Whilst in my cups the other evening, I let my mind wander and lo, I did notice some peculiar things. For example, why, in the old days, were people so polite? While watching old movies or reading books featuring characters from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, I noted that everyone was so self-deprecating. There was a lot of ‘Your servant, sir.” and “By your leave, and “May I inquire?” Are we less kind than our ancestors? Less polite? Less civilized?
I THINK NOT!
Why? Because the reason people were kinder and more polite back then was because if you accidently ticked someone off, they could challenge you to a duel. What’s more, you’d be honor-bound to accept. At the end, one of you would be dead.
Seriously, the more history I read the more I’m convinced the world is packed with psychopathic lunatics. Imagine you’re living in the early nineteenth century, having a good time hanging out with your buddies, eating pizza and drinking tall boys when mid way through the conversation, a certain associate named Chauncey is mentioned. Well, you don’t like Chauncey so, without thinking, you blurt out, “Chauncey is a dick.”
Suddenly everyone pales and their eyes widen because, little do you know, aforementioned Chauncey is standing right behind you.
“Odds Bodkins!” says one buddy.
“Zoot Allures,” says Frenchy.
Your other buddy cocks an eyebrow, then says, “What’s a dick?”
Meanwhile Chauncey is overcome with rage. He hurrrmps a few times as he removes his white glove, slaps you across the face with it and says, “I am deeply insulted and must have satisfaction. I hereby challenge you to a duel!”
To which you replay, “Awww, crap!” Because now, for simply expressing the fact that you’re not particularly fond of Chauncey, you must either murder him or be murdered by him.
Seriously, if I had to kill everyone who’s ever called me a dick, I’d have bodies piled to the ceiling.
Here are some fun facts about dueling:
Between 1798 and the Civil War the U.S. Navy lost more officers to dueling than battles at sea.
Both Abraham Lincoln and Mark Twain participated in duels, (and no, not with each other) fortunately, their seconds (people honor-bound to take their place should the original guy get stuck in traffic) managed to work out acceptable compromises that got both parties off the hook.
Dueling came into disfavor after the Civil War, probably because everyone capable of participating in one was already dead, missing a major body part, or had seen enough death during the war to last them several lifetimes.
At least that’s what one would think, however dueling regained its popularity by simply morphing into the much beloved gunslinger showdowns of the Wild West.
I have to hand it to our murderous ancestors. They certainly knew how to adapt!
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