March 21, 2018
"It is worse than a crime: it is a mistake"
A couple of Saturdays ago, I saw a promo on MeTV for Gunsmoke. Now, there's generally nothing wrong with that (other than these promos usually aren't nearly as clever as those responsible for them think they are), but in this case - well, I'l give it to you straight. This is a screenshot of the commercial's theme:
Does anyone besides me see what's wrong with this?
Now, it is true that the term Ms. has been around since the 17th century, but it wasn't seriously offered as an alternative to "Mrs." or "Miss" until 1901, after which it disappeared from the public eye, making brief reappearances from time to time, until it finally started to gain cache in 1969. Considering Gunsmoke takes place in the 1870's, I think we can consider it highly unlikely, if not impossible, that anyone ever referred to Kitty as "Ms."
Even if Ms. had been in use in the 1870s, I rather doubt Kitty would have used it. Women generally use Ms. for one of two reasons: 1) they don't want to tell people their marital status, or 2) they don't think their marital status is any of your business. As for 1), Kitty didn't seem to do anything to hide the fact that she was unmarried; for 2), she always answered to "Miss Kitty," which makes me think she didn't much care if you knew about it or not.
All right, all that was a little facetious. But the point remains: not only was this a historical anachronism, it comes off as either a sop to political correctness, or just plain stupid. No matter how I look at it, I can't come up with it being funny, mostly because they don't attempt to draw the proper amount of attention to it in order for anyone to get the joke. Ha ha.
The quote that makes up the title of this piece is attributed to Talleyrand - C'est pire qu'un crime, c'est une faute; in fact, it was probably said either by de la Meurthe or Fouché. There's another quote, also mistakenly credited to Talleyrand: "They have learned nothing, and forgotten nothing." Let's hope that the next time MeTV tries to be too clever by half, they don't forget this, and learn never to try it again. Otherwise, we'll have to sic Marshal Dillon on them, and they wouldn't want that.