50 Common Myths, Busted

EtiAmmos/iStock via Getty Images
EtiAmmos/iStock via Getty Images

It's time to check our beliefs for a few happy falsehoods. In other words: get ready to be the most popular person at the party when you correct everyone for claiming that dogs can't look up.

Here are 50 myths we're busting.

1. Most vikings never wore horns on their helmets.

Viking helmet on fjord shore, Norway
Anetlanda/iStock via Getty Images

Some warriors may have had horns affixed to their gear, but they mostly had normal metal helmets. Wagner's 1876 opera The Ring of Nibelung inserted the false, mythic image into our minds. (You may remember it from when Elmer Fudd sang it.)

2. Iron maidens weren't used to torture people.

We've imagined them for thousands of years, but the idea that they were in use in Medieval Europe was essentially 18th century slander against a time thought as barbaric.

3. Marie Antoinette never said "let them eat cake."

Firstly, the original claim was that she said the peasants should eat brioche. Secondly, there's zero evidence that she ever said it or something like it, but there are examples from earlier folklore where oblivious aristocrats show their ignorance by telling the starving poor to simply eat rich luxurious cake.

4. Anne Boleyn probably did not have 11 fingers.

While we're on the topic of French royal women who were forcibly separated from their heads: Anne Boleyn did not have 11 fingers. That description comes from Catholic writer Nicholas Sander. One problem: He never saw her in person. Oh, and he hated her family.

5. The American Declaration Of Independence was not signed on July 4th.

Congress approved the Declaration of Independence language on the 4th, but the document wasn't signed until August 2, 1776.

6. The United States Constitution was not written on hemp paper.

Copy of the United States Constitution close up.
giftlegacy iStock via Getty Images

Also, not to harsh on your buzz, but the U.S. Constitution was not written on hemp paper. Tons of documents were, but the Constitution was written on parchment.

7. Napoleon didn't have a Napoleon complex.

Napoleon was 5'7", which was actually slightly above average height for people of his time. His nickname was "The Little Corporal," and his enemies spread propaganda saying he was tiny.

8. Albert Einstein did not fail math at school.

Einstein
Hulton Archive, Getty Images

This has spread as a lesson in perseverance, but it's not true. Einstein was obviously fantastically intelligent, reading college-level physics books at age 11. He did, however, fail an entrance exam to Zurich Polytechnic ... but that was only because it was in French, which he didn't speak.

9. John F. Kennedy wasn't saying he was a donut.

The confusion, as with so many things, stems from German grammar. Although "eine Berliner" is a type of donut, when JFK said "Ich bin eine Berliner" at the climax of his immortal anti-communist speech in West Berlin, he was saying the phrase correctly. You only say "Ich bin Berliner" to mean "I'm a Berliner," if you were born in Berlin. Plus, no one there was confused (and JFK thoroughly checked the speech with a translator).

10. Sushi does not mean "raw fish."

It means "sour rice."

11. Placing metal in a microwave doesn't ruin the microwave.

A microwave oven with an object on fire inside.
Jaroslav74/iStock via Getty Images

I mean, it's a bad idea. You shouldn't do it. But the microwave itself will survive.

12. The word crap doesn't come from where you think it does.

The word crap is not derived from the great Thomas Crapper, who innovated the field of indoor plumbing. Crap just comes from Latin, like every other word.

13. 420 is not the Los Angeles police code for marijuana possession.

The slang term beloved by marijuana enthusiasts got started by high school smokers in San Rafael, California when they'd meet at 4:20 p.m. to get high at a statue of Louis Pasteur.

14. The Great Wall Of China is not the only man-made object that's visible from space.

The Great Wall of China
rabbit75_ist/iStock via Getty Images

For one thing, many man-made objects are visible from space. For another thing, the Great Wall of China is not one of them.

15. There's no such thing as an elephant graveyard.

When elephants want to die, they just lie down and do it. The idea that there's a place where older elephants go to die isn't so much a sweet sentiment about our pachyderm friends, but an El Dorado-like story about a massive pile of valuable ivory just lying around for the taking.

16. Sharks can get cancer.

A great white shark breaching the water at sunrise.
USO/iStock via Getty Images

The 1992 book Sharks Don't Get Cancer led to a huge increase in people using ground-up shark cartilage to treat cancer. That doesn't work. Also, sharks get cancer.

17. Chameleons changing color isn't really about camouflage.

It helps them regulate their temperature, and also it's a way of communicating. They're like, "Hey there, you're pretty attractive, but I don't know how to talk, so I'm just going to turn red." Chameleons are super fast, so they're more likely to run if a predator is around.

18. Throwing rice at weddings doesn't make birds explode.

Wedding guests throw rice at a newly married couple
santypan/iStock via Getty Images

Birds eating your symbolically-tossed rice only to have it expand in their stomachs and blow up? It's just not a thing. And it's even been tested scientifically. Plus, birds eat rice all the time in the wild.

19. An earthworm does not become two earthworms when you cut it in half.

Worms don't work like that, people! If it's lucky, the part with the mouth survives, and you're left with one smaller earthworm; but in all likelihood, you're left with one dead earthworm in two pieces.

20. Humans have more than five senses.

That includes a sense of time, acceleration, limb position ... the five senses were made up by Aristotle. We probably have between 14 and 20.

21. Shaving does not make hair grow back thicker or coarser.

A young woman contemplates shaving her face with a razor.
Denis Valakhanovich iStock via Getty Images

No matter what part of your body you're shaving.

22. Your fingernails don't keep growing after you die.

They appear to keep growing because your skin recedes. You stop making glucose, you stop growing fingernails.

23. Gum doesn't take seven years to digest.

If you swallow your gum, it will not stick in your stomach for seven years. It goes through your body just the same as anything else that you eat, except batteries. If you take one thing away from this article: DON'T EAT BATTERIES.

24. People use more than 10 percent of their brains.

Model of a brain
imaginima/iStock via Getty Images

A misquote of William James seems to have coined this one. We don't have 90 percent spare capacity lying around waiting to be used on kung fu.

25. You can't catch warts from toads.

But you can catch warts from other people. Which is why we always say: only socialize with toads.

26. A penny dropped from the Empire State Building will not kill someone if it lands on their head.

New York skyline on a sunny day with the Empire State Building centered.
Ultima_Gaina/iStock via Getty Images

The terminal velocity of a penny is between 30 and 50 miles per hour, which is not fast enough to kill anyone—especially with the wind slowing it down. Also, if you drop a penny from the top of the Empire State Building, it will probably land three stories below you, because of the building's shape.

27. Abner Doubleday did not invent baseball.

Abner Doubleday never even claimed to have invented baseball. The game was evolving from cricket and rounders long before the Civil War hero was born.

28. The Caesar salad is not named for Julius Caesar.

A Caesar salad in a white ceramic bowl
monkeybusinessimages/iStock via Getty Images

The exact origin is slightly fuzzy, but it was named after Caesar Cardini, who invented the salad in Tijuana, Mexico, in 1924.

29. Puff The Magic Dragon is not about marijuana.

The poem's author, Leonard Lipton, does not think writing a children's poem about smoking marijuana would be a good idea. He credits a New York newspaper columnist with inventing the myth, but thinks if she hadn't done it, someone else would have.

30. Sherlock Holmes never said, "Elementary, my dear Watson" in the books.

Martin Freeman and Benedict Cumberbatch star in 'Sherlock'
BBC

Basil Rathbone said it in 1929's The Return of Sherlock Holmes, but the myth that it was a catchphrase from the books was already pervasive then.

31. No one says, "Play it again, Sam" in Casablanca.

Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman) says, "Play it once, Sam, for old times' sake," when asking the piano man to play As Time Goes By.

32. Sarah Palin never said, "I can see Russia from my house."

A globe with Alaska and the Bering Strait centered.
fpdress iStock via Getty Images

It was part of the Tina Fey SNL sketch. But it did get entered into the Congressional record when a representative read the script for it on the House floor.

33. Al Gore never said, "I invented the internet."

He never said it, and he should get a little credit for the internet's existence.

34. Danishes are not from Denmark.

They were brought by Austrian bakers who crossed picket lines in Denmark during a baking strike in 1850. That's why they're called "Viennese" in Denmark.

35. Humans didn't evolve from chimps.

A pair of young chimps
boriail/iStock via Getty Images

We share a common ancestor (from 6 to 7 million years ago). We did evolve, though!

36. You pronounce Don Juan correctly, but Lord Byron didn't.

The Italian libertine is Don Juan, but in Byron's epic poem, "Don Juan" [jew-an] rhymes with "true one."

37. You would not explode in the vacuum of space.

Computer Generated art rendering of an astronaut floating in space above the earth.
lexaarts iStock via Getty Images

But you would almost definitely die. Just to be safe, the first thing you should do is exhale (or the air in your lungs would expand in a way that you will not appreciate).

38. No one was burned at the stake during the Salem Witch Trials.

People were hanged, and one was crushed with stones, but no burning!

39. Fortune cookies are not Chinese.

Fortune cookies on a napkin
jirkaejc/iStock via Getty Images

They're Californian.

40. Redheads are not about to go extinct.

They're rare, but the MC1R gene mutation isn't going anywhere.

41. Blondes aren't going extinct either.

Marilyn Monroe
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Even though claims that they are have popped up from time to time since the 19th century.

42. No one died during the chariot race in Ben-Hur.

Since no one died, they definitely didn't include the death in the final cut of the film as the double dose myth suggests. Stuntperson Joe Canutt flipped off a chariot, and everyone (including his father Yak, who was directing the stunt sequence) thought he'd died, but he'd only cut himself. That scene was left in.

43. Mussolini did not make the trains run on time.

A modern train travels out of a cliffside tunnel in Italy
Elijah-Lovkoff iStock via Getty Images

So really no good qualities then.

44. Storing batteries in the freezer does not improve their performance.

Room temperature is best. Extremes in cold or heat aren't good for batteries. And, seriously, don't eat them.

45. You don't need to refrigerate peanut butter.

Spoon with peanut butter on top of a jar surrounded by peanuts.
sergoua/iStock via Getty Images

And speaking of unnecessary cooling: there is never a need to refrigerate peanut butter.

46. Walt Disney is not cryogenically frozen.

He is also not peanut butter.

47. Walt Disney's will does not demand that all the studio's movies be remade every 10 years.

Walt Disney trying to coax a penguin into performing for the camera, for a 'Silly Symphony' entitled 'Peculiar Penguins'.
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

It just feels that way. Turns out the remakes are largely popular, and the studio likes making money. It's true, however, that a man once got stuck on the It's a Small World ride and had to listen to the song for half an hour.

48. There are more than three states of matter.

If you think everything is just solids, liquids, and gasses, you're forgetting about plasma and the scientist-made Bose-Einstein condensate.

49. Fidel Castro wasn't almost a New York Yankee.

Fidel Castro surrounded by four women
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

It's possible that he went to an open tryout with the Washington Senators, but he was never scouted by any team.

50. Toilets flush in both directions in both hemispheres.

Sorry. Really. So, so sorry. Toilets and tornadoes tend to have a preference depending on which side of the equator they're spinning, but they can go either way.

Watch our full video on 50 Common Misconceptions, Busted below. For more videos like this, subscribe to our YouTube channel here.

Ingenious Moving Tips, According to Twitter

BartekSzewczyk/iStock via Getty Images
BartekSzewczyk/iStock via Getty Images

Whether or not you’ve outsourced the actual loading and unloading of your precious belongings to professional movers, the planning and packing process necessary for any move is enough to make even the most organized individuals contemplate climbing inside a cardboard box themselves.

To resist the urge, Twitter user “Shameless Maya” asked her followers to share their best tips and tricks for her own move—and, as was the case with hotel hacks last month, the Twittersphere rose to the occasion spectacularly. While it might be an exaggeration to say that these hacks will make moving fun, they can definitely help take the edge off your moving-day headache (or backache). Take a look through some of the most ingenious responses below, compiled by Thrillist.

1. Pack your dishes with your clothes.

Wrapping dishes and other fragile items in your sweaters and socks will not only keep you from generating extra waste with newspapers or packing peanuts, it’ll also save you some space. (@yuffieh_)

2. Protect your floors with a set of furniture sliders.

Even if the pros are packing your U-Haul, you will probably move your furniture around your new home while you’re getting set up. Prevent those beloved hardwood floors from getting scratched with these furniture sliders from Amazon. (@GabberWaukee)

3. Save space by packing with vacuum-sealed bags.

It’s impossible to accurately describe the awe you’ll feel—and the space you’ll save—when watching your vacuum-sealed bags shrink before your eyes. Turn your packing party into a consolidation station with this jumbo set from Amazon. (@HunniB_Rose)

4. Use trash bags as bulk garment bags.

Skip the hassle of taking your clothes off their hangers and wrap groups of them in large plastic trash bags. That way, they’ll stay on their hangers whether you’re packing them into boxes or wheeling them out on a portable rack. (@thegirllogan_)

5. Tape loose hardware to its corresponding furniture.

It’s easy to lose screws, washers, and other small hardware during a big move. Instead of throwing everything into a bag and hoping you’ll remember which tiny bits of metal go to what, just duct tape them to their corresponding furniture. (@NebFeminists)

6. Hit up department stores for free cardboard boxes.

Before you splurge on cardboard boxes that you’ll end up throwing out immediately after your move, see if department stores have any that they’d love to get rid of for free. (@jackseve)

7. Ask your local liquor store for special partitioned boxes.

And before you painstakingly wrap each and every glass you own, see if your local liquor store has a stash of those special partitioned cardboard boxes that bottles are often shipped in. (@SuzPageWrites)

8. Invest in a few of IKEA’s giant shopping bags.

Nothing beats IKEA’s big blue reusable shopping bags for transporting oddly shaped items or last-minute things you forgot to pack—they also make great laundry bags if you’re moving to a place without an in-unit washer and dryer. You can get a set of five for $12 from Amazon here. (@PaigeUnabridged)

[h/t Thrillist]

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11 Gifts for the Home Improvement Guru in Your Life

Dia-Grip/Amazon
Dia-Grip/Amazon

Picking out the right gift for the handyperson on your list isn’t always easy. With so many choices out there and price tags that could quickly balloon, it’s important to do your research before making a commitment. Thankfully there are plenty of straight-forward tools and gadgets on the market that any home DIYer would love to have—and they don't have to wreck your holiday budget, either. Check out 11 gift recommendations for the home improvement guru in your life.

1. RAK Magnetic Wristband; $16

The RAK Magnetic Wristband is pictured
Amazon

Losing screws has to be among the biggest pet peeves of any DIYer. This magnetic wristband makes any job significantly less frustrating by keeping fasteners and accessories (screws, bolts, drill bits) within easy reach instead of on the floor or down a drain.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Vampliers; $45

A pair of Vampliers is pictured
Amazon

The unique, toothy design of the Vampliers's jaw makes it far easier to pull and cut wire, and grab hold of any stripped screw, bolt, or nut. For someone doing serious work around the house, this tool could save them a lot of elbow grease.

Buy it: Amazon

3. 5-in-1 Tool Pen; $25

The 5-in-1 Tool Pen from Uncommon Goods is pictured
Uncommon Goods

No matter what kind of job you’re tackling, a pen is mightier than most blunt-force instruments. This multi-use writing utensil allows you to scribble notes, measure levels, check a ruler, deploy a screwdriver, or use it as a stylus.

Buy it: Uncommon Goods

4. Stanley FuBar Demolition Bar; $25

The Stanley FuBar Demolition Bar is pictured
Walmart

Destroy anything—really, anything—with this forceful tool from the good people at Stanley. The pry bar can loosen nearly whatever you need, while the sharp end can do anything from trimming branches to splitting firewood.

Buy it: Walmart

5. General Tools LTM1 Laser Tape Measure; $30

The General Tools LTM1 Laser Tape Measure is pictured
Amazon

See how products measure up with this tape measure that uses a laser to beam to distances up to 50 feet. A conventional 16-foot analog tape measure is also included.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Little Giant Ladder; $229

The Little Giant Ladder is pictured
Amazon

Sometimes a plain ladder just won’t get you where you need to go. The Little Giant is the Swiss Army Knife of steps, allowing for a number of configurations from a 19-foot extension to a footprint that can be set on stairs and other awkward locations.

Buy it: Amazon

7. Dia-Grip Universal Socket Wrench; $18

The Dia-Grip Universal Socket Wrench is pictured
Amazon

No one enjoys searching for the right size socket for the job, so the Dia-Grip makes the choice for you. The socket wrench has steel pins that automatically configure to the bolt or nut you’re trying to attack, taking a lot of the guesswork off the user's plate.

Buy it: Amazon

8. Cartman Bungee Cords; $14

Cartman Bungee Cords are pictured
Amazon

Want to prevent your Christmas tree from ending up as a crumpled pile of broken pine needles in the middle of the highway? These elastic bungee cords allow you to haul items without worrying that they'll topple over or fall off the roof of your car. The 24 cords come in different sizes, so no matter how big of a tree you get this year, you'll still be able to secure it properly.

Buy it: Amazon

9. Rhino Strong Air Wedge; $24

The Rhino Strong Air Wedge is pictured
Amazon

When you need to get a heavy object off the ground for leveling or moving, all you have to do is push these inflatable bladders underneath, then use the hand pump. The resulting wedge can hold up to 300 pounds. Three sizes (small, medium, and large) are included.

Buy it: Amazon

10. Fix It Kit; $30

The Fix-It Kit from Uncommon Goods is pictured
Uncommon Goods

Sometimes you don’t necessarily need a contractor-grade tool set to get a simple job done. Alternately, you may want to keep a small assortment in a utility area or car. That’s where the Fix It Kit comes in. Inside a faux-leather case is a hammer, screwdriver, pliers, a flashlight, and other essentials. It's the perfect gift for someone in need of their first travel tool set.

Buy it: Uncommon Goods

11. Myivell LED Flashlight Glove; $13

The Mylivell LED flashlight glove is pictured
Amazon

Have a hands-on lighting source when working in dark spaces with these gloves. Each one has a small LED light located on the forefinger and thumb to illuminate your project. One size fits all.

Buy it: Amazon

Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we choose all products independently and only get commission on items you buy and don’t return, so we’re only happy if you’re happy. Thanks for helping us pay the bills!

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