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.

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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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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."

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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.

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.

14 Retro Gifts for Millennials

Ravi Palwe, Unsplash
Ravi Palwe, Unsplash

Millennials were born between 1981 and 1996, which means the pop culture they grew up with is officially retro. No matter what generation you belong to, consider these gifts when shopping for the Millennials in your life this holiday season.

1. Reptar Funko Pop!; $29

Amazon

This vinyl Reptar figurine from Funko is as cool as anything you’d find in the rugrats’ toy box. The monster dinosaur has been redesigned in classic Pop! style, making it a perfect desk or shelf accessory for the grown-up Nickelodeon fan. It also glows in the dark, which should appeal to anyone’s inner child.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Dragon Ball Z Slippers; $20

Hot Topic

You don’t need to change out of your pajamas to feel like a Super Saiyan. These slippers are emblazoned with the same kanji Goku wears on his gi in Dragon Ball Z: one for training under King Kai and one for training with Master Roshi. And with a soft sherpa lining, the footwear feels as good as it looks.

Buy it: Hot Topic

3. The Pokémon Cookbook; $15

Hop Topic

What do you eat after a long day of training and catching Pokémon? Any dish in The Pokémon Cookbook is a great option. This book features more than 35 recipes inspired by creatures from the Pokémon franchise, including Poké Ball sushi rolls and mashed Meowth potatoes.

Buy it: Hot Topic

4. Lisa Frank Activity Book; $5

Urban Outfitters

Millennials will never be too old for Lisa Frank, especially when the artist’s playful designs come in a relaxing activity book. Watercolor brings the rainbow characters in this collection to life. Just gather some painting supplies and put on a podcast for a relaxing, nostalgia-fueled afternoon.

Buy it: Urban Outfitters

5. Shoebox Tape Recorder with USB; $28

Amazon

The days of recording mix tapes don’t have to be over. This device looks and functions just like tape recorders from the pre-smartphone era. And with a USB port as well as a line-in jack and built-in mic, users can easily import their digital music collection onto retro cassette tapes.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Days of the Week Scrunchie Set; $12

Urban Outfitters

Millennials can be upset that a trend from their youth is old enough to be cool again, or they can embrace it. This scrunchie set is for anyone happy to see the return of the hair accessory. The soft knit ponytail holders come in a set of five—one for each day of the school (or work) week.

Buy it: Urban Outfitters

7. D&D Graphic T-shirt; $38-$48

80s Tees

The perfect gift for the Dungeon Master in your life, this graphic tee is modeled after the cover of the classic Dungeons & Dragons rule book. It’s available in sizes small through 3XL.

Buy it: 80s Tees

8. Chuck E. Cheese T-shirt; $36-$58

80s Tees

Few Millennials survived childhood without experiencing at least one birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese. This retro T-shirt sports the brand’s original name: Chuck E. Cheese’s Pizza Time Theatre. It may be the next-best gift for a Chuck E. Cheese fan behind a decommissioned animatronic.

Buy it: 80s Tees

9. The Nightmare Before Christmas Picnic Blanket Bag; $40

Shop Disney

Fans of Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas will recognize the iconic scene on the front of this messenger bag. Unfold it and the bag becomes a blanket fit for a moonlit picnic among the pumpkins. The bottom side is waterproof and the top layer is made of soft fleece.

Buy it: Shop Disney

10. Toy Story Alien Socks; $15

Shop Disney

You don’t need to be skilled at the claw machine to take home a pair of these socks. Decorated with the aliens from Toy Story, they’re made from soft-knit fabric and are big enough to fit adult feet.

Buy it: Shop Disney

11. Goosebumps Board Game; $24

Amazon

Fans that read every book in R.L. Stine’s series growing up can now play the Goosebumps board game. In this game, based on the Goosebumps movie, players take on the role of their favorite monster from the series and race to the typewriter at the end of the trail of manuscripts.

Buy it: Amazon

12. Tamagotchi Mini; $19

Amazon

If you know someone who killed their Tamagotchi in the '90s, give them another chance to show off their digital pet-care skills. This Tamagotchi is a smaller, simplified version of the original game. It doubles as a keychain, so owners have no excuse to forget to feed their pet.

Buy it: Amazon

13. SNES Classic; $275

Amazon

The SNES Classic is much easier to find now than when it first came out, and it's still just as entertaining for retro video game fans. This mini console comes preloaded with 21 Nintendo games, including Super Mario Kart and Street Fighter II.

Buy it: Amazon

14. Planters Cheez Balls; $24

Amazon

Planters revived its Cheez Balls in 2018 after pulling them from shelves nearly a decade earlier. To Millennials unaware of that fact, this gift could be their dream come true. The throwback snack even comes in the classic canister fans remember.

Buy it: Amazon

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10 Facts About Sagamore Hill, Theodore Roosevelt's Home

Theodore Roosevelt's Long Island home has 23 rooms and more books than you can count.
Theodore Roosevelt's Long Island home has 23 rooms and more books than you can count.
J. Stephen Conn, Flickr // CC by NC 2.0

Fleeing Manhattan for the country is a tradition that wealthy New Yorkers have partaken in for centuries—and our 26th president, Theodore Roosevelt, was no exception. Starting when he was a teen, TR and his family would retreat to Long Island for the summer, and as an adult, he built his own home there: Sagamore Hill, which became his permanent home after his presidency. In honor of what would be TR’s 162nd birthday, here are 10 facts about Sagamore Hill, of which Roosevelt once wrote, “there isn't any place in the world like home—like Sagamore Hill.”

1. Sagamore Hill was built near where Theodore Roosevelt spent his childhood summers.

Oyster Bay on Long Island, New York, first served as a refuge for a sickly TR in his youth. He’d hike, ride horses, row, and swim—generally engaging in the “strenuous life” and beginning his lifelong love affair with nature. The family home was known as Tranquility, and was situated two miles southwest from the future Sagamore Hill mansion.

2. Theodore Roosevelt bought the land for Sagamore Hill in 1880.

The same year he married his first wife, Alice Hathaway Lee, Roosevelt purchased 155 acres on the north shore of Long Island for $30,000 to build a home. Situated on Long Island Sound, the site is home to a wide variety of habitats, from woodlands to salt marshes, as well as plenty of ecological diversity, thus giving Roosevelt much to observe and document.

3. Sagamore Hill wasn't supposed to go by that name.

The home that would become Sagamore Hill was originally going to be named Leeholm, after Roosevelt's wife Alice. However, following her tragic death shortly after giving birth to their daughter, the property was renamed Sagamore—according to Roosevelt, after Sagamore Mohannis (today more commonly known as Sachem Mohannes), who was chief of a tribe in the area over 200 years earlier. Sagamore is an Algonquian word for "chieftain."

4. Theodore Roosevelt had very specific ideas for the layout of Sagamore Hill.

Among his "perfectly definite views" for the home, he would later recall, were "a library with a shallow bay window opening south, the parlor or drawing-room occupying all the western end of the lower floor; as broad a hall as our space would permit; big fireplaces for logs; on the top floor a gun room occupying the western end so that north and west it [looks] over the Sound and Bay." Long Island builder John A. Wood began work on the Queen Anne-style mansion (designed by New York architecture firm Lamb and Rich), on March 1, 1884. It was completed in 1885, with Roosevelt's sister, Anna, taking care of the house (and new baby Alice) while Roosevelt was out west in the Dakota Badlands, nursing his grieving heart.

5. Theodore Roosevelt delivered campaign speeches from the porches of Sagamore Hill.

Theodore Roosevelt addresses a crowd of 500 suffragettes from the porch of his Sagamore Hill home around 1905. Hulton Archive/Getty Images

It was one of Roosevelt’s greatest wishes for the Sagamore Hill home to possess "a very big piazza ... where we could sit in rocking chairs and look at the sunset," and so wide porches were built on the south and west sides of the house. Roosevelt would use the piazza to deliver speeches to the public, and it was here that he was notified of his nominations as governor of New York (1898), vice president (1900) and president (1904).

6. Sagamore Hill was Theodore Roosevelt's "Summer White House."

Roosevelt became the first president to bring his work home with him, spending each of his summers as president at Sagamore Hill. He even had a phone installed so he could conduct business from the house. But by 1905, Edith had had enough of TR usurping the drawing room—which was supposed to be her office—to hold his visitors [PDF], and of his gaming trophies and other treasures taking up space. So the Roosevelts constructed what would become the North Room. "The North Room cost as much as the entire house had," Susan Sarna, curator at Sagamore Hill, told Cowboys & Indians magazine in 2016. "It is grandiose." Measuring 40 feet by 20 feet, with ceilings 20 feet high, it was constructed of mahogany brought in from the Philippines. The addition brought the total number of rooms at Sagamore Hill from 22 to 23.

7. Theodore Roosevelt met with foreign leaders at Sagamore Hill.

Roosevelt stands between Russian and Japanese dignitaries in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, in 1905. On September 5, they signed the Treaty of Portsmouth, ending the Russo-Japanese War and earning Roosevelt the 1906 Nobel Peace Prize; he was the first American to win a Nobel Prize of any kind.Photos.com/iStock via Getty Images

In September 1905, Roosevelt brokered peace talks between Russian and Japanese dignitaries, which led to end of the Russo-Japanese War. But before the peace talks (which took place on a yacht in the Navy yard at Portsmouth, New Hampshire), Roosevelt met the negotiators—from Japan, Takahira Kogorō, ambassador to the U.S., and diplomat Jutaro Komura; and from Russia, diplomat Baron Roman Romanovich von Rosen and Sergei Iluievich Witte—at Sagamore Hill. TR earned a Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts.

8. Sagamore Hill has a pet cemetery.

Roosevelt’s love of animals was passed down to his six children, who adopted a veritable menagerie, including cats, dogs, horses, guinea pigs, a bear, and a badger. A number of those beloved companions ended up in Sagamore Hill's pet cemetery; among them is Little Texas, the horse TR rode on his charge up Kettle Hill during the Spanish-American War.

9. Life at Sagamore Hill was lively.

The atmosphere at Sagamore Hill was a boisterous one. According to the National Park Service, Massachusetts Senator Henry Cabot Lodge complained about how late they stayed up, how loud they talked, and how early they woke up. Eleanor Roosevelt, Roosevelt’s favorite niece, too, recalled a constant barrage of activity during her visits. The children partook in all manner of outdoor activities, and Roosevelt was known for abruptly ending his appointments in order to join them.

10. Theodore Roosevelt died at Sagamore Hill.

Roosevelt passed away on January 6, 1919 at Sagamore Hill. Edith died there on September 30, 1948, and five years later, Sagamore Hill was opened to the public. In 2015, a $10 million renovation of the house was completed; 99 percent of what can be seen at the home today is original—including thousands of books, extensive artwork, and yes, 36 pieces of taxidermy.

Shortly before Roosevelt died, he asked Edith, “I wonder if you will ever know how I love Sagamore Hill?” and thanks to the extensive work done to restore his home, we all can.