Thursday, June 10, 2010

This Day in History

Originally written on November 18, 2009

I used to play an online "This Day in History Challenge" fairly regularly, but now I hardly ever do. For one thing, it's really slow to load. For another thing, they have questions like this (from today's challenge):

Nathaniel Palmer was the first American to sight which continent on this day in 1820?


First of all, who the heck is Nathaniel Palmer? He was a seal hunter, and I guess he discovered stuff and had peninsulas named after him. But more importantly, why are Greenland and Hawaii possible answers to this question? Did the guy who wrote the question think they are continents? Or did he simply think that the people answering the question would be silly enough to think they are? Well, 14% of respondants thought Greenland was a continent, and 6% thought Hawaii was. Considering that there were probably only a dozen people who responded, maybe that's not so bad.

Before I started writing, I figured I'd better do my research and make sure that Greenland and Hawaii didn't become continents without my knowledge. The first Google result for "What are the continents of the world" takes you to a website that tells you this:

"Depending on how you count them, there are anywhere from 4 to 7 continents. The difference of opinion arises because some people consider Europe and Asia to be one continent, some people consider North and South America to be one continent, and a few people even consider Europe, Asia, and Africa to be one huge continent called Eurafrasia."

Eurafrasia? Really? People actually argue that there should be a continent with that name? Thank you for that nugget. I will mercilessly make fun of anyone who tries to argue that. Unless he (or she) is bigger than I am.

My iGoogle page has a "This Day in History" gadget hosted by Today the headline is, "Pope Boniface VIII Issues Unam Sanctam (1302)." Okay, now be honest. How many of you right now are either wondering what Unam Sanctam is or thinking about Unam Sanctam at all? Now, how many of you reacted like I did and thought, "Boniface? Boney-face? Hee hee hee." How could this pope possibly have had any credibility at all? Surely the cardinals would mock him behind his back and pass each other caricatures of him drawn on the backs of their mini-scrolls. I imagine that this pope's feud with "Philip the Fair of France" had nothing to do with taxes, but rather had everything to do with the two of them making fun of each other's names.

Philip: Hey, what's up Boney?
Boniface: I believe I have repeatedly asked you to address me as "Your Grace", Philip the Fair(y).
Philip: I heard that! Boney-face, Boney-face!
Boniface: Philip the Fairy! Philip the Fairy! France's pretty Fairy Philip!

And you can easily imagine how it must have gone from there. Of course Philip would have Jean Quidort issue a refutation to Unam Sanctam just to get back at Boney, and then Boniface would retaliate by excommunicating Philip. Then Philip would call an assembly and accuse Boney of infidelity, heresy, simony, idolatry, magic, loss of the Holy Land, and the death of Celestine V. Then after Boniface looks in his dictionary to see what simony is, he denounces the charges, but it's already too late because five archbishops and twenty-one regular bishops have sided with Philip just so they don't have to listen to any more of Boney's tiresome "Fairy Limericks" and so that Philip would just shut up about not really being a fairy.

Nothing else funny has happened on November 18th, so I guess I'll just stop writing. Right. Now.


Adhis said...

So, which continent did Nathaniel Palmer see in 1820?

Was he wearing a parka? Was it a breezy sailing shirt?

I'll guess "parka."

Rob said...

It was Antarctica, and I'm guessing it was a coat made from the skins of baby seals.