I know that’s true…Momma said.

Do you believe everything you hear? Everyone I have ever asked that question has answered, “No.” But were they telling me the truth?

Urban Wives

You know, if you just...

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.
  • Mostly Zinc.

    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

    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.
Nicolaus Copernicus

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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  1. You always spoil all my fun, dagnabit!

  2. Interesting article, and the timing is rather good, as I’ve written a blog entry about calling out BS in this modern age of Google and fact-checking.

    I’ve always been amused at my grandmother, an Italian immigrant, and her somewhat gypsy-styled ritual to determine whenever you weren’t feeling well, if it was due to the “evil eye” or some other kind of curse. Superstition held as high a position as her Roman Catholic faith. The ritual was basically taking a soup dish, putting some water in it, along with some oregano leaves ground up, then dipping your forefinger in olive oil, while she guided your hand over the dish where the water and oregano leaves were. As the oil dropped into the plate, a bunch of old ladies would all interpret the pattern of dispersion that the oil caused the oregano leaves to move. They would all argue among themselves about what it meant, but it was never good… Then they’d make the sign of the cross with your oil soaked finger on your forehead, and usually tell you to wear some garlic clove. Not sure it worked to scare off the evil spirits, but it scared the crap out of little kids… 😀

    • Then, it did work. You were too scared to get into any more trouble!! Love that story! Glad to see you. Idly wonders if she dreamed commenting on the need a new vacation destination post…resolves to take another nap.

  3. Another thought provoking post! Growing up in the Canadian Maritimes, I was always under the impression that a “tidal wave” was a wave of water brought on by the incoming tide, which surged up a river or creek. The Bay off Fundy’s infamous “tidal bores” are a sample of tidal waves.

  4. I have to debunk internet myths on a regular basis “An Olympic Torch will Burn Your Hard Drive” If you get this virus etc.

    Basically because people are ignorant and too stupid to know that there is NO WAY Norton or anyone else is going to send a warning via email to be passed on by your friends given that there are far easier ways to spread the warning – and, no, Microsoft don’t do it either unless they get hacked in which case they’ll use the news outlets to spread the warning, not a poxy email!!!

    (Pause to steam and say rude words about gullible people)

    And I have to say I have yet to have my path crossed by a black cat carrying a ladder…

    God Bless!


    • ROFL!! My favorite are those who fill forward something screaming about TONIGHT AT MIDNIGHT, when the original email they are sending has a header dated 18 months ago! Never ending supply for people to send this to everyone in your address book you want to save!!

  5. Hmmmm, I did learn one thing. You will have to guess what however. I am always a bit sceptical about things – which is why I do not click on links that say “see who viewed your profile” or “you’ll laugh so hard”… and I rarely (like never) forward e-mail or repost statuses that have “I know you won’t do this….” I wouldn’t want to prove them wrong 😉 Ok, that’s not the subject, but I liked it. It’s amazing what people will believe and how often they will be sucked in. I try not to call them dumb (well most of them) though because we all have some of these things – whether we know it or not. Some of your items I had never heard of. Angie

  6. I’d have to think about this. You had a lot of great ones.

  7. bear

     /  January 18, 2012

    The only bad luck that a black cat brings is to itself. Normally, I’m driving. So when one crosses my path, sorry, kitty. New sail kitty on #1. Now, if I cross the double yellow to get said black cat and get a ticket, then that’s bad luck. Oh, how about I will beat you within an inch of your life! How would you do that? Stop at an inch, and would you stop and measure? Having a tape measure on hand, I think this maybe a urban legend

    • ROFL! I love that! I have an idea! This is about beating someone with a ruler until it breaks and only leaves an inch…Tehe.


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