Do you believe everything you hear? Everyone I have ever asked that question has answered, “No.” But were they telling me the truth?
Urban legends are the information age’s answer to the old wives’ tale of the baby boomer generation. They are the same thing, in a word: myths.
Over the ages, challenging myths has always been a thankless and unwelcome pursuit. Once convinced of something, many people are not willing to put forth the effort to look into another point of view. It is too easy just to take the word of someone that they know. After all, no one would lie to you, right?
As long as we are willing to take the word of someone we trust as truth, myths and superstitions will live on. The next time someone debunks a myth, take a minute to find out if they are right.
Here are a few to get you started:
- Raising your arms over your head while pregnant will not cause the umbilical cord to wrap around the baby’s neck.
- There is no such thing as a tidal wave. Google tsunami.
- A black cat crossing your path is not a warning of bad luck.
- The lion is not the king of the jungle. He lives in the savanna, not the jungle.
- Circling the wagons in the Old West was to keep livestock inside, not the Indians out.
- Dogs sweat through their feet, not by panting.
Pennies minted after 1982 are made of 97.5% zinc, only 2.5% copper.
- The sky is black. Light refracted through moisture and dust in the atmosphere make it appear blue.
- On a clear night, the most stars you could possibly see without a telescope is around 4,000, not millions.
- No one is double-jointed, but many are more flexible than others.
- Turning a child upside down will not flip his liver, or any other internal organ.
- Seeing a raven is not a sign of impending death.
- Sitting too close to the television will not make you go blind, but it might make your eyes tired.
- SIDS is not a cause of death. It is a determination made when no other cause of death is conclusively apparent.
- Cracking your knuckles does not make them bigger.
- Stepping on a rusty nail will not give you tetanus. Tetanus infection is caused by a bacteria, not rust.
- Stress does not cause baldness, but it might make your hair fall out.
- Spilling salt does not bring bad luck.
WD-40 is not a lubricant (read the label), it is a degreaser.
- Cigarettes do not cause cancer, but they do promote or exacerbate cancer.
- Waves are not caused by lunar gravitational pull, but tides are.
- Crickets chirp by rubbing their wings together, not their legs.
- Acne is not a reaction to chocolate, carbonated drinks or potato chips, but is caused by bacteria in the pores.
- Cats in the cradle do not steal the baby’s breath, but they may suffocate one trying to get spilt milk off of the baby.
- Lightning comes from the ground, not the sky.
- Mosquitoes pierce skin with a proboscis. They have no teeth and do not bite.
Remember, as society begins to accept a belief as fact, it becomes a colloquialism. Read definitions carefully, as words can be misleading. Just because you have always heard it, does not mean it is true. After all, Copernicus had always heard the world was flat.
What are some old wives’ tales you know for a fact are false? Can you think of more than three? Did you believe any of the ones debunked here?
(c) Ann Marie Dwyer 2012
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