The Dictionary of Misinformation
abacus : (-) Many people and reference books claim that it was exclusively Oriental. (+) It was extensively used in ancient Greece and Rome.
acne : (-) It is not inherited, it has absolutely nothing to do with sexual intercourse or lack of it, nor is it caused by masturbation
air pocket : When the airplane passenger says “We hit an air pocket and boy, did we ever drop in a hurry!” he’s really talking about a downdraft. A hole in the atmosphere is impossible.
air pollution : Raindrops do not form in a completely unpolluted atmosphere : there have to be hygroscopic nuclei (small particles in the air) around which the drops will take shape. No hygroscopic nuclei, no raindrops – that is, no rain.
Alger, Horatio : A “Horatio Alger story” is a standard expression, especially among press agents, to describe a person who has risen from rags to great riches.
(-) Most people have taken it for granted that all Horatio Alger heroes became immensely rich. (+) Not one person in a Horatio Alger book ever got to be so much as a millionaire.
“alleged as a defense against libel actions : The use of such words and phrases as alleged or is said to offers no defense whatever to a writer or publisher.
Allen, Ethan and his Green Mountain Boys : (-) Most people would aver that Ethan Allen organized the Green Mountain Boys to fight the British during the American Revolution. (+) They were organized some years before the Revolution, and for the express purpose of fighting off the Yorkers, i.e., settlers from New York.
alligators killing people : There are only a very few authenticated cases of an alligator killing a person.
All men are born free and equal : Neither the United States Constitution nor the Declaration of Independence contains this statement.
anarchism : without rulers of leaders because the citizenry comprises aristoi, i.e., excellent men and women in all areas, and especially in governing themselves. (+) It is probably the most idealistic and peaceful of political theories. As a Philosophy, it assumes a system in which the individual is free and living in peace; it looks forward to a time when human beings can co-exist within a framework of voluntary associations.
animal habitat : (-) The deeper the woods, the more birds and animals you will find.
(+) For most birds and animals there is less food in the deep dark woods than at the forest’s edge, in fields, in wetlands, etc.
“antelope” in American usage : (+) There are no true antelopes native to North America.
aphrodisiac : (-) There countless substances believed to have aphrodisiac effect – for instance, peppers, hard-boiled eggs, rhinoceros horn, oysters, … .(+) They have no such effect beyond the psychological one.
armour, weight of : (-) Medieval suits of armour were so heavy that an unhorsed knight could not move and needed help getting into the saddle. (+) They were not only so well fitted that the wearer could move easily, but averaged in weight only some fifty to fifty-fine pounds – no more than a modern fully equipped soldier’s gear.
Aryan : This word suggests to many people the idea of “pure” blood. (+) Aryan has both an ethnic and a linguistic sense. In the ethnic sense it refers to a people who inhabited the Iranian plateau, moved into north India, and merged with the peoples there. So, we must rule out most Germans, English and Americans.
assembly line in automobile factories : (+) It was Ransom E. Olds who introduced the assembly-line technique to the USA, and Henry Ford, who improved it, though.
automobile, invention of : (+) The first automobile – and even the second one -- was neither invented nor produced in the USA by the Duryeas, by H. Ford, or by anybody else. Both honours go Germany : The Benz Patent Motor Wagon was patented by Karl Benz in Mannheim in 1885; and the Daimler was patented the same year in Stuttgart, sixty miles away, by Gottlieb Daimler, working independently of Benz.
Azores, the southern : They are anything but “southern”; their latitude is approximately that of New York.
bagpipe : It is a very ancient instrument – as old as ancient Persia – which was introduced into the British Isles by the Romans.
banana oil : It doesn’t come from bananas, which produce no commercial oil of any kind. It’s a synthetic compound which some think smells like bananas.
banana tree : (+) bananas do not grow on trees but rather develop on very large herbs; the banana “tree” does not have trees but a rhizome. And what appears to be its trunk, or stalk, is actually made up of very large leaves in tubular configuration.
Bananas are picked green because they have better flavour and texture if they are allowed to ripen after picking.
baseball, invention of : (-) Abner Doubleday invented baseball at Cooperstown, New York, in 1839. The commission appointed by a the president of a sporting-goods company, A.G. Spalding, determined, in 1908, that baseball is an American game owing nothing to “foreign” origins.
(+) There are many references to baseball prior to 1839; there certainly was an English game very nearly identical even to baseball as played today – description of “Rounders” in The Boy’s Own Book, first published in London in 1828.
bathtub hoax, the great : (-) The first bathtub in America was contrived by a Mr. Thompson of Cincinnati in 1842, following its introduction into England in 1828; there was bitter argument among medical authorities as to the hazards of bathing: in 1845, Boston made bathing unlawful; in 1851, Millard Fillmore was the first American president to order a bathtub installed in the White House; in 1862, bathing was introduced into the army by General McClellan; and, in 1870, the first prison bathtub was set up in Philadelphia. Not infrequently newspaper columnists will reprint some or all of the above “facts” in all seriousness.
bats in darkness, flight of : Bats do not have a radar, but rather a sonar system. Radar makes use of electronic rather than sound waves.
bears hibernating : Bears are not true hibernators; they may become torpid during much of the cold weather, but their body temperature, heart rate, and breathing do not drop to the levels characteristic of true hibernators. Bears can, in fact, be awakened quite easily from their “hibernation,” and become fully active in a few minutes.
beaver : (-) They carry cargoes of mud on their tails while swimming; they use their tails as trowels in mixing up the mud “mortar” which they use in building their houses and dams. They can fell a tree wherever they want. They cut small to medium-sized trees, usually poplar. They construct their dams with a curvature that withstands the thrust of the head of water. There are curative qualities in a beaver’s testicles.
(+) They use their mouths and forepaws in their construction projects. Wherever beavers have cut trees, one sees many that fell the wrong way and were abandoned. Occasionally beavers are killed by trees which they themselves cut down. They prefer poplar for food, and will cut down trees at least 18 inches in diameter of hard woods.
There seems to be no consistency of design of their dams.
bees collecting honey : Bees do not collect honey; they collect nectar, which is changed to honey within the their bodies.
beet sugar vs. cane sugar : (-) Sugar made from cane is sweeter than the one made from beets.
(+) Beet sugar and cane sugar, when completely refined, are absolutely identical chemically and equally sweet.
Ben-Gurion, David : He was born David Green. In Jerusalem, he adopted the pen name “Ben-Gurion,” which means “son of a lion cub.” In the time of the Romans, the original Ben-Gurion was one of the last defenders of Jerusalem.
Bennington Vermont, battle of : (+) The battle took place near Walloomsac, in New York.
Big Ben : (+) It’s the bell that strikes the hour – it’s not the clock or its tower.
branding : (+) The branding of cattle did not originate in the West during the 19th century. In 1644, legislation was enacted by Connecticut providing that all cattle and swine be earmarked or branded and that the marks be registered.
brandy : The number of stars on the label of a bottle of brandy has absolutely no significance whatever in terms of age, taste, quality, alcoholic content, or any other characteristic. The stars are decoration in spite of the widely held belief that each star represents five years, or that “five-star” is the best brandy of all.
The term “Napoleon” has no special significance as a descriptive phrase – it can be used by anyone who wants to add an air of class to his spirits. The same is true of the initials V.S.O.P. (Very Superior Old Pale).
brazilwood : (+) Not named after the country; conversely, Brazil derives its name from the reddish tree the Spanish and Portuguese call brasil.
Britain and England : (+) The British Isles comprise Great Britain, Ireland, the Isle of Man, and the Channel Islands. Great Britain (frequently just called Britain) is the largest of the British Isles. It comprises England, Scotland, and Wales. England is one the three countries that share the island of Great Britain. It is the southernmost and largest of the three. The United Kingdom is the kingdom of the British Isles.
Thus English pertains to England and its people. British pertains to Great Britain, and by extension to the United Kingdom and the British Commonwealth of Nations.
bulldog : (+) Not so named because of its appearance, but because bulldogs were especially bred during medieval times in England for the cruel sport of bull-baiting, which was outlawed in 1835, by act of Parliament. In bull-baiting, the dogs were trained to fasten upon the bull’s snout and hang on.
Bunker Hill, battle of : (+) The battle was fought nearby Breed’s Hill.
buoyancy of deep water : Shallow water and deep water are the same in terms of buoyancy.
buzzards : (+) They do not spread disease, notably hog cholera; actually, they help by eating the carrion where disease could fester.
Caesar, Julius – and his assassination : (-) Almost everybody, including William Shakespeare, seems to think that Julius Caesar was killed in the Capitol.
(+) He was done in near the statue of Pompey, which was in the Senate House.
Cain, mark of : (-) The mark of Cain was designed to identify him as a murderer.
(+) It was placed upon Cain to protect him from those who, in his words, “shall slay me,” (Gen.4: 13-15).
camel’s hair brushes : They are usually made of hair from the tails of squirrels.
capital punishment as deterrent : The evidence of many studies proves otherwise.
caste system : It was not derived in India, but was brought there by the Aryans when they invaded the Punjab and the valley of the Indus about 3,700 years ago.
catgut : Catgut has never been made from the intestines of cats; it comes from the intestines of sheep.
cats’ eyes in the dark : No animal has eyes that can actually glow in the sense that a firefly can glow – that is, eyes that create rather than reflect light.
century plant, frequency of blooms : (+) No member of the genus agave, the best known of which is Agave Americana, or century plan, take as long as 100 years. Nor does the plant die after blooming. The actual time it takes for various members of the agave family to bloom varies from annually to as much as 50 years.
chariots in ancient wars : The Romans used chariots for sport and transportation. They did not use them in war.
chief justice of the Supreme Court : There isn’t any such person. There is a chief justice of the USA, who is one of the 9 members of the Supreme Court, appointed like all the others by the president with the advice and consent of the Senate, and has just one vote, the same as each of the 8 associate justices.
children of Adam and Eve : (-) Adam and Eve had two children – Cain and Abel.
(+) Adam and Eve had Cain, Abel and Seth; and Adam sired an additional unspecified number of “sons and daughters.”
Chinese grammar : (+) Chinese characters are indivisible units each standing for a sound and a root idea; and since they cannot be inflected, there is no means of indicating gender, number, case, voice, mood, tense, or person. Therefore, Chinese has no grammar at all, as the term is used in discussions of Western languages.
chop suey : (+) It is not a native Chinese dish. It is said to have originated in a California mining camp when a Chinese cook simply threw together what he had left over and called it “chop suey” – a phonetic transliteration of the Mandarin tsa sui, which means something like “various things.”
Cinderella’s slipper : Only in versions of the Cinderella story deriving from French tradition do her famous slippers turn out to be made of glass.
circumcision : (-) It is only performed on males. It may prevent cancer of the cervix or of the penis or prostate gland; it also prevents venereal disease. It increases the pleasure of sexual performance; and it a generally approved surgical procedure.
(+) It is not an operation exclusive to males. Both the penis and the clitoris have a prepuce, or foreskin; circumcision can, unfortunately thus, be performed on females, as well.
circumstantial evidence : (-) It means suspicion without evidence.
(+) All evidence except that given by witness is “circumstantial.”
“Cleanliness is next to godliness” : (+) This saying is not from the Bible.
Cleopatra’s Needles : These two famous obelisks, one in London and the other in New York – since the 19th century – were not commissioned by, nor made during the reign of, any of the Cleopatras. Made about 1500 B.C., they were brought from Heliopolis to Alexandria in 12 B.C. by the Roman emperor Augustus.
coffee beans : (+) Actually, they are the pits of a red, cherry-like fruit rather than beans.
Colossus of Rhodes : (+) It did not stand astride the harbour of Rhodes.
common cold, cure for : (+) There is no cure for the common cold. Some proprietary preparations can only relieve certain symptoms.
condemned men freed as a result of mechanical failure : (-) When an electric chair or gas chamber should fail to operate, or the rope break during a hanging, the prisoner must go free because he cannot twice be put in jeopardy for the same offense.
(+) Once one has been convicted and sentenced, then the sentence must be carried out, malfunctioning equipment or no, if the law is to be followed.
Congressional Medal of Honour : (+) It’s officially just the Medal of Honour even though it is presented “in the name of the Congress of the United States.”
Cooper, D.B. : (-) He was the first and most famous, or notorious, of the aircraft hijackers-for-cash. (+) There was a real D.B. Cooper, but he was in jail at the time of the skyjacking.
copper bracelets as antidotes to arthritis : (-)
copyright : (-) Copyright is a commercial right that can be bought and sold. Commercial right is the license to publish. The Copyright Office grants copyright protection. Titles may be copyrighted.
(+) The copyright on a book, piece of music, etc is the legal right of its author, composer, or publisher to be the only person who is allowed to reproduce it. Common-law copyright is automatic protection on an unpublished work, and endures until the work is published – with or without copyright. After publication, if in accordance with certain formalities, statutory copyright tales over. The Copyright Office does not grant copyright protection; it simply registers the claims to copyright. If a dispute ensues, it is the law, not the Copyright Office which decides the issue. Titles may not be copyrighted – a number of book titles have been used over and over again.
Creole : (-) The word Creole is intended to designate only a person of mixed white and black blood.
(+) USA : The descendants of Spanish and Portuguese settlers in all the Gulf states, and anyone born in Louisiana whose ancestors were French and had come to Louisiana to settle. In the West Indies and Spanish America : a native descended from European (most usually Spanish) stock, as distinguished from aborigines, natives of mixed blood, and European immigrants. Napoleon’s wife, Josephine, was a Creole – she had no Negro blood; her parents were French and emigrated to Martinique, where Josephine was born.
crocodile tears : (+) Crocodiles have no tear glands, …
cyclone : (+) A cyclone isn’t even a wind, so it’s neither a tornado nor a hurricane. It may be as wide as a thousand miles, and is simply the pattern of winds circulating around a low-pressure area, clockwise in the Southern hemisphere and counterclockwise in the Northern.
damned Yankee : (+) Not originally a term applied by Southerners to Northerners; actually, it first arose during the Revolutionary War and was used against northern “provincials” by “Yorkers”.
darkening the room to avoid injury to eyes of children who have measles : (+) Children may have trouble with vision after they have had measles, but it is the measles that caused the problem, not the fact that the room was lighted.
Darwin, Charles Robert : (+) The idea of evolution was not original with Darwin (1809-1882), nor did he ever claim that it was. Origin of Species does not deal with the evolution of man, nor did he ever try to prove that men are descended from apes – he postulated that human beings and monkeys have a common ancestor. He did not originate the expression “survival of the fittest”, nor does “fittest” (adjustment to circumstance) mean “best”, or “most powerful”, or “most deserving”.
Darwin gives full credit to the many others who had, one way or another, anticipated him. In the 3rd edition of his Origin of Species (1861), he credits Aristotle with having “shadowed forth” the principle of natural selection.
Alfred Russel Wallace (1823-1913), who was living in the Malay Archipelago, had written (quite without Darwin’s knowledge) a paper entitled “On the Tendency of Varieties to Depart Indefinitely from the Original Type”, and sent a copy to Darwin in 1858, and ironically that’s why quite a few scientists link Wallace’s name with Darwin’s even though Darwin had, as early as 1844, allowed others to read from his yet unpublished work. Wallace maintained, with commendable modesty, that his contribution was as two weeks are to twenty years, but still Darwin was quite willing to waive any claim to priority.
Great discoveries do not spring forth like Minerva from the brain of Jupiter. It is the peculiar characteristic of genius to recognize what others have seen but not grasped, have grasped, have observed but not fully understood, and then to put everything together so that it makes a new kind of sense. George Buffon (1707-1788), Jean Lamarck (1744-1829), Darwin’s own grandfather Erasmus (1731-1802) – all these had dealt, one way or another, with the idea that some forms must have evolved from some others. Even Alexander Pope’s 18th century notion, expressed entirely in literary rather than scientific terms and itself deriving from John Dryden, of a “great chain of being”, or orderly universe in which there is a place for everything and everything has its place, must have stirred speculation that some of the complicated forms had, so to speak, worked their way up the chain : that is, have evolved from the simpler. Even “survival of the fittest” (the phrase is Herbert Spencer’s, but Darwin liked it and came to adopt it) had been suggested, according to Darwin himself, by William C. Wells in 1813 and Patrick Mathew in 1831.
democracy, early American settlers’ attitude toward : Often appearing in newspapers or magazines on or near Thanksgiving Day are advertisements of the type sometimes called public service or institutional. Shown will be a group of tall-hatted Puritans, muskets on shoulders, going to or coming from church. Underneath, a caption proclaims something like, “To these we owe our fundamental liberties”. But such a concept could scarcely be farther from the truth.
John Winthrop, fist governor to the Massachusetts Bay Colony, one of the most famous and influential of the early Puritan leaders, once said of democracy that it is “accounted the meanest and worst of all forms of government”. The Puritans in colonial America were anything but tolerant of dissent; the religious freedom they sought in the New World was for themselves only; it did not extend to those who disagreed with them. It was the Massachusetts Bay Colony which, in its somewhat ironically titled “Body of Liberties” in 1641, made blasphemy a crime punishable by death. When in 1691 Massachusetts lost its independence and became a royal province under a royal governor, Samuel Sewall – rich and influential and one of the most prominent 17th century Puritan leaders – did not protest; he wrote, in fact, that it was intolerable for “private persons to print reflections and censures on the highest acts of government”.
Not even during the American Revolution was the word democracy much used; it does not appear in the Declaration of Independence, any of the first state constitutions, nor indeed in the Constitution of the United States. Thomas Jefferson himself did not publicly call himself a democrat or use the term in any of his public addresses. He believed that government by a simple majority could be as despotic as one-man rule and did not trust “the mobs of the great cities”. Nor did the word republic find any great favour among those who seemed fearful of democracy; the Constitution does not officially declare the new nation a republic.
In any case, the concepts on which the new nation was founded certainly did not derive from those 17th century Calvinist-Separatist Puritan doctrines which inspired our earliest New England forebears. They sprang, rather, from the 18th century Anglo-European religious, philosophical, and political climate of resistance to monarchy and its underlying basis, the divine right of kings. It was the Age of Enlightenment (so called, the philosophy of which derived from such as Locke, Berkeley and Hume, and certainly not from such as Calvin and Knox) from which the American Revolution and the notion that all are born equal and entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
destroying US coins : (+) Nothing in the law forbids anyone from destroying coins. Defacing or mutilating a coin and then passing it as currency is another matter.
Destruction of surplus crops : The notion that it was Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Dealers who first thought of plowing under crops in order to create an artificial scarcity and thus raise prices is quite false. In 1639, tobacco prices were so low in Virginia that half the crop was burned on order of the general assembly.
Doom, Day of : (-) The day on which everyone will be doomed. (+) Doom here derives from the O.E. noun dom, which meant “judgment”. The Day of Doom, thus, is the Day of Judgment.
double-jointed persons : Nobody is truly double-jointed. Some people simply have looser ligaments than others.
drink like a fish : Fish do not drink.
dry-cell battery : They are moist inside, and must be, otherwise they won’t work.
Dying Gladiator, The : This well known statue does not represent a dying gladiator. It is rather a representation of a dying Gaul, wounded in battle, not in an arena.
eggs, colour of shell : (+) There is no difference either in nutritional value or flavour between brown-shelled eggs and white-shelled eggs.
Egyptian secret art of embalming : (+) The Egyptians had no special embalming secrets; it was the unusually dry climate and relative absence of bacteria in the air and sand that account for the remarkable state of preservation of Egyptian mummies.
Eighteenth (Prohibition) Amendment : (+) The Eighteenth Amendment did not prohibit the consumption of liquor; it didn’t even define what an intoxicating beverage is.
electric fans as cooling agents : (+) No fan, electric or otherwise, cools the air. In fact, strictly speaking, an electric fan increases the temperature of the air in room because of the heat given off by the motor (and – though it’s very slight – even the heat resulting from friction of air against the blades).
What creates the cooling effect of a fan is the increased evaporation of moisture from the skin in resulting from increased air circulation.
electricity, direction of the flow of : (-) The direction of current is from positive to negative. (+) The electrons flow from negative to positive.
Emancipation Proclamation : (-) The American Civil War* was a crusade against slavery. *[ April 1861 – May 1865 ]
(+) Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation had no legal force and was not inspired by altruism – though this is not to say that Lincoln’s dislike of slavery was any the less genuine. It specifically applied to slaves only in the Confederate States, not to those in the slave-holding states which had chosen to stay with the Union – and they were many : Kentucky, Maryland, …
The proclamation was ignored by the Confederacy; and since it applied only to the Confederate states, the net effect was that no slave was freed. Its motivation appears to have been almost entirely military-political; in 1862 Lincoln told the South that any state which did not return to the Union by the end of the year would have its slaves declared free men. No state accepted the ultimatum, so on January 1, 1863 the proclamation was issued.
The 13th Amendment, abolishing slavery, was ratified Dec 6, 1865.
Epicureanism : (+) That the modest, kindly and moderate Epicurus should have inspired the name for a way of life the paradigm of which is usually taken to be “Eat, drink and be merry” is a considerable irony. Epicurus – who was, incidentally, as much a kind of early atomic physicist as anything else – neither believed in nor practiced the immoderate pursuit of pleasure at all cost. He propounded a pleasure-pain theory, but he was not a gross sensualist, nor were his followers.
Actually, so large a part do prudence and moderation play in historical Epicureanism that some of Epicurus’ followers came to believe more in suffering pain with indifference than seeking out its opposite.
Epicureanism calls for peace of mind, freedom from pain through pursuit of cultural interests, development of inner serenity, and temperance in sensual pleasure. It does not reject but accepts Aristotle’s “Golden Mean”.
What most people seem to think Epicurean means is better expressed as hedonism (pleasure). But even hedonism itself does not have to mean the immoderate pursuit of sensual pleasure. Many hedonists believed in the rule of reason.
equal pay for everyone under Communism : (-) Under the system of Communism, every worker gets, or supposed to get, the same pay.
(+) There is nothing in Marxist-Leninist theory that assumes or implies equal pay for everybody. “From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs” * quite clearly evades the issue ; it all depends on how “needs” is defined ; and in any case it does not say “To all the same”.
*[ said by Marx, but not in either the Communist Manifesto or Das Kapital ]
Everest as world’s highest mountain : This is a fact that depends entirely on a convention : measuring the height of mountains from sea level. If they were measured in terms of how far they stick out into space from the center of the earth, Chimorazo, a peak in the Ecuadorian Andes, at 20,561 feet, against Everest’s 29,028, would be the “highest”; the earth is not round, but rather bulges out at the equator so that sea level there is some fourteen miles farther from the center of the earth than at the North Pole. Chimborazo is within two degrees of the equator ; Everest is nearly 28 miles from it. On this basis, Chimborazo is some 2 miles higher than Everest.
evolution of “progress” : (-) In Darwinian terms, the higher forms have evolved from lower ones, which in turn implies that evolution is Nature’s way of implementing what man calls progress.
(+) Darwin wrote : “Natural Selection includes no necessary and universal law of advancement or development – it only takes advantage of such variations as arise and are beneficial to each creature under its complex relations of life…”
fasting as beneficial : (+) A prolong fast by a healthy person can cause nothing but harm. There is such a general weakening by the entire body, and lowering of resistance to disease, that only an extremely vigorous and healthy person can stand a lengthy fast.
First heavier-than-air craft to make a sustained flight under its own power : (+) To Langley must go the credit for proving that powered flight is possible, and to the Wright Brothers does go the honour of achieving the first flight to carry a human passenger.
Galileo Galilei : (+) 1)- He did not invent the telescope, but in 1609 he made his own improved one and pioneered its use as an astronomical instrument. 2)- Although tried by the Inquisition he was never tortured. 3)- He never uttered under his breath “Nevertheless it does move”. 4)- He never spend so much as a day in prison ; his punishment was a kind of house arrest. 5)- He did not come to any theories about the pendulum as a result of observing a swinging lamp in the cathedral of Pisa, nor did he drop anything from the Leaning Tower to show that objects of differing weights would fall to earth at the same velocity.
Gandi, Mahatma – and civil disobedience, and Henry David Thoreau* : (+) He employed passive resistance for the first time in 1906 and read “Civil Disobedience” in 1907. He did not particularly like the negative implications of the “passive resistance.” He preferred to call it satyagraha, variously translated as “soul force” or “truth force,” a manifestation of Ahimsa, or a positive state of love.
Gandi himself gave credit to the New Testament for first influencing him in the direction of satyagraha, though later he said that he found his philosophy reflected also in the Hindu scripture, Bhagavad Gita. Those who have read Resurrection by Leo Tolstoy should not be surprised that Gandhi also was under his influence, again before he encountered Thoreau.
*( well-known for his essay Civil Disobedience )
German silver : (+) There is no silver in it : it is made from copper, zinc, and nickel.
hair growing on a corpse : (+) The hair may seem to have grown because the skin around each hair haw receded somewhat – the hair haw not grown at all.
hair on the chest as an indication of virility : (+) Hair on the chest means just one thing : hair on the chest.
halo, nimbus : (+) A halo is a general term for any disc or luminosity, like that seen around the sun during an eclipse. A nimbus since pagan times haw had specific application to the radiance said to surround god-like figures when they appear on earth. So, strictly speaking, the radiance surrounding the head or figure of saints, etc., in paintings is not a halo but a nimbus.
harem : (+) It does not necessarily mean the place where all those wives are kept. Harem is simply the word adapted from Arabic which means “secluded (or forbidden) sanctuary.” This is the part of the house set aside for all women of a Muslim household. It can be made up of mother, sisters, servants, female in-laws, etc., and just one wife.
holidays, national : (+) National holiday is a widespread phrase, but there aren’t any, not even Independence Day. The president and Congress can legally designate holidays only for federal employees and the District of Columbia. It’s up to each state to determine whether or not it wants to observe a given holiday. There are very few legal holidays which are actually observed on the same date by every state in the union.
ice cream as a “cooler” : (+) It may have a psychologically cooling effect for the moment. But calories are a unit for measurement of heat. Ice cream is loaded with calories, and thus its ultimate effect is to make one hotter, not cooler.
icing of aircraft wings and carburetors : (+) Ice can form on the aircraft wings and in a carburetor at air temperatures well above freezing. The reason is the so-called Venturi effect : increasing the velocity of air lowers its temperature.
“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” : These are not Voltaire’s words ; in his book Essay on Tolerance he wrote : “Think for yourselves and let others enjoy the privilege to do so, too.”
Jerusalem artichoke : (+) It belongs to the sunflower family, and it has nothing whatever to do with Jerusalem. The term is a corruption of the Italian girasole articiocco ( Sunflower artichoke ).
Joan of Arc : She was not French, nor did she think of herself as French. She was not the poor peasant girl of legend – her father was a wealthy farmer.
Jordan almonds : (+) They come from Spain ; the name is a corruption of the M. English jardin almande – jardin being the word for garden.
juggernaut : (-) It is a moving force or thing which crushes everything in its path, especially people. (+) Juggernaut, or Jagannath, is the name of a Hindu deity, not the cart in which his idol is carried. And the idea that vast numbers of persons were mercilessly crushed by this cart is erroneous.
jury, unanimous verdict of, in capital cases : (+) Nothing in the Bill of Rights or the United States Constitution requires a jury verdict to be unanimous in capital – or any other – cases. Nor does a jury have to be made up of twelve people, as is commonly believed.
knots per hour (-) : (+) The knot is itself a measure of speed, it means one nautical mile per hour.
Kremlin, the : Moscow has a Kremlin, but so do many other Russian cities ; it’s just that Moscow’s is best known. In Russian the word signifies a citadel or fortress originally designed to protect the inner city from marauders. Moscow’s Kremlin is not a specific building, as newscasters often seem to imply, but rather a complex within a large walled space.
leap year : This event doesn’t invariably occur every four years as is generally thought ; rather, only when the year is exactly divisible by four – except centenary years not divisible by 400. For example, there was no February 29 in 1900, but the centenary year 2000 had the extra day in it.
Lenin’s name : (+) The man was born Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov. Lenin is itself a pseudonym – just like Stalin, whose name was Joseph Dzhugashvili.
leprosy : Counter to the impression so often given in Hollywood versions of biblical stories, lepers do not “rot away,” nor do their fingers and toes fall off. Nor is it a highly contagious disease characterized by open running sores. And no one knows whether the leprosy mentioned in the Bible is the same disease as the one known today.
It is caused by bacteria not unlike the type responsible for tuberculosis. It can take either of two forms : a relatively mild tuberculoid infection whose victims are invariably discharged from the hospital after a relatively short stay, and the lepromatous type which can persist for life.
None of the nurses, nuns, or doctors at the United States Public Health Service Hospital for lepers at Carville, Louisiana, has ever contracted it ; even where the disease is most prevalent, as in parts of India, only 5 percent of the population is affected. None of the many attempts by courageous doctors – or less courageous doctors who used volunteers – deliberately to infect themselves or others has succeeded.
It is true that one of the effects of the disease is to desensitize the skin.
letters, literary rights in : Personal letters from famous people may be valuable as collectors’ items, but the owners of the letters have no right to publish them. This is true even though the owner of the letter may also be the one to whom it was written. The author of a letter retains the same literary rights in it as if it were a short story, poem, or novel. Thus, to make public a letter from anyone, famous or not, is to violate his common-law right in a piece of literary property.
The law, thus, distinguishes between a letter as a material object, like a rare statue or a Ming vase, and as an original literary composition. As the former, a letter can be bought, sold, traded, given away, or willed to one’s heirs. As the latter, it is subject to the same protection that applies to any unpublished manuscript : no one haw the right to decide whether it should be published except the author himself.
“To publish” is not, incidentally, necessarily the same as “to print”. Reading a letter aloud to a group, broadcasting it over the air, showing it on a television screen, or posting it in a public place so passersby could read it would constitute publication as the term applies in law.
libel, slander : (+) libel is printed, whereas slander is spoken.
lie detector : (+) This device does not, and cannot, identify lies ; all it can do is to record certain physiological phenomena associated with lying – abnormal respiration, heartbeat, perspiration, for example. A lie detector’s evidence, no matter how skilled the operator, is always inferential, never direct.
It can be fooled : persons who are truly unaware that they are lying, when in fact they are, cannot be caught by such a device.
light bulb, inventor of : (+) Thomas A. Edison simply improved upon a principle others had discovered and worked on for years.
light-year : (+) It is not a measurement of time, but of distance. It is the distance that a ray of light would travel in one year, or approximately 6 trillion miles.
London Bridge : It is usually confused by Americans with the Tower Bridge*. The rather commonplace-looking bridge which was bought, brought over, and rebuilt at Lake Havasu, Arizona, though quite properly referred to as London Bridge, is not, of course, the London Bridge of verse and song. The famous London Bridge was built of stone in the 12th century, to replace a wooden bridge of the 10th century. On it were houses, shops, and even a chapel. The buildings were removed from it in the mid-eighteenth century, and it was entirely removed in 1832 soon after the completion of the London Bridge that is presently in Arizona.
*( It has tall, prominent towers that rise up above the Thames ; and it is not so called because of its towers, because it is near the Tower of London, which in turn is not a tower, but a complex of buildings.)
London police and guns : (-) The bobby is never armed. (+) About 5% of the London police force have qualified in the use of handguns ; and 80 men, as rifle marksmen. Most London police stations have guns on hand just in case.
Lucifer : There is only one mention of a Lucifer in the King James (and also the Catholic) Bible, and it does not refer to Satan, but rather the king of Babylon. (Isa. 14:12)
macaroni : In Italy maccherone (plural, maccheroni) is a generic term for at least eight kinds of pasta, including spaghetti, vermicelli, and half a dozen others.
Magellan, Ferdinand – as the first to circumnavigate the earth in one voyage : (+) Sir Francis Drake was the first to make it in one trip.
male menopause : (+) There is no such thing.
male sexual organs, size of as related to potency or virility (-)
man-eating plants (-)
margarine and butter : Oleomargarine is not harder t digest than butter ; the body digests and uses all food fats equally well. Nor would it do any good in terms of losing weight to substitute margarine ; its caloric content is the same as butter’s. Nor does margarine used continually have any effect on secondary sex characteristic a some believe ; there is no evidence that it contains anything adversely affecting the building of hormones.
married priests (Catholic) : It is quite possible for a Catholic priest to be married, even though a Catholic priest may not marry. Many Eastern Rite Catholic priests are, as a matter of fact, married, although their marriage must have taken place before ordination.
Under certain circumstances, however, even a Western Catholic pries may be married ; as, for example, in the case of a married Anglican priest who is converted to Catholicism and becomes a Catholic priest.
mathematicians and chess players : (-) Mathematicians make good chess players.
(+) Chess is a game of strategy and tactics, neither of which really plays much, if any, part in mathematics.
mess of pottage : (Gen. 25:29-34) Jacob gave Esau bread and pottage of “lentiles”. The Old Testament does not say that Esau sold his birthright for any pottage, but implies that a deal was made them.
In Heb. 12:16, Paul referred to Esau, who “for one morsel of meat sold his birthright.” (meat is used here in its now archaic sense, meaning simply food).
Milk : Any claim that milk is “good for everyone” is manifestly false. Many people do not possess the enzyme that makes the digestion of milk possible; the effect of milk on them is to induce diarrhea. Possibly as many as 75% of blacks in the USA are not able to digest the lactose in cow’s milk.
Negatives (photographic), right to reproduce prints from. (+) Ownership or possession of a photographic negative does not automatically bestow the right to reproduce it, although some people think it does.
New Deal : This term originated with Stuart Chase, whose book New Deal was published in 1932. It was not invented by F.D. Roosevelt, nor was it a hybrid from Teddy Roosevelt’s Square Deal and Woodrow Wilson’s New Freedom.
News : Many reporters believe that the word is an acronym for north, east, west, south – the four points of the compass from which all news comes.
(Ελ.) νέος – (Λατ.) novus (νέος) – (Ιτ.) nuovo – (Γαλ.) neuf, nouveau (νέος) – (Γερ.) neu (καινούργιος) – (Αγ.) new.
Ninety-five theses of Martin Luther : (-) He wrote them out and nailed them to the door of castle church, Wittenberg, on October 31, 1517. (+) They were the opening gun of the Reformation; he sent copies of them to a few selected friends.
Noble savage, origin of concept : (-) It was first used by Jean-Jacques Rousseau.
(+) The expression and the concept belongs to Tacitus (Germania, 98A.D.); and 12 years before Rousseau was born, John Dryden wrote, “When wild in woods the noble savage ran.”
Northern Ireland : (+) This region really ought to be called “North-eastern Ireland.”
Oarsmen and longevity : (-) Crew racing is a dangerous sport because it leads to “athlete’s heart” and to early death. (+) Far from dying young, oarsmen outlive their classmates some six years.
Octane rating, gasoline : (+) It has nothing to do, at least directly, with the amount of power a given gasoline can produce. A high-octane rating is simply an indication that the gasoline will have less tendency to pre-ignite, especially in a high-compression engine. Pre-ignition, under extreme conditions, can actually damage an engine. It is evidenced as the familiar knock, or ping, all drivers have at one time or another encountered. The best gasoline for a given engine is the one which just barely prevents pre-ignition, or knocking. It is a waste of money to go any higher in the octane scale.
O.K., origin of : It first made its appearance in the New York new Era, March 23, 1840, as part of a name : The Democratic O.K. Club. The club composed of supporters of Martin Van Buren, used O.K. as an abbreviation for Old Kinderhook, New York, Martin Van Buren’s birthplace.
Old English : (+) It’s a foreign language in spite of its name. A native speaker of English setting out to learn it today would expect to spend at least as much time mastering it as if he were to train himself to read German.
Scholars divide the history of the English language into three broad periods : Old English (A.D. 450-1100); Middle English, the language of Chaucer (1100-1500); and Modern English (1500 to the present). The language of Malory is often called Early Modern English, sometimes abbreviated eMnE.
Oldest living thing : (-) It is the giant redwood named the “General Sherman’’ in Sequoia national Park in California. (+) It is one bristlecone pine aged 4,600 years in the White Mountains of California – dozens of others aged 2,000 to 3,000 years, and nine trees more than 4,000 years old.
Opossums : (-) Baby opossums hook their tails around the mother’s tail curled up over her back; opossums hang by their tails from branches or sleep in this posture.
(+) The opossum is the only North American mammal with a prehensile tail : that is, one that can be used for grasping; and it may indeed wrap its tail around a branch for balance and support. But it cannot support its weight in this fashion and could never sleep this way. The baby opossum actually rides on its mother’s back by clinging to her long hair with its claws; the mother, like all opossums, walks with her tail pointing backward for balance.
Organic fertilizers : (+) There actually is no such thing as an organic fertilizer in terms of what the plant absorbs by means of its roots. No matter what it is, from manure to the latest synthesized product of the laboratory, any fertilizer is reduced to an inorganic form before it is taken up by the plant.
Ostriches burying their heads in the sand to “hide” : (+) They do not.
Jesse Owens could beat a racehorse : (+) He did beat racehorses in the 100-yard sprint. But it does turn out that there was a trick to it – by Owens’s own admission. As the great Jesse explained it, he and the promoters of the exhibition always made sure they got a properly high-spirited thoroughbred; no plug horses. Owens and the horse would line up together – with the starter and his gun next to the horse. When the gun went off, the horse would naturally rear and, in Owens’s words, “I would be off with a tremendous break and by the time he came down I was 50 yards down the track, and at that point even though he would be covering 21 feet for every 7 covered, it was too late; I would win.”
Owls, daytime vision of : (-) They cannot see in the daytime, and that’s why they hunt at night. (+) They can see in the daytime; some, in fact, do their hunting primarily during the day, and most of them hunt at night because their prey is in more abundance.
Oxygen : (-) It is inflammable. (+) It is not inflammable but it is essential to combustion. It is essentially a poisonous gas to which human beings and other organisms have adapted, but which would actually prevent the origin of life on earth under today’s conditions.
Oysters and the “r” months : (-) They are safe to eat only during the months that incorporate the letter “r” in their names, and they are special help to virility or potency.
(+) They safe eat in any month of the year, and they are, actually, a pretty poor source of energy – a half-dozen raw one of the kind commonly grown along the Atlantic coast add up to only some 60 calories.
Panama Canal, direction of : (+) The Panama canal, quite contrary to popular belief, does not cross the Isthmus from east to west (or, if you prefer, from west to east). It doesn’t even come close to doing so : from Limon Bay to Gatun Lake it runs due south, then takes a turn eastward.
Panama hats : (+) They are not from Panama as the name implies but from Ecuador, originally. (Panama was a distribution center for the hats). Nor are they woven under water, though during the weaving both fibers and fingers are kept moist.
Parnell, Charles Stewart : (+) The “uncrowned king of Ireland” and great 19th century leader of the Irish nationalist movement was neither Catholic nor Irish as most Irish men and women of the time would have defined the term. His mother, in fact, was American, the daughter of Commodore Charles Stewart of the US Navy, and his family had its roots in England, and, furthermore, he was educated at English private schools and at Cambridge.
It was apparently from his American mother that Parnell acquired that hatred of the English which, combined with his own fierce sense of Irish nationalism, were to spur his rise to an eminence from which, however, he was tumbled following the O’Shea affair.
Parsimony, principle of (logic) : (-) It means that the simplest explanation is always the best. (+) It means that the simplest explanation which covers all the circumstances is the best. Complicated circumstances may call for a complicated explanation, but if it is the only one that deals, or attempts to dial, with all the known facts, then it still may be consistent with the principle of parsimony.
Patented articles made for one’s own use : (+) It is against the law. A patent grants the patentee the exclusive right to make, use, or sell the patented device.
Patent medicines : (+) Few proprietary medicines, especially during their heyday in the latter half of the nineteenth century, were actually patented. The reason is simple enough : in order to obtain a patent, the “inventor” would be required to list the ingredients of his “medicine,” and few if any of the nostrums sold then would survive such a revelation. The term is really a misnomer.
Psychiatrist, psychoanalyst : (+)Psychoanalysts, who may or may not be holders of the M.D., use the couch if they practice the “classic” psychoanalysis associated with Freudian principles, and has himself undergone psychoanalysis and studied its principles.
Psychiatrists, always holders of the M.D. degree, do not use the couch as an invariable accessory in treatment, usually preferring to see their patients face-to-face across a desk. He may also be a psychoanalyst, if he has himself undergone psychoanalysis and studied its principles.
Psychotherapy does not deal with the intellectual problems of the mind, but with our emotions. Indeed, if the intellect could solve our problems, surely they would long since have vanished. As far back as one can go in history, logical arguments against war are common; it simply has no intellectual defense. So why do we still have wars?
“Psychologist” is a more inclusive term although they are not doctors of medicine. They engage in a variety of activities : marriage counselling, testing, dealing with emotional problems, research, consultation, teaching. Clinical psychologists are customarily holders of the Ph.D. and are more likely to engage in psychotherapy than are psychologists who hold the Ed.D., or Doctor of Education.
Puritans : [ βλ. : Επανάσταση – ΕΝΕΡΓΗΤΙΣΜΟΣ ]
Purple Heart metal : It was originated by George Washington in 1782. It was then intended to honour distinguished military service, and only 3 or 4 were awarded during the American revolution. Now, of course, it is commonly granted to service-men who have been wounded in line of duty.
Quakers : They don’t mind being called Quakers, at least not any more. But it is not the name of their faith; they belong to the Religious Society of Friends, which was founded by George Fox in the middle of the 17th century.
A letter written in 1647 applies the word Quaker to an obviously foreign group bearing no relation to the Society of Friends : “… a Sect of Woemen (they are at South-werke) come from beyond the sea, called Quakers, and these swell, shiver, and shake, and when they come to themselves (for in all this fitt Mahomett’s holy-ghost hath been conversing with them) they begin to preache what hath been delivered to them by the Spiritt.”
Quicklime and corpses : It simply does not “eat” human or animal bodies. As a matter of fact, it is more likely, than not, to act as a preservative. It seems more than likely that there have been murderers convicted because of quicklime rather than in spite of it.
Quicksand : It does not suck you under or pull you down. Since its density is greater than that of water, quicksand, as a matter of fact, is more buoyant than water, not less. In other words, a man’s body will not sink so far into quicksand as it would into water.
But it is nevertheless highly dangerous stuff – its reputation as a killer is well deserved.
It is sometimes said to be differentiated from the sand found at seashores and in golf-course bunkers by the shape of its granules : instead of being rough and irregular like those of ordinary sand, they are round, like ball bearings, and thus its peculiarly seductive behaviour. But this is not the case. Any kind of sand becomes “quick” under a certain somewhat unusual but by no means uncommon circumstance : water under rather weak pressure from underneath.
It is nearly always limited to a relatively small area where an underlying spring maintains pressure. It may sometimes be found under water where, for instance, a spring below the stream bed exerts an upward pressure. The effect of the upward water pressure is to create a super-saturated condition in which the sand, round-granules or not, becomes suspended and frictionless and will not support weight.
The belief that it exerts a positive pulling action derives from the fact that any attempt to struggle out of it only makes matters worse. In any event, the victim will not go completely under. He may, however, end up with only his head showing; and if (in the classic) melodramatic tradition) he waves his arms wildly, then it may happen that instead of his head being above the sand, only his arms will be. In either case, the prospect is not appealing.
A wagon or an automobile may, it is true, completely disappear, because wagons and automobiles weigh more than human or animal bodies. A man wearing a heavy pack may also, of course, sink to the bottom if he does not (or cannot) shed it quickly enough.
The unfortunate one to encounter quicksand should : lie flat on his back (If he waits until the quicksand is above his knees, it’s obviously too late), and then he should roll or “crawl” his way ashore.
Raccoons wash their food in water because they have no salivary glands (-)
Raccoons do have salivary glands.
Rainfall and air pollution : (-) “a good rain will clear the air”. (+) Rain has only a very slight effect on air pollution, and certainly will not “purify” the atmosphere.
Rattlesnake, age of a ; warning of : (+) Its age cannot be determined by the number of its rattles; each rattle does not represent a year. The rattles result from the sloughing off of skin, but rattlesnakes shed their skins at varying intervals – usually, they slough off the old skin three or four times a year.
The diamondback is quite capable of striking without warning – perhaps, because he is totally deaf, and does not know whether he is rattling or not.
Red Square (Moscow) : (+) It was not so named by the Communists.
Reindeer : (+) It belongs to the caribou family, but it looks like deer.
Rent for trenches and cemeteries : (-) The USA paid the French government rent for the use of battle trenches in World war I, and both British and French governments a rental fee for land used as cemeteries for fallen soldiers.
Revelations : (+) There is no such book in the Bible; the one that is there is called Revelation.
Reversing wheels to stop a locomotive (-).
(+) Maximum braking is assured, as in automobiles, just at the point before the wheels lock. Spinning or sliding wheels, regardless of the direction of rotation, are less effective, not more so. Pumping the brakes will stop the car quicker than locking the wheels. Putting an automobile into reverse on an icy road or lake would insure against any adhesion whatsoever between tire and ice.
Right of the first night : (Latin : Law of the first night), (French : The lord’s right)
(-) In medieval Europe, a potentate had the right to sleep with all new brides of his vassals on their wedding nights. (+) There is no sound evidence whatsoever that such a law was ever enforced, or, indeed, was ever prevalent in Europe. A decree of the Seneschal of Guyenne, 1302, is the only document which represents it to have been in effect, but that decree is itself suspect.
Such practices have occurred in some primitive societies in South and Central America and Africa.
Right to keep and bear arms, the : (+) The 2nd article of the Bill of Rights of the USA Constitution reads, in whole, : A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.
Nothing in the Constitution, thus, forbids the right of federal or state governments to make any gun-control laws they wish in terms of an individual who is not a member of a “well-regulated militia.”
Royal purple : (+) Purple, to most of us, connotes a dark blue with some red in it. Royal purple, about which we read so much in ancient history, was really a crimson. The best royal purple came from Phoenicia, especially Tyre. It was made from a tiny Mediterranean shellfish, the murex. The colour could be altered by mixing it with urine and other ingredients.
Running water purifies itself : (+) If it were really so, then a great many municipalities have wasted untold millions of dollars on riverside treatment plants.
Sailing at the speed of the wind : (+) Certain kinds of sailing craft travel at the speed of the wind; they may actually exceed the wind’s velocity by a very considerable margin. An iceboat with its minimal friction can even travel four times as fast as the wind.
Salmon, death after spawning : (+) Of the ten or so species of salmon, only the US Pacific Coast variety invariably all die – males and females alike – after spawning.
Saltpeter as anaphrodisiac : (-) It inhibits sexual feelings or performance.
(+) There isn’t a smidgen of truth in the belief. It’s a bland substance, known to chemists as potassium nitrate, or KNO3 . Pharmacologically, it is considered a diuretic, which somehow must account for its undeserved reputation.
Samson and Delilah : (+) Delilah did not cut Samson’s hair. According to Judg. 16:19 she made him “sleep upon her knees; and she called for a man, and she caused him to shave off the seven locks of his head…” And, Samson succumbed to Delilah’s pleadings not because he loved her, but because she nagged him until “his soul was vexed unto death.”
San Francisco Earthquake of 1906 : Many non-westerners call it that, but native San Franciscans call it the San Francisco Fire of 1906. Most of the casualties, and as much as twenty times the damage, were caused by the fire which followed the quake.
Sap rising in spring : (+) sap neither rises in the spring nor falls in the fall. It moves in and out, from center to surface and back; not up and down.
Sardine : (+) A sardine is anything you get out of a sardine can, since the term applies to any of several small fish which are suitable for preserving, commonly young herring or pilchard.
Scarlet fever and scarlatina : (-) Scarlatina is a different disease from scarlet fever.
(+) It is a mild case of scarlet fever, and it is contagious and infectious.
Scorpions stinging themselves to death : (-) A scorpion surrounded by a ring of fire sill commit suicide. (+) Some scorpions possess immunity to their own venom; others can be killed only by massive doses.
Scotch, Scots : (+) Scotch whiskey; Scots, Scotsmen (of Scotland).
Scotland Yard : (+) At one time there were two Scotland Yards. Neither had anything to do with the London police force. A 10th century king o f Scotland was given a plot of land in London for a castle – the Scottish king was required to visit the castle once a year as a form of homage to England. By the 17th century, when England and Scotland shared the same king, James I, the original site was divided into two areas : Great Scotland Yard and Middle Scotland Yard. But it was not until 1820 that the Metropolitan Police Force (of London), which is the official term for the organization now loosely called “Scotland Yard”, was formed.
Nor is Scotland Yard in any sense a national police, like the FBI; it’s strictly a London outfit – it has no more authority over the rest of Britain than the Washington, D.C., police force haw over the rest of the USA.
Sheet (or heat) lighting : (+) It is the same as any other kind; it’s just so far away that you see only the diffused reflection. Obviously, the word heat has no significance as a descriptive term.
Sherlock Holmes : (+) At no point in any of the 56 short stories and 4 novels (which Arthur Conan Doyle wrote about his famous detective Holmes) say either “Elementary, my dear Watson,” or “Quick, Watson, the needle!”
Shingles encircling the body : (-) If the eruption called shingles, or herpes, makes its way completely around the body, the patient invariably dies.
(+) Not often is the body completely encircled; but if it should happen, death is not the inevitable result.
Ships suspended halfway between surface and floor of ocean : (-) A ship will sink only so far in deep water : until it reaches the point where the increasing density of the water is balanced by the density of the ship.
(+) Water is virtually incompressible; its density is only slightly more at great depths than at the surface. Thus, a ship that sinks at al will go all the way.
Shooting stars : (+) These phenomena are not stars, but meteorites, or small masses heated to incandescence as they pass through the earth’s atmosphere.
Signing of the Magna Carta : (+) The event which so many hail as the first step to English democracy did not take place. The Magna Carta was not signed; it is even a matter of considerable doubt whether King John could write. It was, however, “sealed.”
Sin, original : (+) It has nothing whatever to do with sex. The original sin was : disobedience. The only “sin” possible in Eden was disobedience; one can scarcely commit a “conventional” sin when living in ignorance of good and evil. How could either Adam or Eve have done wrong when they didn’t know what wrong meant? Of course, it can be argued that even disobedience was scarcely a sin under these conditions.
Teething and healthy teeth : (+) The time schedule of teething has nothing to do with the health of the teeth. Just as some children walk early and talk early or late, others teethe early or late.
Teething as a natural function : (-) Teething is a natural, painless function.
(+) It causes pain but has a histaminic effect, almost like an allergy, and so the child’s nose and eyes run and he has cold-like symptoms with poor appetite and poor sleeping.
Teeth straightening : (-) Teeth are straightened for cosmetic reasons.
(+) Most orthodontic treatment is done for functional purposes.
Telephone, invention of : (+) Fifteen years before Bell’s telephone, Phillip Reis had invented a crude – unsuited for commercial development – telephone in Germany; and Elisha Gray had patented a form of telephone in both Great Britain and the USA.
Bell’s patent was upheld by the Supreme Court, and he certainly deserves credit for having made the telephone practicable.
Tenure : With reference to teachers and college professors, tenure is (-) a guarantee against dismissal. (+) To be “on tenure” simply means that one cannot be dismissed without cause. There many grounds on which tenured personnel can be discharged, including incompetence. Prior to dismissal, there must be some kind of hearing at which both the charges and the evidence supporting them are presented; and the person under attack is given the right to defend himself.
“That government is best which governs least.” : (+) This quotation is falsely attributed to Thomas Jefferson. It belongs to Thomas Paine, and H.D. Thoreau, who never claimed it as his, used it as his first sentence in his Civil Disobedience.
The bride walked down the aisle : (+) She walked down, or through, the nave.
“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” : (+) by Franklin D. Roosevelt at his inauguration in 1933. Montaigne (16th century) : “The thing of which I have most fear is fear.” Francis Bacon (17th century) : “Nothing is terrible except fear itself.” And in the 19th century, the duke of Wellington : “The only thing I am afraid of is fear”; David Thoreau : “Nothing is so much to be feared as fear.”
Three Wise men : There is no mention in the Gospels of the number of wise men who brought gifts to the infant Jesus. The wise men did not find Jesus in a manger. They did not follow the star from where it first appeared to Bethlehem.
Thumb sucking : (-) Thumb sucking causes bad bites.
(+) Most bad bites come from a faulty swallowing pattern called a tongue thrust, which begins at birth – in this pattern, the tongue goes forward, snake-like, during the thousands of swallows a day instead of moving in a normal upward and backward direction.
Children need the sucking action until the age of tree to develop the muscles and bones of the face and also for psychological health.
Thumbs up : (-) Romans gave a thumbs-up sign in the arena as an indication that the downed gladiator should be spared death.
(+) When the members of the audience wanted the loser slain, they extended their thumbs with fists clenched; when they wanted him spared, they simply clenched their thumbs in their fists so they did not show at all.
Tobacco in Europe : (-) Columbus saw the Indians of the Western hemisphere smoking tobacco in 1492 and Raleigh introduced tobacco into Europe about a hundred years later.
(+) The tobacco plant was brought to the continent of Europe as early as 1558 by a Spanish physician named Francisco Fernandez, who had been sent out by King Philip II of Spain to investigate products of Mexico. It was received as a cure-all, with supposedly extraordinary healing powers. In 1559, the French ambassador to Portugal Jean Nicot, sent seeds to his queen, Catherine de Medicis, for the plant had been brought into Spain that very year from Santo Domingo. For this service Nicot’s name became immortalized in the Latin botanical name for tobacco, Nicotiana, and of course in our word nicotine.
Sir Ralph Lane and Sir Francis Drake, returning in the summer of 1586 from the first unsuccessful attempt to colonize Roanoke Island, North Carolina, brought back tobacco and smoking implements to Raleigh, organizer of the expedition. Raleigh got the Elizabethan courtiers to smoke tobacco for pleasure and the habit spread rapidly.
Tomahawk, as American Indian invention : (+) When John smith introduced the word to the English vocabulary – he spelled it tomahawk – he defined it as “ax”, and later remarked that the term was also applied to the native war club and the iron hatchet. Since the American Indians of colonial times were not metal-workers, it is obvious that the tomahawk as now defined could not have been of Indian origin.
(-) Tomahawk was regarded primarily as a “throwing” weapon. (+) It was rarely thrown in combat, and for an obvious reason : a weapon thrown is likely to be a weapon lost; or, worse, picked up in case of a miss and used against the thrower.
Tooth decay : (-) “A clean tooth never decays.”
(+) We do not yet know what the fundamental reasons for tooth decay are, and we know no satisfactory way to prevent it : 90% of the people in the USA suffer from it.
Wild animals, even meat-eating animals, very rarely have cavities.
There are plenty of cases of people who have perfect teeth and never brushed them not ever went to the dentist – there are many cases of fine teeth with little care. They are especially numerous in Mediterranean countries where carbohydrates are a feature of the diet.
Tribes of people with tails : (+) There are none. Stories of men with tails are not new : Marco Polo claimed to have found some, but no scientific evidence has ever revealed a “tribe” with tails; another famous hoax was spawned in the Philippines after the Spanish-American War.
Individuals sometimes are born with tails, because the human embryo does have a tail and it sometimes survives after birth, but without vertebrae.
True and valid : (+) Not synonyms to one trained in logic or philosophy or both. A conclusion is “valid” in logic if it follows properly from the preceding premises. It is “true” only if it coincides with reality – admitting that this is not always easy to determine.
Σπύρος Ε. Κουλουμπέρης