile” per se doesn’t occur in the Jewish or Christian bible, or in the Qur’an; it is a word from the Latin originally meaning “people” or “ethnic group” and applied in Latin translations of the Bible to mean “non-Jew” (people who don’t get a very good rap there, especially in the Old Testament). English translations, generally from the Latin texts, continue this usage, and more largely in English translations of other cultural texts it also stood in for “infidels,” or  “non-believers (in ______ [your faith here]).” When the Qur’an says “gentiles,” it means non-Muslims. And this continues even in texts originally English: To a Mormon, it can mean “non-Mormons.” Anyway, whoever these people are, like a doting lover Jesus is giving them the earth. The chosen-people-of-your-choice must be pretty frustrated.

Finally, those who are hungry and thirsty for righteousness are not going to get righteousness; they’re going to be turned into some kind of Soylent Green for those who, presumably, are less urgent about their desires. (My student might have meant “paid a stipend,” as in “feed” as the past form of “to fee,” or to pay. But I really don’t think he did mean that. How often do you hear college students use “fee” as a verb?) No, Jesus must have been giving the needy some straight talk: The rich get richer, and the full get fuller by munching their feed, those hungry-thirsty people. Literally serves them right, get me?

The Sermon ton the Mount. Not everybody looks happy...must be some non-Gentiles in the audience? This image, a nineteenth-century painting by Carl Bloch, can be found on a zillion Internet sites, one of which is http://www.carlbloch.com/php/artwork.php?artwork=686

The Sermon on the Mount. Not everybody looks happy…must be some non-Gentiles in the audience? This image, a nineteenth-century painting by Carl Bloch, can be found on a zillion Internet sites, one of which is http://www.carlbloch.com/php/artwork.php?artwork=686


“In the Aeneid the power of the Queen of Carthage is impressive…”

Yes, it is. The Carthage episode is the principal one in the Aeneid selections included in my World Lit I anthology, and since it brings together a lot of important aspects of the story as tale and as poem I like to take time on it. With Aeneas we gaze in amazement at the busy and sophisticated city of Carthage, still under construction; with him we look upon its Queen and marvel at her beauty, her wisdom, and her power. My student has clearly taken those aspects to heart.

The Queen’s name is Dido, and there is some debate about how to pronounce it—Latin (DEE-doh) or Britified (DIE-doh). In fact I comment on this and warn my students that I will try to consistently use the former but will probably slip into the latter, which was the pronunciation favored by the professor in whose class I first met The Aeneid.

I hope some students found this small digression interesting, especially in a class where we frequently comment on the losses consequent on reading material in translation rather than in its original language.

The student here, however, did not; or at least he did not absorb much from the actual pages of the epic, because he added not only a third pronunciation option but also quite a new spelling:

“In the Aeneid the power of the Queen of Carthage is impressive. She is described as a beautiful woman. Her name is Ditto.”

Now, I don’t know about you, but I always looked forward to the Sunday “funny papers.” If Wikipedia is to be trusted, I was four years old when Mort Walker created the comic strip Beetle Bailey. I could read the newspaper by myself at that age (indeed, at three!), but I didn’t make a regular practice of it. I think I started reading the funny papers around age six. And there, along with Nancy and Our Boarding House and Dennis the Menace and Dondi (Korean War orphan) and Little Orphan Annie (not a Korean War orphan, but ward of Daddy Warbucks) and the gorgeous Prince Valiant and the exotic Buck Rogers and the great role model Brenda Starr and the angular Dick Tracy and, blessedly, Peanuts, was Camp Swampy, populated by the lazy eponymous Beetle, the irascible Sergeant Snorkel and his faithful dog Otto, the luscious Miss Buxley, and  many others, including Beetle’s brother-in-law and sister, Hi and Lois, and their kids—Chip, Trixie, and the twins, Dot and Ditto. In 1954 Hi and Lois got their own strip, where their kids had plenty of room to shine; but they still occasionally visited Beetle, and Beetle occasionally visited them. In my mind, if your name is “Ditto,” you’re a chubby blond eight-year-old boy with nice parents, a lazy lowly GI uncle,  and a big dog (“Dawg”), and you have something to do with lazy soldiers.

For Aeneas, the murals adorning the walls of the temple of Juno in Carthage evoke tears for the destruction of Troy. For me, the name Ditto evokes neither wonder nor admiration—a queen named Ditto can’t be powerful or beautiful. Someone named Ditto lies prone on the Sunday carpet, coloring book in hand, shaggy dog nearby, and is visited by an uncle in sloppy fatigues.

For someone who wasn’t a devotée of the funny papers, “ditto” is the double dot, or an uncurly quotation mark, meaning “same as above.” And that’s not a very good name for a queen, either.

Blame student laziness (à la Beetle Bailey!) or AutoCorrect if you will, but this howler made its way onto my desk in a paper the student hoped would impress me. Impress me it did. I’ll never be able to think of Queen Dido without seeing those dots, and that little blond kid—dots over her head maybe, kid in her arms next to Aeneas’ boy Iulus.

Farewell, O tragic queen.


“‘Waiting for Lefty’ stirs up more and more anger at the big corruptions that are destroying the average American’s life.”

Waiting for Lefty, Clifford Odets’ first play to be produced (by the Group Theater in 1935), is a political and social statement supporting the workers’ struggle against “fat cat” corporate power and class and ethnic prejudice. In the right hands, it’s still a powerful piece.

Students in my Introduction to the Theater were required to attend a live play of their choice and write a review that described and assessed both the play and the production.

What we have here is a sentence from an otherwise-fine student review. Whether we should chalk up “big corruptions” to Autocorrect or Freud I cannot say. Perhaps my student just can’t tell the difference between corporations and corruption.

Hmmm.…


“The city of New Heaven has plans for development.”

Has my student had an apocalyptic vision? A revelation? Has she, like John, seen “a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea” (Revelation 21:1, KJV)?

Has the End Time already come, and the New Heaven is being expanded to accommodate more, or more demanding, angels? Or is it being renovated? modernized?

Perhaps the city of New Heaven is here in Connecticut, along with Bethel, Bethlehem, Canaan, Goshen, Hebron, New Canaan, Salem, Sharon, our biblically-named towns—thanks to the settlers who thought they might be establishing a heaven on earth (or a reasonable facsimile).

Well, of course it’s in Connecticut. But Heaven, original or new, it ain’t: it’s only good old New Haven.

“Heaven” and “haven” look a lot alike but are not etymologically close. “Haven” means “harbor, a place of safety.” It’s from the middle English, claims Webster, and linked to Middle High German. But Webster’s says that “haven” has its earlier roots in the Old English word ˆhebben,”  “to lift” or “to heave,” although “havana” seems to be Spanish for “harbor” or “port,” and one must ask how the Spanish would have been borrowing from the Old English wordstock…Hmm. Turning to the Online Etymological Dictionary, on the other hand, we read that “haven” is descended from the Old English “haefen,” in its turn linked with a Germanic root meaning “have” or “hold.” Certainly more romantic than “heave,” but still not divine.

Be that as it may.

Webster’s also traces “heaven” to Old English, this time to “heofon,” thus Middle English “heven,” and links it with the Old High German “himil” (modern German writes “Himmel”). That latter doesn’t sound all that much like “heaven,” but again, be that as it may.

But the two words seem as if they should be close relatives. After all, “heaven” is a blissful and safe place up in the sky (they say), and a “haven” is a sweet and safe place where sea meets land—or just any sweet and safe place, protected from the pursuing foe.

Still, when our Puritan forebears named the city of New Haven, holy though their thoughts may have been generally, they were thinking at that moment of harbors, not spiritual destinations.

And my student wasn’t writing about the afterlife, either; she was merely discussing a property dispute in a coastal city.

We’re just looking at an uncorrected typo (this example does not precede Spellcheck, but it does precede Autocorrect). But in the same batch of essays I got one that mentioned turning to our elected officials for assistance in resolving such disputes, and that student mentioned specifically Senator Christopher Dodd. But he didn’t call him “Senator Christopher Dodd”; he called him “Christ Dodd.” Another slip of the typing finger, or are we looking at a whole freshman writing class living on earth but contemplating a dwellingplace above? (The possibility that that student thinks Congress is populated by messiahs, or has divine powers, I really, really don’t want to contemplate!)

Was I dealing with students whose minds were so fully fixed on higher things that instead of Freudian slips they were having Christian slips?

Or perhaps these students actually had wanted to get into Yale but had had to settle for a more terrestrial, albeit also a more church-related, school. In that case, could they think of New Haven as an academic heaven that was closed to them?

Naaah. New Heaven, Christ Dodd—really, really, just typos. But manna for a reader’s mind wandering in the wilderness of freshman prose.


“There are women who would shutter at the sight of the most harmless insect.”

This student’s error amazed me: I thought “shudder” was a word most people learned in childhood, whereas “shutter” was a later acquisition, once the architectural and decorative features of domiciles began to be interesting. First came “The Boy Who Learned to Shudder,” one of the tales collected by the Brothers Grimm—and one that even today retains its original creepy features, which are real temptations for adult interpretation too. As a child I thought that story was both scary and hilarious, and I loved the word at first sight (or hearing). It’s very nearly onomatopoetic—or whatever the term might be that describes a word that feels like what it means. SHhhh-ud-d-d-d-rrrrr. Today kids don’t even have to read, or have read to them, the Grimms’ fairy tales; in 2004 a musical version of the story was written just for them, and they might get a chance to see that.

Even if the cottages in the fairy tales had shutters (and I really have no reason to think they didn’t), I don’t recall looking at a picture in a storybook, or even looking at a neighbor’s house, and wondering what those things on the sides of the windows were called. The first time I remember being told they were “shutters,” I was old enough to guess they were called that because they “shut” the windows, or shut out the light, or something. I’m not sure that I ever associated “shudder” with “shutter.” Why should I? My mother was a graduate of Newark Normal School and had the precise diction demanded of teachers back then. (She even had a small silver record made as part of one of her classes, reciting a passage from Alice in Wonderland in a crisp young voice…)

But my student evidently had never seen “shudder” written down, and had never heard a speaker precise enough to distinguish between “shuTTer” and “shuDDer.” I suppose this means he had spoken primarily with ordinary Americans, for whom in speech a central dd sounds mighty like a central tt.

He was writing against allowing women into combat units in the military. I stopped assigning this topic long before it ceased to be an issue, because I simply couldn’t bear to read some of the opinions expressed; rather than comment on the quality of their arguments, I simply wanted to strangle somebody when I read that women wouldn’t be good fighters because if they broke a nail they would cry or run away and look for a nail file, for instance. Or got upset by “horrible things.” And women can’t stand the sight of blood. (Oh no?)

This gem of a student escaped only narrowly with his life. Women, he argued, would not be effective in combat because they’re not merely afraid of guns, the enemy, noise, and of course blood: they’re afraid of BUGS, for heaven’s sake, and everybody knows that battlefields are full of bugs. These timorous entomophobes might be brave enough indoors, but let them out among the ants, butterflies, and beetles and they’ll fall apart. Or at least they’ll shudder. And it’s hard to aim a weapon and pull the trigger when you’re having a shuddering fit.

Pretty convincing argument, don’t you think?

In his sentence, though, the women don’t even want to leave the barracks. They see a “most harmless insect” and immediately SHUTTER! Close those window-covers, Girls, and keep the ladybugs out! (He doesn’t go on to specify how they would respond to a harmful insect; goes without saying, I imagine.)

Now, he doesn’t claim that all women have this reaction, but simply that “there are” women who do. Somewhere out there, there they are. And presumably we can’t tell ahead of time which ones are which kind. Best to keep them all out (just as they would do with insects).

Well, Summer has begun, both on and off the battlefield. Enjoy the great outdoors. But if you want to get any sleep at night, remember to shutter. Mosquitoes aren’t harmless, and even a cabbage moth can be pretty scary if it flies against your face in the dark. They might even make you shudder.