Jane knew. She looked up from the dinner-table draft of my Dec. 21 column, the one that mentioned our daughter's score on the Apgar physical fitness test for newborns, and she frowned.
"You can't write this," she said, lifting a forkful of salad. "You know perfectly well that the Apgar test isn't named for a character on Sesame Street. And it isn't named for a man, either. It's named for a famous doctor. A famous female doctor. The readers'll have your head."
"Don't be silly," I said, opening another diet root beer. "The readers can take a joke." And so I went blissfully ahead and published my joking notion about where the Apgar test got its name.
Well, the joke's on me, folks.
I have received dozens of complaints and corrections. All of them have been from women. All of them have pointed out that the late Dr. Virginia Apgar invented the Apgar test and served as one of the foremost American anesthesiologists of this century.
The eloquence of the letters approximately equals my foolishness in printing the original item.
From Jo Ann Hollis of Manassas: "I expect you to do a little homework . . . . Sesame Street character, indeed!"
From Dolores Story Kaufmann of Arlington: "One more and I'm going to begin to believe you are at least a third-grade Male Chauvinist Pig! What will you do when someone refers to Dr. Levey -- Emily -- 30 years from now as an 'obscure character on Sesame Street' after she formulates a cure for juvenile diabetes?"
From Martha Bradshaw of Silver Spring: "It was surprising that your willingness to display your lack of knowledge of the medical field would come at such a time when you are raising funds for Children's Hospital. A little more respect, please!"
The clincher came from Josephine A. Stevens of Northwest. She sent in two clippings from the 1929 Mount Holyoke College yearbook. The first is a photo of Virginia Apgar as a graduating senior. The second is a poem about her:
Lots of zoo; a heap of Chem, Libe, and orchestra -- and then Soccer, 'Sarah,' pep galore -- Always time for something more.
Obviously, her classmates knew even before she got her career under a full head of steam that Virginia Apgar was special. Just as obviously, I made a major misjudgment. Apologies for whatever damage I may have done to Dr. Apgar's memory, and for any impression of uncaring sexism I may have left.