As a former patrol leader of the Beaver Patrol, troop 168, in the Bronx of many years ago, I respond to Mr Zimmerman’s very long defense in which he demonstrates that he has learned from the various more or less angry responses to his earlier column just what he already knew or believed that he knew. As a former patrol leader I acknowledge Mr Zimmerman’s victory in the verbosity department, but not much anywhere else. As a former scout who in his great innocence earning merit badges by building fires and setting up tents had no idea that “straight” meant “no homosexuals allowed,” I would like just to note that among the many mistakes and self-contradictions in Mr Zimmerman’s latest screed, there is this one. The boy scouts were founded in England in 1908. While Baden Powell, the leader of the movement, might well even have agreed with Mr Zimmerman about homosexuality, he didn’t build it into the scout’s self-definition when he included those lines: “physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.” I know that because there is no recorded use of the word “straight” in the sense Mr Zimmerman takes for granted until much later. The normal use of the word to signify, as in “straight and narrow,” “frank,” “honest” and “law abiding,” developed in the English language in the mid nineteenth-century. The usage in relation to “sexual perversion” — I am quoting the Oxford English Dictionary — is first noted in 1941, and not in England but in the United States. Mr Zimmerman is as anachronistic and erroneous in his relation to language as he is in relation to morality.
Atlantic Highlands, NJ.