Alternate History for the Procrastinator

Milton Snavely Hershey and J.P Morgan were supposed to be on the Titanic. Hershey, of course brought delicious, calorie-packed milk chocolate to America, revolutionizing the fat industry. He evidently took a chocolate ship to Happy Land and J.P Morgan instead journeyed across the Atlantic on a yacht made of cash and investors’ souls.

In reality, Hershey had to return from France early and Morgan stayed at a spa in France, deciding to deal with his investors’ souls at some later date.

According to Greg Dougherty’s Seven Famous People who Missed the Titanic also among those supposed to be on the Titanic were radio pioneer, Guglielmo Marconi and the novelist Theodore Dreiser. Contrary to popular belief, Celine Dion was not on the guest list.

But since it’s Sunday afternoon and I’m trying desperately to avoid work and anything related at all to Monday, I recline on my couch with a notebook and think of what could have been.

My interest in procrastination aside, this contemplative mood often arises when I am teaching 3rd and mixed conditional grammar points.

If you are not a native speaker of English and study English, these terms have probably elicited a bowel tremor that was in no way fun. If you are a native English speaker and don’t teach English for a living you might not be familiar with these terms, but you use the grammar all the time. They are used to talk about a hypothetical past event and its also hypothetical consequences in the past (3rd) or in the present (mixed).

For Example:

If I had not gone out drinking last night, I would have written a much better blog post this morning.

If I had not gone out drinking last night, Snavely wouldn’t be my new favorite name.

My students know the 3rd and mixed conditional as the time when I am far too excited about history and alternate history. I know it as a time when I get frustrated with my students, who all major in international relations and European studies, for having no opinions on history or the state of the world. I forgive them because they are young and still convinced that nothing existed before they were born.

Alternate history boggles my mind. I can’t get over the idea that if one, sometimes seemingly minor, event had gone differently; the world might be a radically different place than it is today. Common examples are what if D-Day had failed or what if Pontius Pilot had spared Christ? What if Hitler’s mom had named him Fred? Fred doesn’t carry the same dictatorial weight as Adolf.

I’ll pose one more: What if Damien had not found the name Snavely this Sunday morning?

If Damien had not found the name Snavely, he wouldn’t be planning to name his first kid Snavely.

And the proposed future alternate history consequences:

If Snavely Galeone’s father hadn’t gone out drinking and had written a better blog post instead of procrastinating and finding the name Snavely, Snavely Galeone probably wouldn’t have gone into that mall with that shotgun to quiet the mocking laughter.

What’s your favorite alternate history question?

Below are two cool resources for history buffs, alternate or not.

Today in Alternate History:

The Beachcomber’s Bizarre History Blog:







  1. #1 by Marketa on March 5, 2012 - 12:58 pm

    that Celine Dion reference killed me! hilarious

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