Harper's New Monthly Magazine,  7 (1883–84), 651–56.

Editor's Drawer



Regular Feature—Anecdote, Drollery


Astronomy, Fear, Nomenclature, Ethnology, Race, Exploration, Measurement

    After observing that 'Big words pass for sense with some people, and sometimes may be very successfully employed when nothing else will answer', relates how a 'man, in great alarm, ran to his minister to tell him he could see spots on the sun, and thought the world must be coming to an end'. The minister tells his terrified parishioner 'Oh, don't be afraid [...] it is nothing but a phantasmagoria', and the uncomprehending man replies 'Is that all?' and goes 'away relieved' (653). Also records an 'ethnological conversation' between 'Uncle Jim [...] a retired sea-captain, sealer and whaler' who has made 'thirty or forty voyages' to Patagonia, and 'one of the Yale professors, who devoted himself to ethnological studies' and 'was much interested in the Patagonians, and very much desired information as to the alleged gigantic structure of the race'. Uncle Jim, however, tells the professor that once 'when the mate and I were ashore down there, I called up a lot of the Patagonians, and the mate and I measured about five hundred of them, and every one of 'em measured five feet nine inches and a half; no more, no less. Every man, woman, and child measured five feet nine inches and a half—that's their exact height'. When the disappointed professor asks, 'Mightn't the former race have been giants?', Uncle Jim insists that it is 'impossible' because on another visit to the region he had 'dug up two hundred and seventy-five old Patagonians, and measured 'em. They all measured exactly five feet nine inches and a half; no difference in 'em—[...]. Five feet nine inches and a half is the natural height of a Patagonian. They've always been just that'. (656)

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