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Chicago Daily Tribune, December 7, 1923. Further mutations of the para-legal principle that “the libertine must die.” Turns out that by 1923 unwritten law could also be extended to the vengeful slaying of reckless drivers, mentally retarded sex offenders, and, implicitly, anyone else implicated in a “violation of home.”

It’s hard not to snicker at the phrase “his moron brother-in-law” in an old newspaper. Considered in context, though, this is a godawful story. Supposing the term “moron” was being applied with any rigor, it would have meant that Frank Bilotta had an IQ somewhere between 51 and 70. That would have put him above the level of “imbecile” (IQ 26 to 50) and two pegs above “idiot” (0 to 25).* But I doubt the reporter was deploying the term with any precision: “moron” was simply standard journalese for “retarded.”

I’m digging the whatsa-matta-for-you dialect attributed to Donota Gallella. Betcha he spoke English like a native but was dishing out some strategic vaudeville for the jury.

*This nomenclature was the brainchild of influential psychologist and eugenicist Henry H. Goddard, who advocated that retarded people should be sterilized and sent to live in concentration ca–um, special segregated communities for the genetic good of the race.

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