Child Protective Services, 1877 edition

About 10 o’clock last night Officer Andrew Brown saw a middle-aged colored man near Sixth and Morgan streets, with a suspicious looking bundle in his arms. The officer hailed him and wanted to know what the bundle contained. The colored man told the officer that it was a baby, but not giving further satisfactory answers, was taken to the Third District Station, where the man was more communicative to Sergt. Sam. Body, who was in charge of the office. The colored man said the baby, which was in the neighborhood of a week old, was given to him by Dr. Jocelyn, corner of Sixth and Olive streets, with instructions to take it to St. Ann’s Orphan Asylum, corning of Tenth and O‘Fallon streets, and leave it there. The colored man said the mother of the baby and the Doctor’s wife were both sick at the Doctor’s house, and the crying of the baby disturbed them, and that was the reason he was sent to the Orphan Asylum with it. The colored man had no written message to the Sisters, and it being against the rules of that institution to receive infants after night, unless brought by an officer, Sergeant Boyd told the colored man to take it back where he got it from, and to tell the Doctor to attend to the matter in the daytime. He also sent an officer along with the negro to see that it was safely delivered.

The negro said he had worked for Dr. Jocelyn four or five years, off and on, and this was the first time he had ever been sent on such an errand. Source: St. Louis Globe-Democrat April 30, 1877

No point to this other than WTF?

On a different note, I noticed that Word Perfect’s spell checker flags “negro.”  Oh, come on.  I’m not one to ordinarily complain about political correctness, but really?

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21 thoughts on “Child Protective Services, 1877 edition

  1. Word Perfect’s spell checker flags “negro.” …I’m not one to ordinarily complain about political correctness

    Is it “PC”, or is that word now so archaic that even racists don’t usually use it anymore?

    If the word has fallen so far from contemporary useage that assuming a possible typo is a reasonable inference, I can see that being the reason to flag it, rather than PC concerns about offensiveness…what replacement alternatives did the program suggest? If it was something like “negate”, then that might tell us that “negro” is just so uncommonly-used now, that flagging it as a possible typo makes sense.

    If the program suggested “African-American” or “black”, then that’s a different story, though one I don’t necessarily have a problem with (if I was unknowingly using offensive language, I might want my spellchecker to tell me, before I embarrassed myself).

    If I type the word into Google, it lists the word as both “dated” (explanation 1) and “offensive” (explanation 2); and the Ngram useage over time indicates that it’s used far less now in the 21st century than almost anytime in the 20th.


  2. “Word Perfect” or “WordPress,” and why shouldn’t whichever remind the writer, who may very well be speaking English, and to Americans, as a second or twelfth language, that using the word “negro” may create… static?

    (And, while we’re asking questions, why don’t you answer my emails and why is your avatar still the mystery ordinary gentleperson?)


    • Word Perfect: I’m old school. You can have my Reveal Codes when you pry it from my cold, dead hand.

      Because this is not a spelling issue. If they want to put in a problematic usage function, which I can turn on or turn off as I see fit, that would be fine. When they start bundling other stuff into the spell check and don’t let me turn that other stuff off, the utility of the spell check function is reduced.

      I tried to turn on the avatar, but clearly was unsuccessful. The follow-ups have gone into the “respond to once I either figure this out or give up” category, which can be a black hole. Sorry about that. I’ll give it another shot. (Oh, and Addie Joss? Completely the wrong period for me. He’s one of those young fellers.)


      • Word Perfect: I’m old school. You can have my Reveal Codes when you pry it from my cold, dead hand.

        When I worked for the state legislature, I had to learn Word Perfect because the whole bill drafting/tracking system assumed it (and no, the General Assembly was no more interested in spending money to keep their own mission-critical software system up to date than they were any other of the state’s mission-critical software). Some of the documents I inherited had been reformated over and over, for several years, by multiple analysts. I spent part of one summer inter-session removing cruft. I admit to some curiosity about what an MS Word document might look like if it had Reveal Codes. I suppose I could find out in newer versions, where the whole thing is XML underneath.


        • When we get paper interrogatories I scan and OCR them. As anyone who has done this knows, the results are disappointing, particularly with regard to formatting. I finally figured out that the way to do it is to paste the resulting crappily formatted text into Notepad, and from there into Word Perfect. Yes, you strip out all the good formatting doing this, but you strip out all the bad, and the bad is very very bad, making this a net win.


  3. Frankly, this story ended a lot better than I thought it would. (and better than it might have ended in St Louis of the present era)


  4. Interesting. If someone were to unthinkingly use “negro”, as opposed to quoting something that used it, it would definitely seem a bit off to me. The reason being that it denotes a concept that is kind of a granfaloon, as Kurt Vonnegut would put it. It puts things together that had no real reason to be put together.

    But yeah, it seems a bit weird to put it into spell check. But then, nothing useful ever remains pure.


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