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
istock

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
iStock / santypan

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
iStock.com/imaginima

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
iStock

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
iStock

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.
iStock

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.

8 Great Gifts for People Who Work From Home

World Market/Amazon
World Market/Amazon

A growing share of Americans work from home, and while that might seem blissful to some, it's not always easy to live, eat, and work in the same space. So, if you have co-workers and friends who are living the WFH lifestyle, here are some products that will make their life away from their cubicle a little easier.

1. Folding Book Stand; $7

Hatisan / Amazon

Useful for anyone who works with books or documents, this thick wire frame is strong enough for heavier textbooks or tablets. Best of all, it folds down flat, so they can slip it into their backpack or laptop case and take it out at the library or wherever they need it. The stand does double-duty in the kitchen as a cookbook holder, too.

Buy It: Amazon

2. Duraflame Electric Fireplace; $179

Duraflame / Amazon

Nothing says cozy like a fireplace, but not everyone is so blessed—or has the energy to keep a fire going during the work day. This Duraflame electric fireplace can help keep a workspace warm by providing up to 1000 square feet of comfortable heat, and has adjustable brightness and speed settings. They can even operate it without heat if they just crave the ambiance of an old-school gentleman's study (leather-top desk and shelves full of arcane books cost extra).

Buy It: Amazon

3. World Explorer Coffee Sampler; $32

UncommonGoods

Making sure they've got enough coffee to match their workload is a must, and if they're willing to experiment with their java a bit, the World Explorer’s Coffee Sampler allows them to make up to 32 cups using beans from all over the world. Inside the box are four bags with four different flavor profiles, like balanced, a light-medium roast with fruity notes; bold, a medium-dark roast with notes of cocoa; classic, which has notes of nuts; and fruity, coming in with notes of floral.

Buy it: UncommonGoods

4. Lavender and Lemon Beeswax Candle; $20

Amazon

People who work at home all day, especially in a smaller space, often struggle to "turn off" at the end of the day. One way to unwind and signal that work is done is to light a candle. Burning beeswax candles helps clean the air, and essential oils are a better health bet than artificial fragrances. Lavender is especially relaxing. (Just use caution around essential-oil-scented products and pets.)

Buy It: Amazon

5. HÄNS Swipe-Clean; $15

HÄNS / Amazon

If they're carting their laptop and phone from the coffee shop to meetings to the co-working space, the gadgets are going to get gross—fast. HÄNS Swipe is a dual-sided device that cleans on one side and polishes on the other, and it's a great solution for keeping germs at bay. It's also nicely portable, since there's nothing to spill. Plus, it's refillable, and the polishing cloth is washable and re-wrappable, making it a much more sustainable solution than individually wrapped wipes.

Buy It: Amazon

6. Laptop Side Table; $100

World Market

Sometimes they don't want to be stuck at a desk all day long. This industrial-chic side table can act as a laptop table, too, with room for a computer, coffee, notes, and more. It also works as a TV table—not that they would ever watch TV during work hours.

Buy It: World Market

7. Moleskine Classic Notebook; $17

Moleskin / Amazon

Plenty of people who work from home (well, plenty of people in general) find paper journals and planners essential, whether they're used for bullet journaling, time-blocking, or just writing good old-fashioned to-do lists. However they organize their lives, there's a journal out there that's perfect, but for starters it's hard to top a good Moleskin. These are available dotted (the bullet journal fave), plain, ruled, or squared, and in a variety of colors. (They can find other supply ideas for bullet journaling here.)

Buy It: Amazon

8. Nexstand Laptop Stand; $39

Nexstand / Amazon

For the person who works from home and is on the taller side, this portable laptop stand is a back-saver. It folds down flat so it can be tossed into the bag and taken to the coffee shop or co-working spot, where it often generates an admiring comment or three. It works best alongside a portable external keyboard and mouse.

Buy It: Amazon

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15 Facts About A Nightmare on Elm Street

Robert Englund as A Nightmare on Elm Street's Freddy Krueger.
Robert Englund as A Nightmare on Elm Street's Freddy Krueger.
New Line Cinema

Enrich your annual Halloween viewing A Nightmare on Elm Street, Wes Craven’s 1984 horror classic, with these fascinating tidbits.

1. A Nightmare on Elm Street is Johnny Depp’s film debut.

During casting, it came down to Johnny Depp, who was then 21 years old, or another young actor to play Glen. Director Wes Craven asked his teenage daughter which actor he should cast as the heartthrob boyfriend—she chose Depp.

2. A Nightmare on Elm Street was inspired by real-life events.

Craven decided to make A Nightmare on Elm Street after reading a series of Los Angeles Times articles about a group of teenage Khmer immigrants who, after moving to the U.S. from refugee camps, died in their sleep after suffering from disturbing nightmares.

3. Freddy Krueger is an amalgamation of Wes Craven’s childhood terrors.

“Freddy” was the name of a bully who beat Craven up in elementary school, and his signature hat was based on one worn by a neighborhood drunk who scared Craven when he was young.

4. Freddy Krueger’s sweater is scientifically scary.

Craven designed Freddy’s striped sweater after reading in Scientific American that the human eye has difficulty recognizing those particular shades of red and green side by side. Therefore, looking at it is subliminally unsettling.

5. Freddy Krueger’s weapon of choice was inspired by house pets and infomercials.

Craven didn’t want Freddy to wield a simple knife like Michael Myers in Halloween or Jason Voorhees in Friday the 13th, so he drew on his fear of his own cat’s claws and a series of late-night commercials selling sets of knives to create Freddy’s iconic knife glove.

6. Wes Craven’s other influences include surrealist filmmaker Luis Buñuel and director Roman Polanski.

He drew on their works, particularly Polanski’s The Tenant and Repulsion, for the dream sequences in the film.

7. A Nightmare on Elm Street was shot in just 32 days.

Principal photography began in June 1984 and wrapped in July.

8. The boiler room in A Nightmare on Elm Street was an actual boiler room—in the basement of a jail.

The scenes where Freddy attacks his victims in a boiler room were shot in an actual boiler room in the basement of the Lincoln Heights Jail in Los Angeles. Soon after shooting ended, the building was condemned because of asbestos.

9. It took A Nightmare on Elm Street's makeup artists three hours each day to apply and take off Robert Englund’s Freddy Krueger makeup.

The makeup consisted of 11 separate pieces applied to Englund’s face and upper chest.

10. Robert Englund based his performance as Freddy Krueger on a horror icon and musical theater star.

Englund was inspired by Klaus Kinski’s performance in the 1979 remake of Nosferatu and the work of actor James Cagney.

11. British actor David Warner was originally supposed to play Freddy Krueger.

He was forced to drop out due to scheduling conflicts.

12. One of A Nightmare on Elm Street's most famous scenes was inspired by Stanley Kubrick.

The famous scene in which a geyser of blood shoots out of Glen’s bed was inspired by a similar scene of blood pouring from an elevator in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. To create this effect, the blood was created from 80 gallons of water mixed with red paint, which was then was poured through a set built upside-down.

13. Nancy was almost killed by breakfast foods in A Nightmare on Elm Street.

The sticky substance that keeps her from running up the stairs away from Freddy was in fact a mixture of oatmeal and pancake batter.

14. The movie that Nancy watches to try to stay awake is Sam Raimi's The Evil Dead.

Craven added the nod to Raimi because Raimi had previously included a poster of Craven’s second film, The Hills Have Eyes, in a scene in The Evil Dead. Raimi eventually returned the favor by hiding Freddy’s knife glove in a scene in a tool shed in Evil Dead II.

15. The sleep doctor who tries to cure Nancy in A Nightmare on Elm Street is played by Charles Fleischer.

Fleischer provided the voice for Roger Rabbit.

This story has been updated for 2020.