It never ceases to amaze me the many things that lodge in our collective unconscious that simply aren’t true. We just like them, so we keep repeating them over and over. Recently, I found some of these myths, one of which my stickler-for-the-truth Trivia Superman husband told me and was shocked to learn wasn’t true.
Here’s a few of them:
1) JFK told the Germans that he was a jelly doughnut during his famous speech in Berlin. I can’t tell you how many times I’d heard this one. The story goes that he said, “Ich bin ein Berliner,” intending to mean, “I am a Berliner,” but Berliners are jelly doughnuts, too, and if you put “ein” before the word Berliner, you’re talking about the doughnut. So JFK was secretly laughed at for his faux pas. Except that he wasn’t. No German laughed at that during that speech because there was nothing wrong with what JFK said. You can read the whole explanation here. Oh, and do you know where the idea that he misspoke originated? From a novel. Yes, a NOVEL. People have got to stop believing what they read in novels, I swear.
2) Fidel Castro had a chance at being a baseball player in the major leagues, but he didn’t get picked in the tryouts. Wouldn’t history be different if he had? Yes, history would be REALLY different. Except that it didn’t happen, so the point is kind of moot. My husband told me this one, and he was surprised to learn it wasn’t true.
3) Most of us only use ten percent of our brains. It’s simply not true. It’s one of the many misconceptions surrounding scientific research and how it’s interpreted.
4) People believed the earth was flat up through the Middle Ages. Nope, they didn’t, not educated people anyway. For example, the pic to the left, of people circling the earth as a sphere, appeared in a 12th century manuscript. So no one was skeptical about Columbus’s voyage for fear that he would sail off the edge of the earth. They just weren’t as stupid as we seem to think.
This stuff fascinates me. These days I’m almost afraid to repeat an item of conventional wisdom or a widely repeated story until I make sure it’s not an urban myth! Sometimes the story was so good that I’m disappointed to find out it was good because, well, it was a story!
Do you find urban myths fascinating? Are you disappointed or relieved when you learn they’re not true? Can you remember an urban myth or item of conventional wisdom that you subsequently found out wasn’t true? Do you have snopes.com (the urban legend site) in your bookmarks? (Obviously I’m a little crazy for this stuff, since I do.)