Why Anglophones?

Sasah Volokh has an amusing post at the Volokh Conspiracy. He points out that speakers of English are called Anglophones based on the early settlement of parts of England by the Germanic tribe called Angles. The Angles formed several kingdoms in what is now England, but the Jutes also formed a kingdom, and the Saxons formed kingdoms as well: Essex (East Saxony), Wessex (West Saxony), and Sussex (South Saxony).

When the Danes invaded England, they conquered all the kingdoms except Wessex. Thus, only a Saxon kingdom remained.

Why then, Sasha Volokh asks, aren’t we called–Saxophones?

Standing Up For Principle When it Could Cost You Your Life

I don’t know if I could do what Roddie Edmonds did. I hope so, but I don’t think any of us can be sure until we are in the clinch. Roddie Edmonds was in the clinch, and he measured up.

The native of Knoxville, Tenn., was captured in the Battle of the Bulge in late 1944 and held at German POW camp Staleg IXA, according to Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum. When the Nazis ordered all Jewish-American POWs to step forward on Jan. 27, 1945, Edmonds — the highest-ranking noncommissioned officer at the camp — ordered 1,000 U.S. soldiers to do so, regardless of their religion, per the AP. “They cannot all be Jews,” a German commander said, per Yad Vashem.

“We are all Jews here,” Edmonds replied, adding soldiers didn’t need to divulge their religion under the Geneva Conventions. The commander then put a gun to Edmonds’s head.

He said, “‘I’ll give you one more chance. Have the Jewish men step forward or I will shoot you on the spot.'” [Edmonds paused] and said, ‘If you shoot, you’ll have to shoot us all.'”

The Nazi commander did not shoot, and many American Jews survived. Edmonds deserves every medal they give him.

Did Dogs Help Humans Outcompete Neanderthals?

Humans entered a Europe after Neanderthals were already well established. Why did Neanderthals vanish. Given human nature, it’s hard for me to believe there wasn’t a fair amount of conflict between the two groups, but you needn’t assume humans wiped Neanderthals out.   National Geographic offers an alternative explanation consistent with known facts,

Unlike Neanderthals, humans had spears and bows and arrows, weapons that could kill from a distance. And also unlike Neanderthals, humans had dogs, or at least something between wolves and what we think of today as dogs. These wolf-dogs, as the article refers to them, helped humans hunt successfully. As the Ice Age intensified, an edge in hunting gave humans an edge in survival.

Who Knew Disney Didn’t Tell the Whole Truth About Johnny Appleseed?

John Chapman, known to American children as Johnny Appleseed, really did exist and really did plant many acres of apple trees in what was then the frontier.  But that’s not the whole story:

Starting in 1792, the Ohio Company of Associates made a deal with potential settlers: anyone willing to form a permanent homestead on the wilderness beyond Ohio’s first permanent settlement would be granted 100 acres of land. To prove their homesteads to be permanent, settlers were required to plant 50 apple trees and 20 peach trees in three years, since an average apple tree took roughly ten years to bear fruit. 

Ever the savvy businessman, Chapman realized that if he could do the difficult work of planting these orchards, he could turn them around for profit to incoming frontiersmen. Wandering from Pennsylvania to Illinois, Chapman would advance just ahead of settlers, cultivating orchards that he would sell them when they arrived, and then head to more undeveloped land. 

Disney didn’t tell me Johnny Appleseed was a real estate speculator.  And there’s something else Disney didn’t tell me.  The apples weren’t for eating.  They were far too bitter.

It wasn’t that Chapman—or the frontier settlers—didn’t have the knowledge necessary for grafting, but like New Englanders, they found that their effort was better spent planting apples for drinking, not for eating. Apple cider provided those on the frontier with a safe, stable source of drink, and in a time and place where water could be full of dangerous bacteria, cider could be imbibed without worry. Cider was a huge part of frontier life, which Howard Means, author of Johnny Appleseed: The Man, the Myth, the American Story, describes as being lived “through an alcoholic haze.” Transplanted New Englanders on the frontier drank a reported 10.52 ounces of hard cider per day (for comparison, the average American today drinks 20 ounces of water a day). “Hard cider,” Means writes, “was as much a part of the dining table as meat or bread.”

Maybe it’s just as well that Disney left some things for kids to learn after they grew up.

Columbus Day

Christopher Columbus has fallen out of fashion.  He’s a convenient person to blame for the downfall of American Indians.  In fact, Columbus’s treatment of Indians was terrible by our standards, but he was no worse than other Europeans of his time.  By the standards that time, what he did was to be expected.

Columbus certainly bears responsibility for his own actions, but it is unfair to hang on him culpability for everything thereafter done by Europeans in the Americas.  If Columbus and all of his ships had been lost at sea, sooner or later, some other European would have come across, and the end result for the American Indians would have been much the same.  What happened to American Indians was an unspeakable tragedy.  But it’s essentially the same thing that’s happened every time a less advanced technologically society has come in contact with a more technologically advanced one.

Before Europeans, American Indians did not live in a state of harmony and bliss.  The strong still dominated the weak.  For other examples, see what the Aztecs and Incas did to their neighbors.  The Comanche and Kiowa dominated the southern plains, as the Sioux and Cheyenne did the northern ones.

Certainly, we must recognize the atrocities committed by Europeans, but I would hope that, while we do so, we do not lose sight of the traditional narrative.  That narrative also contains truth.  People deride use of the word discovery in connection with Columbus, saying the Americas had already been found by those living here.  True enough, but the discovery was real from the perspective of Europeans.  The rest of the world did not know about the Americas.  If the Incas had sent boats across to Africa and back, they would have reported that they had “discovered” Africa, despite the people already living there.

So, here’s the traditional Columbus Day poem:

In fourteen hundred ninety-two
Columbus sailed the ocean blue.

He had three ships and left from Spain;
He sailed through sunshine, wind and rain.

He sailed by night; he sailed by day;
He used the stars to find his way.

A compass also helped him know
How to find the way to go.

Ninety sailors were on board;
Some men worked while others snored.

Then the workers went to sleep;
And others watched the ocean deep.

Day after day they looked for land;
They dreamed of trees and rocks and sand.

October 12 their dream came true,
You never saw a happier crew!

“Indians! Indians!” Columbus cried;
His heart was filled with joyful pride.

But “India” the land was not;
It was the Bahamas, and it was hot.

The Arakawa natives were very nice;
They gave the sailors food and spice.

Columbus sailed on to find some gold
To bring back home, as he’d been told.

He made the trip again and again,
Trading gold to bring to Spain.

The first American? No, not quite.
But Columbus was brave, and he was bright.

A Merciful Act with Horrific Consequences

British Army Private Henry Tandy of Wawickshire, UK, was much decorated in World War I, and deservedly so.  His service was remarkable.  But what haunted him later in his life was his spontaneous act of humanity on September 28, 1918:

“As the ferocious battle wound down and enemy troops surrendered or retreated a wounded German soldier limped out of the maelstrom and into Private Tandey’s line of fire, the battle weary man never raised his rifle and just stared at Tandey resigned to the inevitable.  ‘I took aim but couldn’t shoot a wounded man,’ said Tandey, ‘so I let him go.'”

That German soldier was Adolph Hitler.

Hat tip to Instapundit.