When Cecil Adams is wrong

Did Cecil Adams ever offer a mea culpa for any article?

A recent topic on this subject was whisked away to the cornfields. I have saved some of the (non-offending) replies. :slight_smile:


See, @Cecil_Adams disappeared that ‘trollish person’, forthwith.

@Max_S watch your ‘Ps’ and ‘Qs’…I kinda like having you around.

I hear nuthin’ :hear_no_evil:

“Explaining this enormous discrepancy requires a force considerably greater than the curvature of the earth. Stupidity has got to be it.”
— Cecil

Okay, what’s the point? Yes, there have been errors and subsequent corrections in Straight Dope columns. The author, Ed Zotti for most of its run (writing under the Cecil Adams monicker) did a pretty good job but nobody is infallible. Does this surprise anyone? Let’s give him the credit he deserves and try to refrain from harping on occasional slip-ups.

I’m reminded of a recent article (paywalled) in the Economist’s 1843 Magazine about Sherlock Holmes’ real-life secretary :

Holmes obsessives brook no doubt about the corporeality of their hero. When a guest at a meeting of the Baker Street Irregulars, the most prominent of the super-sleuth’s fan clubs in America, referred to Conan Doyle as Holmes’s creator, a member reportedly grew outraged: “Holmes is a man!” he cried. “Holmes is a great man!”

I’m sure an interesting thread could be started about fictitious people, or real people who write or perform under assumed names, who prefer to stay anonymous for sundry reasons. It gets funnier when their fans refuse to acknowledge what everyone eventually figures out (since it becomes harder to maintain a fiction as you become more popular and people are naturally nosy).

Regular pseudonyms aren’t a problem; I don’t think Mark Twain or Saki ever denied who they were off the book jackets. But it’s weird to keep telling everyone “no, I’m not Jandek” when you obviously are; weirder when your followers keep insisting “no one really knows who Jandek is, all that stuff about Sterling Smith being Jandek is speculation.”

(As for Sherlock Holmes, that’s just a bit of fun, right? Like Santa Claus.)

Getting back to the OP…it took about three or four runs at it, but Cecil (or Ed) finally conceded that “the Exception That Proves the Rule” is valid in certain circumstances.

But that’s the thing. It is a bit of fun here, too. The conceit of the column is that Cecil Adams is a real person, and we play along, just like the conceit of Holmsian societies are that Holmes was real and so people play along.

It’s not weird that the guy who would agree to write under these conditions would go along with the conceit of the column. He most likely made a promise to never reveal it. It’s genuinely possible that some other “editors” stepped in at times, and they also keep the promise. It’s no different to how wrestlers don’t break “kayfabe”—we all know all the drama and fights I wrestling are fake, but you don’t admit that. You don’t let it be known that rivals are actually friends and so on.

Unless someone is genuinely confused (and Max does not seem to have been), I don’t see any pressing need to spoil the fun. It honestly seems disrespectful to do so, given that Cecil’s column is why this board ever existed in the first place. It’s part of the culture of the board, like several other things. Many of the old timers bonded over this tradition, and it seems a shame to get rid of it.

And I hold the same for the other pseudonomous column writers. It’s not like The Straight Dope was the only column with this conceit.

Well said.

And it seems that this correction was issued in response to potentially the first ever “Comment on Cecil’s Column” posted to this message board, here: