Red Hat: Wag the Tail

My sister Red at Momma’s Money Matters comes to me today to share her discontent over the state of knowledge, especially about her wonderful home state of Louisiana. Red is a font of information, there is little she doesn’t know about her home, the people, food, music and its storied history. I also admit to taking a wee bit of pleasure poking and prodding her the day she wrote this (you will see). I am so glad my poking Red resulted in this marvelous Red Hat!

Red and I are of like minds in this area, we are so ignorant of our history and that ignorance is being spread. I hope you enjoy Red’s take on this particular and singular state of affairs, please do let her know.

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Is my hat on straight? Oh, good. Let’s talk about what is making my tail the same color as my hair. History.

Sure. I should just get over it. It is in the past, and there is nothing I can do to change it, right? Wrong. Bear with me a moment (or seven).

We all want to believe no one would lie to us. We trust people. We care about people and want to believe they would never lead us astray. After all, for all the generations before writing was common, this was the way history was passed from generation to generation.

Knowingly, it is a pretty good bet they would not lie. Unknowingly, on the other foot, if they are regurgitating something they heard from someone they trusted not to lead them astray… And everyone now suddenly has a tin can on a ball of jute stretched over the generations and miles in a twisted game of telephone. No? How about an example from this week?

One of my friends from the blogosphere happens to live on the other side of the planet from me. He was interested in my heritage, and we began a conversation where he was going to dazzle me with his brilliant tidbits he had assembled from his travels and those who he trusted to teach him about the great big world outside Australia.

In our back-and-forth, I led each of my responses with the same word. “No.” Not one stinking thing he “knew” about the Free State of Louisiana was correct. Not from the immigration to the history to the present. Nothing. Zip. Zilch. Nada. Rien. One giant honking goose egg.

Being a curious sort, I asked where he was getting his information. Hold onto your red hats. First, from his mate (That is the Aussie mate, not to confused with Mate, as in Val’s DB.) who has been a lifelong companion and globetrotter. Meh. I chalked mate up to tourist.

Second, his family. Apparently, someone was related to (third removed on the paternal, maternal side) someone who (This part gets kinda fuzzy.) either lived there or knew someone who was formerly married to someone who lived there. Is your tin can ringing yet?

Third, brace yourself… Wikipedia. O to the M to the G, are you effen serious?

Now, I do not claim to be an expert (in everything), but I can tell you with a large degree of certainty even studying things about history from viable sources can lead one astray. History is recorded by the victor, to whom go the spoils, including the bragging rights; however, blatant misuse of facts still in evidence is hardly forgivable.

Zydeco Joe Mouton

Case in point, we discussed zydeco music. He was certain it was played with specialized instruments. Well, I suppose you can call spoons and triangles specialized if you have the band’s initials carved on them.

Then, there was a discussion about Creoles. In the ultra-secret-squirrel discussion where he learned about the “American Negro”, he was proud to announce they immigrated in the 18th century. I cannot begin to tell you all the things wrong in that one sentence without a diatribe of over 2,000 words, so let’s move along. Shall we?

Now, my friend is blameless for everything before he opened his mouth. Except for the part about believing what he hears. And well, the part about not following up with someone else to see if the person who told him knew where Shinola was made. Oh, and the part about telling me the way things were. Then, there is that whole thing of reading it on the Internet. See, completely blameless. It could not possibly be his fault because these people would never lie to him, right? Hold on a moment; my tin can is ringing.

Oh, how could I have forgotten this part? There seems to be a show on television. [Brief pause for a caveat: I do not watch television.] The name of this production is Swamp People. It is a depiction of a breed of people Louisianans call River Rats.

Swamp People, Trapper Joe Tommy

Now, to the genteel this may sound harsh. Frankly, it is. They live in the swampy, marsh regions of the state and in the floodplains. (Look that up somewhere which is not Wikipedia.) They are mostly of Hispanic descent with enough French in the mix to still speak Coonass. They are categorized as Caucasian, but have dark, olive complexions, which tan dark roux during the summer; small, close-set, dark brown or black eyes; black hair; and elongated facial features set in small to average sized heads. In short, many have the appearance of the black rat which arrived in our fair state with the Spaniards.

Wait. What? No. Coonass is not a derogatory term or racial by any means. It refers to the Louisianans who are considered bilingual. I use the term “considered” because the language they speak is a pigeon form of both English and French, the official languages of Louisiana. See what I mean about rumors? Where do these things start? I know how they are perpetuated.

My darling (borrowed) audience, just because it is on television does not mean that it is true. (Adjusts hat to show tag which reads “Official Bubble Burster”.) In fact, what is on television is designed to engage you so you will sit still during the commercial, waiting on the edge of your seat for the program to return, thereby getting the advertiser’s message into your psyche which the show has peeled open.

Good advice is when you are showing off to someone about how much you know about where they grew up or spent the majority of their life, please, for the love of all that is holy, only speak about things you have personally witnessed or heard firsthand, since even these can be misleading. For cripes’ sake, do not ever quote something you see on prime time or syndicated television as fact. You are likely to get a different strain of hoof in mouth disease. Its main symptom is my size six stuck in your mouth.

Selected as perfection for curing foot in mouth

Instead, try reading a book published from your place of interest. Go to the location’s governmental website. View their onsite tourism information. Do not go to a website where anyone with an email address can “improve this article”.

My best advice? Ask questions. Nothing will animate your friend as much as giving up the floor for a rendition of When I was growing up in… There is a reason you have two ears and one mouth. There is an even bigger reason you were not born with a remote control in your hand. These are terrific examples of why.

I need to tip my Red Hat to my sister for pointing out, wait, that is not fair.

Not laughing at her, with her

She bet me Wikipedia would have the information wrong. During her drive home, she laughed at the string of obscenities and outbursts as I attempted to read the drivel-filled fantasy entry which passes for unsupported, unreferenced authority.

To say in the end I was thoroughly gobsmacked by the blatant disregard for facts which are readily available by natives in favor of engaging the Internet public at large (read writers who are in need of “web presence”) would be secondary to my righteous indignation at the utter lack of wherewithal of the administration of this site.

No doubt I am still…Red.

The perfect fit for my sister

Comments

  1. Androgoth says:

    I have enjoyed reading this one Val
    and the comments here are just too
    wicked, you girls are certainly adding
    to the flavour of an already fine post 🙂

    Have a wonderful Friday Val 😉

    Andro xxx

    • Red is always most excellent isn’t she !

      • Yes she is, and so are you 🙂
        Have a very nice rest of evening
        and be good too, or else? 😉 lol

        Andro xxx

      • Androgoth says:

        I am just calling in from our little Loon’s 🙂

        I knew that I had read this one before 🙂
        Of course if the punishment for not reading
        it was to my liking then I might have let you…

        Hey Never Mind What? 🙂 😉 lol Cheeky

        Have a lovely rest of weekend Val 🙂

        Andro xxx

  2. Omygosh,
    I LOVE the photo of you laughing. Brilliant. Xxx

  3. Laughed my flat Irish ass off. Don’t wish to even contemplate your genius’s expert knowledge regarding Napoleonic law still on the books down in Louisiana.
    Damn, guess the Wiki article regarding Canada being the state located north of New York and Washington may be wrong.
    Who knew?

  4. What a truly awesome blog post! And, not only did I laugh, but learned so much, LOL! Thanks for sharing with us. 🙂

  5. WordsFallFromMyEyes says:

    This was enormously interesting, Valentine. First, I didn’t know you & Red were so in touch – it’s just terrific, this blogosphere!! 🙂

    I can’t believe this guy got NOT A THING right, not a THING. Wow.

    I have to admit, though now I will doubt it, I thought Wikipedia was good because it is self-correcting in that if yo find a wrong detail, you correct it – & show your source. Now I won’t be quite as readily believing.

    Excellent write up !

    • Some of Wikipedia can be great, other parts of it is just really bad. I like it quite often and even donate to it because it can be very good and often has very good sources. But, you have to already know what you are looking for and have pretty good fundamental knowledge of the subject matter beforehand.

      Red and I are heart sisters, have swung the mallet in the same direction more often than not, it is a grand place isn’t it. She does an excellent job.

      Val

  6. I would never watch something called Swamp People. Shows like that are why people ask me stupid questions like if I eat road kill.

  7. Wait a minute. Wikipedia can be wrong? Damn.

    • Come on Elyse, people write the tripe!

      • ! I was joking. I guess you can’t always tell.

        • If it is any consolation, I giggled when I saw your comment, even before I got to Val’s. *snort*

        • I know you were 😉

          • The funny thing about Wikipedia is that when I started my current job, I had next to no background in drugs, medicine and my last science class was 9th grade biology. I would shut my door at the beginning of any project to look it up on Wikipedia — to get the basics and the terminology. Then I would go on and be brilliant. But I was embarrassed to have to do it. Everyone I work with is brilliant and the tops in their fields. Especially my boss who is a world leader in the field.

            One day we were working on something and she couldn’t remember something. “Let’s look on Wikipedia,” she said. Of course, SHE added references! Now I use it with the door open!

  8. Valentine, dear Valentine, we do wonder if Australia isn’t sitting in the ocean just outside of Louisiana sometimes too. Maybe Wikipedia can tell us if Sandy moved it closer. What they say about Louisiana itself may not be true, but have no fear, what they say about Arkansas is, must be, has to be true, doesn’t it? that’s Wiki-d isn’t it. The corner office dutifully verifies all facts and fiction, and if in doubt, gets the real scoop from Red. “:)

    • I don’t know Raymond, truly I think Sandy only pushed all the Eastern Seaborne closer together. Red though does know the history of her home state. Problem with Wikipedia? If no one checks and complains of falsehoods it becomes ‘truth’, kinda like what falls from the lips of our politicians.

      Val 😉

    • You see, reading the encyclopedia in third grade really did count for something good. 😉

  9. O to the M to the G I am giggling .. you kill me.. (I’d say I am snorting but that isn;t lady like ..or something – like that ever stopped me) I learned more here than .. well mostly what I know that I am unaware if I hold them as true facts or what is from romance novels and a friend in the Army who was from there,…I mean him I believed,.. oh whatev.. ONe reason I was disillusioned with writing internet content was because at some point I realized that people would pay for what they wanted written fact or not and I wrote countless articles using wikipedia … um just saying …ha ha wow that s a lightbulb moment.. anyways funny about this my dad and I were talking about how our entire knowledge base from what words mean to ,,,types of art and writing – um fiction abstract, impressionism sorry,, it escapes me .the word..
    um that .. those things are going to be or already are so different from the given definition because of interpretation.. misinterpretation …wrong information people saying what is this to someone who thinks they know and no one consults a verifiable source and suddenly enough people believe the false information and ….sounding kinda like ..oh never mind .. but still …. I had no idea what coonass meant and feel enlightened and lightened of some of my grump by the good guffaw .. and giggles.. and mental image of Val egging – i mean not egging on 🙄 Red on to hahahahahahaha …. hey I learned something important on Swamp People (I do not watch tv either but I did have and watch the first season because it was what was on when the other person watched tv.. ) but i forgot what it is at the moment… which might just be for the best 😉

    • Oh Lizzie, I egged and pushed and dared! Giggling under my breath the entire time. Next, just to prove a point? I am going to the half off book store to buy some bodice rippers set in pre-Civil War New Orleans, these will be full of wrongness and I will highlight them using pretty pink and purple colored highlighters, I will send them to Red as a gift, just to get her tail color redder!

      I love a madder than a wet hen Red. Look at the results. 😉

      • Yeah, yeah. I despise bodice rippers in the first place. No one has that mushiness inherently. The settings will just set me off.

        Lizzie, I am glad this one gave you a chuckle 😉 Snorting is perfectly acceptable. My snort for this one was a different sort…IJS

      • hahahahaahhaaa!! I can;t stop laughing -( sorry Red) too funny

  10. As someone who’s originally from North Dakota, I know all about misconceptions (I’ve been asked if there are polar bears there, if there are malls, and if people can go swimming). Perhaps they got this information from Wikipedia? Or reality TV. Neither would surprise me. 🙂

  11. I Know what you mean..but I have to say that sounded a particularly typical specimen of a particularly ignorant Australian macho man of a certain type!!!!
    On the other hand, I feel the same about some of the rot I read about the English! I commented on a blog last week full of ignorant and imaginative ‘history’ about the English…but have not heard back from a presumably irritated blogger!

    I nearly wrote a blog about Ben Affleck’s latest film in which he says the New Zealanders didn’t help the US hostages in Iran, when they had actually played a dangerous role in being standby hiding place for them, and helped keep them safe. When he was queried, he said, yes he knew it was unfair, but it made the story stronger….So history is constantly distorted.

    When we were entertaining a US ambassador a few years ago – a republican nominee – he was amazed to discover that Roosevelt and Stalin had ganged up on Churchill at Yalta, and that Roosevelt had tried to organise meetings behind Churchill’s back. He had no idea that it was partly due to Roosevelt not backing up Churchill then, that Stalin got his iron grip on Eastern Europe resulting in the Iron Curtain… It taught me that we all tend only to know our own history, but not that of other people.

    • Ah ignorance is rampant, but then it is being paid for or is it free?

      I think some of us enjoy ignorance far more than knowledge. It was part of my discussion with Red actually. That part of our new agreed knowledge comes from bodice rippers rather than actual history books.

  12. And you were absolutely laughing at me. *grins*

  13. OneHotMess says:

    I loved this!! What a hoot! I am from Montana and you can bet there are some misconceptions about people from there, too.

    • I suspect there are misconceptions about all of our states (except Texas right now most of what they say about us are true). But I must say, what Red read in Wikipedia was pretty bad, she was shaking through the phone line and I was indeed laughing. I really shouldn’t have been so mean as to egged her on to read it.

    • I would bet a dollar to a doughnut that is true. Glad you liked it!

Trackbacks

  1. […] Absolutely. Research the settings or people in your story so as not to offend your reader. Never had a teenage girl? Read about them. Didn’t live in the 18th century? Crack a book. Missed the European train tour? Google (responsibly). […]

  2. […] Italian, Yiddish, Japanese and German are excruciatingly limited, my English, French, Latin, Coonass and Greek are not. Brenda’s, on the other hand, are something else entirely. Hatemailing from […]

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