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May 28, 2024 33 mins

If you're like most people, the phrase "Wild West" conjures images of brutal gunfights in dusty, tumbleweed-ridden streets, visions of criminals slinking into the shadows of dimly-lit saloons and the vast stretch of lawless, unforgiving frontier. But how much of that image is actually true? Join Ben and Noel as they delve into the myth of the American frontier to discover how wild -- or mild -- it actually was in this week's Classic episode.

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Speaker 1 (00:00):
It's high new.

Speaker 2 (00:02):
There we go.

Speaker 1 (00:03):
Yes, you killed with the whistle. There's a tumbleweed drifting.
You know, there's a there's an old an old guy
sitting on a porch in his name is Jimson Weed
or something like that, a big old rifle rested against
his rock and share it's high noon. Obviously you can

(00:24):
tell from that wonderful and neo morcone there, which means
he must automatically be a gunfight, right because it's the
wild West?

Speaker 2 (00:33):
Not really apparently. Yeah, a lot less than one might think.
If you're like most people, the phrase the wild West
gives you those images that you are just describing ben
gun fights, tumbleweeds rolling down the streets. You know, criminals
are going for the big bank heist, et cetera. You know,
bad guys and black hats, good guys and white ones.

(00:56):
Saloon doors swinging, you know, with a you trigger fingers
just ready to draw on your enemy. Yeah.

Speaker 1 (01:06):
It turns out that although we in the United States
make a huge, huge deal out of the Wild West,
it was actually a pretty short stretch of time and
way more chilled than the movies make it.

Speaker 2 (01:23):
See exactly. I don't know what maybe we could keep
this intro a little short because this one really you
just got to kind of hear it to believe it.
So what do you say? We jump right in to
the wild West? Was actually pretty chill.

Speaker 1 (01:40):
Ridiculous History is a production of iHeartRadio. Let's start today's

(02:08):
episode by immediately traveling back in time and with a
fantastic SOUNDQ. There we go. That sets the mood. I'm ben, hey, doggy,
I'm knowing I'm gonna kill you.

Speaker 3 (02:26):
Are you gonna kill you dead, rob your corpse and
kill your sister?

Speaker 1 (02:31):
Are you gonna do that voice the whole time?

Speaker 3 (02:35):
Yeah? And I really like this Anyo Moricone track you
got playing because we have to refer to the track
for fair use privileges.

Speaker 1 (02:44):
That's true, Anyo Morcone one of the favorite instrumentalist composers
of both Noel, myself and our super producer Casey Pegram.
So yes, here we are in the wild West. Noel,
you were very character I just received a death threat.

Speaker 2 (03:02):
Yep, that was that was That wasn't me. That was
my long lost golden panhandling cousin Jed.

Speaker 1 (03:10):
Uh yeah, Jed throw tuttle brown right.

Speaker 2 (03:13):
Actually that doesn't even work. I said my name in
the voice jig is up, but no. The thing about
the Morricone is that storied tune soundtracks of many a
Western spaghetti western has seen through the eyes of Italian cinema.
That really helped kind of paint a picture of the

(03:34):
wild West as this lawless time where someday it just
as soon shoots you TwixT the eyes is look at you.

Speaker 1 (03:42):
Right, Yes, a time on the edge of the frontier
where in the closest thing to the law might be
a single sheriff and roving bands of wild criminals hold
entire regions under their sway or not right, because it
turns out, friends and neighbors, ladies and gentlemen, that the

(04:06):
wild West was actually much more chill than fiction, film
and novels and even older documentaries would have us believe.
If you think about the wild West today and you're
just casually remembering stuff, you might think of movies like Tombstone.
You might think of The Man with No Name or

(04:28):
something like that.

Speaker 2 (04:29):
Or Wild Bunch back in Pod Good, the Bad, and
the Ugly Once upon a Time in America, any of
these kind of portrayals. It's rife. It's a very rich
landscape and potential for some real interesting characters and action
to sell a story. But as it turns out, the

(04:49):
rumors have been, you know, largely exaggerated.

Speaker 1 (04:53):
Yeah. One of the first rumors this, this is something
I had learned about a little while ago. One of
the first rumors concern the length of time that we
would refer to as the Wild West, because for a
lot of people, there's an assumption that if there are
so many stories about this, both completely fictional stories and
completely true stories, if there's such a wealth of lore,

(05:16):
then surely this went on for a long long time. However,
what we've learned is that it was not a very
long span of time at all. It was probably what
thirty years on the outside, if we're counting bookends and stuff.

Speaker 2 (05:31):
Yeah, that sounds about right. I found a piece in
The Independent Review, a journal of political economy, written by
Thomas J. Di Lorenzo, who refers to two schools of
thought when it comes to looking at the Wild West.
One is considered the frontier was violent with dashes in between.

(05:52):
This is a thing that was established by historian Roger McGrath.
And then there was the other position that the frontier
was not so violent. But Bruce Benson, who did a
thorough review of this idea that the West was violent.
He kind of discovered that a lot of historians just
assume that violence was pervasive, even more so than today.

(06:13):
And then you know, theorize about what the likely causes
of this were.

Speaker 1 (06:18):
What's that called ben confirmation biased. They were looking for
something that proved their pre existing opinion. That's the one
and it is absolutely true. And I think this is
bonkers for a lot of people. If we were being
super generous with the time period, we would refer to,
let's say maybe eighteen fifties, late eighteen fifties to nineteen hundred.

(06:41):
It's what most historians would include on what's called the
frontier period. There's a great article via the fee Foundation
for Economic Education wherein author Larry Schweickart examines the non
existent Frontier bank robbery. You know, that's one of the
big stories of Westerns, right there's the great train robbery,

(07:04):
the great bank heist, rolling into town for all of
the gold. The problem is this almost never happened. If
we look at actual bank robberies in this time period,
they seem to be myths. Over roughly forty years across
fifteen states. This author and soon as co authors identified

(07:28):
three to four definite ones, and then in later correspondence
to try to clarify the record, they found two or
three others that were pointed out, and still the records clear.
Larry Schweickardt is arguing there are more bank robberies in
modern day Dayton, Ohio in one year than there were

(07:50):
in the entire Old West in a decade.

Speaker 2 (07:53):
Yeah, not to mention that during that fifteen year period
in the late eighteen eighties, there were typically only an
average about three murders a year in towns that were
established in the Frontier like Abilene. Dodge City is a
famous one. You think about having quick draw matches in
the street. Sure, not really a thing. You see those
re enacted. There's really no historical precedent for that. Or

(08:16):
cities like Caldwell and Ellsworth and Wichita, and those were
all in Kansas and had railroad stops, which is another
thing that gets kind of a bad wrap. These railroad
stop cities were hubs of scum and villainy.

Speaker 1 (08:31):
Right, yes, yes, And the Frontier was the place where
someone who had done some dirty deeds dirt cheap just
to follow up the reference in the East would travel
to start again, right, But these not only were these
murders very rare, and these bank heists relatively rare, it
turns out that few people had guns it like at all,

(08:56):
you know, and like Dodge City, which Noel just mentioned,
canmpletely banned the carrying of firearms, which doesn't really jibe
with the pro gun stance depicted in so many films.

Speaker 2 (09:08):
Oh, not only that it was used by firearm manufacturers
as this kind of selling this image of the gun
totin root and tutin outlaw or lawman or a cowboy
or what have you. I found an article in the
journal Western Historical Quarterly called Quantifying the Wild West the
Problematic Statistics of Frontier Violence, written by Robert R. Disktruck,

(09:33):
and it starts out with a quote from Cormack McCarthy
from No Country for Old Men. Fabulous writer, fabulous book,
excellent film if you haven't seen it. But the quote
goes like this, some of the old time sheriffs wouldn't
even carry a firearm. A lot of folks find that
hard to believe, but it's a fact. And as it
turns out, it is a fact.

Speaker 1 (09:54):
Right, And we're not arguing that there were no barrooms
and fisticuffs that would be you know, that's going to
be common wherever you find large amounts of alcohol, and
statistically speaking, unattached young males, dudes without family or family structure, children,

(10:18):
or those kind of responsibilities will tend to as a
community have higher rates of those sorts of conflicts. But
they're not out shooting each other every day.

Speaker 2 (10:28):
Willy nilly, No, it's in fact, Alenita Mullins kind of
referred to these as pockets of violence. A lot of
times they were in gold mining towns like the town
depicted in the HBO show dead Wood. You have folks
that were coming there in droves because gold was found
prospectors and there was a need to protect your claim

(10:53):
from so called claim jumpers. And then of course you
introduced alcohol and gambling. Of course there are going to
be some fisticus. But here here's the interesting part. It
turns out that a lot of this stuff kind of
took care of itself through various independently organized law enforcement
agencies or groups. So with gold mining, for example, starting

(11:16):
around eighteen forty eight, the miners kind of agreed with
each other to have covenants and compacts to keep them
from getting into situations like this. So you know, there
was no government authority in these territories in California, apart
from the occasional military outpost. But the miners actually came

(11:37):
to some pretty good terms and as long as they
abided by the rules, they were able to defend their
rights under these community compacts.

Speaker 1 (11:47):
The individuals that would be representative of this were known
as enforcement specialists, justices of the peace folks who would
arbitrate disputes right and they developed their own pretty robust
code of property and criminal law, and this worked quite well.
There was relatively little violence and theft. The contractual system

(12:09):
effectively generated the experts argue cooperation rather than conflict, and
when conflict arose, it was effectively quelled through nonviolent means
most of the time.

Speaker 2 (12:21):
It's right. This comes from that article in the Independent Review,
the Culture of Violence in the American West, Myth versus Reality.
It goes on to talk about this kind of thinking
extended to things like wagon trains, where the settlers actually
kind of had these caravans that actually got them to
where they were going, and protections of those and things

(12:42):
like cattle rustling.

Speaker 1 (12:44):
Yeah, when government bureaucrats failed to effectively control cattle rustling,
the ranchers themselves established these cattlemen's associations. They hired private
protection agencies, They even wrote their own constantutions. And some
of these gunslingers, you know, did have sketchy past had

(13:07):
been associated with crime at the time, but they never
created any kind of large scale organized crime. There was
never a cattle rustling mafia or anything. These were individuals
or small groups that the associations typically dealt with when
they rustled up the posse of their.

Speaker 2 (13:26):
Own, that's right. And there were areas in parts of
Oklahoma and Arkansas on Indian land that were parts of
the Cherokee Nation where you know, there were bands of
outlaws that could seek refuge and find high outs in
these hills that had caves and hollers and the like,
and they were great places for these outlaw gangs to

(13:47):
hide out. But they weren't coming to town every day.
And you know, murdering everybody in.

Speaker 1 (13:53):
The streets right first, that's not even sustainable, you know.

Speaker 2 (13:57):
And unless you're in Westworld and you can just do
it every day, repeat, it'll start over and over.

Speaker 1 (14:02):
What a great show. The other part here that we
do need to emphasize. I'm really glad we're bringing this up,
is that one of the real, most genuine causes of
violence there in the West came from the US government's
policies toward the Indian populations on the plans, or Native

(14:24):
American populations.

Speaker 2 (14:25):
And that was sort of a continuation of a lot
of the you know, wartime attitudes of the Civil War. Yeah, absolutely,
just kind of keeping things in almost like a police
state kind of situation. The Plains Indians were essentially the
victims of an extermination plan that was government sanctioned in

(14:47):
order to clear the way for the railroads.

Speaker 1 (14:52):
Yes, clearing the way for the railroads and uniting the
East and West coast. So when we when we talk
about genuine viol in the American West, it's less a
romanticized story of train robberies or bank heist every day,
and it's much more story of the people who are

(15:12):
native to the land being persecuted by people who are
moving onto their land.

Speaker 2 (15:17):
And Thomas J. DeLorenzo makes some excellent points in this
Independent Review piece where he you know, he cites the
fact that by the twentieth century, like around eight hundred
million dollars had been paid for Indian lands. And then
he makes this distinction between the idea of a militia
versus a standing army. I think this is really crucial.
I'm going to read this to you. He says, a

(15:37):
standing army. According to historians Terry Anderson and Fred McChesney,
quote creates a class of professional soldiers whose personal welfare
increases with warfare, even if fighting is a negative sum
act for the population as a whole.

Speaker 1 (15:55):
Yeah, and this is a practice that we can see
in other parts of history, and it's it's an ortunate phenomenon.
If your primary skill is violence based, then you are
motivated to pursue violent means and violent ends. So if
you don't have any other skill to fall back on,

(16:15):
like you can't be a ferrier and work with horses,
or you can't you know, be a banker or a
school teacher or something like that, then you're going to
end up pursuing crime, criminal activity. And one example of
this in again very highly romanticized book on the West,
would be Cormack McCarthy's Blood Meridian, where a lot of

(16:38):
soldiers who formerly fought in a militia become mercenaries pretty
much for hire by the US government.

Speaker 2 (16:45):
Exactly, or like things like the Pinkertons, which was like
this private army that eventually kind of became the tools
of big industrialists and you know, breaking strikes and just
just you know, doing horrible things for the purposes of
commerce and making money. And that was totally at play
with this railroad situation. In eighteen sixty five, General William TACUMPSA.

(17:07):
Sherman was given control of the military District of the
Missouri and the purposes were to essentially wage a war
against the Plains Indians. And this was all in the
name of building that railroad, and you could justify that
it was for progress, but there's a quote from Sherman

(17:29):
that says, we're not going to let a few thieving,
ragged Indians check and stop the progress of the railroads.
And he wrote that to his friend Ulysses s. Grant.
And politicians were making a whole lot of money as
well on this expansion and building of the railroads. And
there's even the Credis Mobilier scandal where American politicians were

(17:52):
pocketing a lot of money because the railroads were being subsidized.

Speaker 1 (17:56):
Right, yeah, Yeah, a very very dirty, corrupt way. What
would become known as the credit Mobier scandal occurred in
eighteen sixty seven, but the public didn't learn about it
for several years. They learned about it in eighteen seventy two.
Here's what happened. Thomas C. Durant, who was the vice
president of the Union Pacific Railroad at the time, and

(18:18):
a fellow named George Francis Train formed Kredi Moobia in
eighteen sixty four, and they based it on a pre
existing thing called the Pennsylvania Fiscal Agency. They were a
lone and contract company. This was a deliberate, no bones
about it, attempt to lie both to the government and

(18:40):
to the public. Fraud, Yeah, that's a good word. That's
a good use of it. Independent of Union Pacific Railroad
and it's stakeholders, its executive board, and what they were
doing was over paying for things. And when you when
you use it for a subsidy or blake, you may
recall listeners based in the US, US those stories that

(19:01):
come up every so often about corruption in the defense
industry where someone says, what why did you pay thousands
of dollars for a toilet seat? Three hundred dollars for
hammer something like that through the railroad, they were overcharging
the American public. They would have much higher rates than usual,
and cash and nine million dollars in discounted stocks were

(19:23):
given as bribes to politicians, like straight up, point A
to point B.

Speaker 2 (19:27):
Bribes like like I'll give you my vote if you
give me shares in this or give me a payout.

Speaker 1 (19:33):
Yeah, and these weren't like these weren't all you know,
junior House representatives or under secretaries. This included the Vice president,
the Secretary of the Treasury, you know, the people who
are supposed to guard the public against this stuff. That's
where a lot of the traceable violence occurs. And now,

(19:54):
now the typical murder rate for a large city is
going to be higher than typical frontier town. You could
argue methodology and say that might just be a function
of having a much higher population. I think that's valid, absolutely,
But then we also run into a problem when we
try to get real world statistics from that time. The

(20:15):
compilation of homicide rates during the Wild West is still
one of the longest running controversies among statisticians today and
probably will be for a long time.

Speaker 2 (20:24):
Agreed, let's get back to the depiction of the Wild
West in popular culture, in Hollywood, in literature. In that
piece from Western Historical Quarterly, the writer Robert R. Dykstra
talks about that very thing, and he says that there
was a time where even academics fully believed in the

(20:48):
depiction of the Old West that Hollywood put out. There.
There is a writer by the name of Vernon Perrington
who wrote this on the post Civil War on tier.
He said, all things were held cheap, and human life
the cheapest of all. Then we have another historian by

(21:08):
the name of Harvey Wish who wrote that the conception
of the Western gold rush towns as being bold and wicked,
and that they were full of feuding bad men, with swift,
straight shooting marshals and that vigilante justice that we know
so well. But then Diichstra writes that that was kind

(21:30):
of backed off from in the seventies and eighties when
the revised version of a popular textbook by Ray Billington
was put out, and in that he said this he
kind of like toned down the rhetoric a little bit,
and he said that the shootout that's glorified in Western
stories and motion pictures was absolutely unheard of and that's

(21:54):
the shootout we talked about earlier where two men stand
in the street and do a quick draw kind of situation.

Speaker 1 (21:59):
Right, And we should also take a second just to
depict the true stories behind some of those iconic individual figures.
Billy the Kid, right, one of the most well known,
at least in terms of headlines, right, one of the
most well known criminals of this period. Billy the Kid
is only known to have killed eight people, each lost

(22:20):
being a tragedy, of course, but that's a much lower
body count than a lot of films would have you believe.

Speaker 2 (22:25):
Not to mention, I could probably count the big name
historical figures that were kind of dramatized, you know, on
two hands, Like I know Wild Bill, I know you
know Doc Holliday and Wyatt Er, and you know Calamity
Jane and the characters that were in Deadwood.

Speaker 1 (22:47):
You know.

Speaker 2 (22:47):
That's that's about it. It's not like the kind of
just endless roster of criminals that you maybe even you
know think about today with like serial killers or any
number of hardened criminals.

Speaker 1 (23:00):
And another thing that's interesting here is that Billy the
Kid died when he was twenty one estimated early twenties.

Speaker 2 (23:09):
At the latest. It's romantic, you know, right.

Speaker 1 (23:12):
It's romanticized, and we have to wonder does it do
a disservice to the people who really lived in that time.
I find it actually sort of inspiring to learn that
the people who were living at this time were by
and large trying to band together to survive, not to

(23:32):
kill each other, not to have some weird proto mad
max existence, but to get along as best they could,
and to help their neighbors if their neighbors were in need.
And you know, they make a great point. I believe
it's Sdichstra who makes a great point saying that it's
difficult to compare. It may well just be impossible to

(23:54):
compare crime rates in these towns to crime rates in
the modern day, even if we to a small town
that was the same size. Yeah, and that's exactly it.
You talk about the issue with population. For example, in
eighteen eighty in Dodge City, one person, one person out
of nine hundred and ninety six was killed. But as

(24:15):
our pal Luri L. Dove writes for How Stuff Works,
one hundred.

Speaker 2 (24:19):
Years later in Miami, five hundred and fifteen people out
of one point five million people were killed. So, you know,
although more people were murdered in Miami, if you look
at the statistics, it had a lower rate of homicide
thirty two point seven percent compared to one hundred point
four percent of Dodge City in the eighteen hundreds.

Speaker 1 (24:40):
And we have to be careful with those statistics because
as counterintuitive as they may seem sometimes and as unromantic
as it is to deal with the facts, the facts
are ultimately going to be more rewarding. So we don't
need to have this sort of deaf the or lionization

(25:02):
of crime, right or criminals in what we call the
Old West and the Wild West as we know, it
was not some sort of desolate, sin riddled place. With
the quote LORI uses here that I love is where
dead bodies piled up in the streets. It's it's not

(25:25):
like that at all. And I again, I find it reassuring,
and I think that when we fire up the time machine,
you and I could actually go to the Wild West
and have a pretty cool experience as long as we're
on our p's and q's.

Speaker 2 (25:40):
Yeah, you know, like, just don't be like Chevy Chase
in National Lampoon's Family Vacation, where you try to talk
trash to the fake bartender. Oh.

Speaker 1 (25:49):
I also want to add one thing I found. I
don't know if you ran into this, but was very interesting,
sort of a tangent here, and I want to go
too long on it, but cowboys, as we understand them,
are also largely an American myth. What we call a
cowboys day is sort of a whitewashed version of vacueros,
which existed before any of this wild West stuff. And

(26:13):
a lot of the slang we associate with cowboys comes
from vacqueros, which is from what culture these would be
Mexican cattlemen. They were the original cowboys, and they're everything
you would imagine. They got the big hat riding a
horse herd in livestock, came up with term you know,
we get from vaquero's. We get the terms bronco, lariat, stampede,

(26:34):
and so on, And this happened. They led this life
and held rodeos and stuff for centuries before cowboys existed.

Speaker 2 (26:45):
Well how about that?

Speaker 1 (26:47):
How about that?

Speaker 2 (26:48):
Oh?

Speaker 1 (26:48):
Apparently I'm not one hundred percent on this little but
apparently the term vacquero later evolved into buccaroo. Well, I'll
be I know, right, oh man, slap you with feathers
and called me a chicken dinner.

Speaker 2 (27:04):
I will not thank you.

Speaker 1 (27:06):
That would be inappropriate for a workplace.

Speaker 2 (27:12):
I think that about wraps up our topic for the day.
But what do you say we take a second and
open up the old listener mail bag.

Speaker 1 (27:22):
That's an excellent idea. This will also be I believe,
only the second time that we have dared to open
the listener mail bag.

Speaker 2 (27:29):
We have been being real greedy and hoarding these delightful
listener mails, but I think we should try and fit
this in a little more often. What do you think, Yeah,
let's see how it goes.

Speaker 1 (27:38):
You want to do one, I'll do one.

Speaker 2 (27:39):
That sounds good. Our first listener mail comes from Alissa. Greetings.
Alyssa says, I'm a longtime fan of the Whole Stuff series.
You and your entire entourage of podcast poets I like
that are what have gotten me through countless hours and
miles as I trained for marathons, ultra marathons, and countless
other shorter races and therapy run I did not know

(28:01):
ultra marathons was a thing, but I'm gonna have to
look into that. For that, I thank you and we
thank you Alyssa for listening well. I think you were
all pretty perfect. I did find issue with one minor
detail in Ben Franklin's alphabet episode. While we do credit
our good buddy Ben for inventing the bifocal, you mentioned
how it was one of those things that has not
yet really been improved upon. That was me that is

(28:23):
actually false. As an optician in the western New York area,
I can tell you that the lined bifocal was quickly
becoming obsolete. Improvements and technology have led to lenses that
progress from distance vision in the top of the lens
down to a reading prescription on the very bottom, with
varying distances for intermediate vision in between. These progressive adaptive lenses,

(28:44):
or pals for those of us in the biz, work
more the way the eye naturally works before the inevitable
help with accommodation for reading as necessary, and it does
so without a visible line in the lens itself. So yeah,
I've seen those lenses that have that kind of like
lower part that's for the reading. Obviously, I don't wear glasses,
so I was kind of going off the top of

(29:04):
my head with that. But thank you so much for
schooling me. She goes on to say, pretty amazing. Maybe
this could be a topic for a future episode. Maybe
it's just the optical nerd in me. Keep up the
great work, Alyssa from Jamestown, New York.

Speaker 1 (29:16):
Thanks so much, Alissa. We really appreciate the high praise
and I now I'm wondering how many people listening to
the show are in the biz. If you are, let
us know and best of luck with the did you
say running marathons?

Speaker 2 (29:32):
Marathoning? And I stuff?

Speaker 1 (29:35):
We better make more episodes, noel so because marathons could
take a while.

Speaker 2 (29:39):
And you know what I say, Ben, there's no biz
like the biz.

Speaker 1 (29:42):
So thank you, Alyssa. This next email comes to us
from mo f Mo says, Hi, guys, I'm new to
the podcast. They just listened to your episode. When did
all caps become yelly? I very much enjoy the history
lesson as well as modern viewpoints discussed. Hearing about the
removal of the caps like key by Google on their
keyboard and some calls for eliminating the button altogether. I

(30:02):
wanted to bring in some personal perspective and also some
observations about all caps in our lives. I'm a pharmacy
technician for Osco drug While I can't speak for other
drug stores, I know that in every Osco I work at,
the doctor's drug instructions known as the SIG are written
completely in all caps. My guess is that we want
to impress upon the patient the gravity of following the

(30:25):
instructions to the tee. If I didn't have the caps
lot key, it would be mighty annoying to hold down
the shift key while typing out every SIG. I also
noticed that all caps is everywhere we go. On traffic
signage stop no, turn on red, etc. Which is always
in all caps, to the signs for business names, and
even on our money. I would argue it's most important
the traffic and warning signs stay in all caps. Danger

(30:48):
high voltage doesn't have quite the same gravitas as danger
high voltage. While I agree that all caps can be
quite annoying online, I think they have a place in
other areas of our lives outside the Internet. Wait haha,
there's life outside the interwebs. These are my thoughts. Thank
you for welcoming to share them. Keep up the great work, MO.
That seems like a pretty pretty studeo observation. We also

(31:10):
had an engineer who wrote in on.

Speaker 2 (31:12):
All casts, I know and I love this. I actually
just pulled it up right when you said that he
talks about. This is from Ted, just the idea of
pattern recognition. He says, some time ago, I was given
the following explanation, and it makes sense to me. When
we learn to read, we have to sound out each
letter in a word, and then once we have the word,
we can attach the meaning. As we get proficient at reading,

(31:32):
we no longer do this letter by letter, but rather
we recognize the words more by the pattern the letter's form.
And this is me interjecting here. I could say the
same thing about reading music. You start to see the
patterns and like whether it's at a space or a
line on the music staff, and you don't necessarily have
to really think as deep about it. You just recognize
it right away.

Speaker 1 (31:50):
So Ted says, when we type in all caps, this
pattern recognition by the brain is broken and we have
to look at those individual letters to form the words.
And although we can still will do this quickly, it
slows us down and is more work for the brain.
The extra work the brain is doing is what makes
it feel different, like we're being yelled at that's a
pretty interesting argument there, Ted, and.

Speaker 2 (32:12):
He goes on to illustrate it with a bunch of
words where he keeps the first and last letter correct
but jumbles up the letters in the middle, and I
was shocked to realize that I could very easily read
the whole sentence.

Speaker 1 (32:23):
Yeah, the human brain is capable of all sorts of
strange shenanigans and tricks. We want to thank you Ted,
We want to thank you Mo, and you Alyssa. This
will conclude our listener mail, but not our show.

Speaker 2 (32:36):
We would also like to thank all of your brains
and the brains of everyone listening, and we hope you
will use your brains to write us an email at
Ridiculous at HowStuffWorks dot com, or shoot us a note
on any of the social media out there, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter,
what have you? Where we are Ridiculous History.

Speaker 1 (32:53):
Also, of course, thanks to our super producer Casey Pegram
for saving the show, Thanks to our House of Works
author Lorie L. Dove, and thanks to Alex Williams for
composing our soundtrack, which a lot of people have been
writing about.

Speaker 2 (33:08):
It's true. We hope you'll join us next time when
we ask the question what happened when people waged war
over eggs?

Speaker 1 (33:17):
Oh Man, Yeah, what's coming up?

Speaker 2 (33:19):
Yeah, So come hang out then, and then thanks for
hanging out now for ridiculous history. For more podcasts from iHeartRadio,
visit the iHeartRadio app, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen
to your favorite shows.

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