Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Urban Legends

“I’m often run into by cyclists on pavements.” What motivates some people to make up stuff like that?
(Paul Thompson @raganello)

Trump has said: ‘I saw 1,000 muslims dancing in Jersey City on the night of 9/11. Many people saw it. I saw it.’ You would have thought some evidence would have emerged. Some shred of evidence. And he says, ‘Oh, no. I know it. It’s true. 100 people called me and said the same thing.’ (Deborah Lipstadt)

The first-person experience is an urban legend template, often found on Facebook. I have heard or read all these.

I look out of my window and see all these vastly obese people.

Look down any British street today ... and you’ll see fat people. (Carol Midgley in the Times)

Apparently Waitrose is preferable to Tescos because you are less likely to bump into “single mothers with large numbers of children with different fathers” and there are “fewer people on obviously bad diets”.

I was going to vote Remain, but I go into the supermarket and the banana is straight. I’m sick of all these silly rules they impose on us. (BBC Question Time)

My corner shop is so full of immigrants I can’t get to the till.

I go into my local Tescos and there are three aisles devoted to Polish food.

I go into Tescos and I see immigrants buying food with vouchers.

My mother goes to the doctor’s and she’s the only white person there.

My Polish grandmother recently told me how Polish immigrants integrated so much better than immigrants today (ie black and brown immigrants) even though every story of hers about growing up is about how they only did Polish things with other Polish people. (Jessica Stone @MediocreFred)

My friend’s granddaughter can’t take bacon-flavoured crisps to school because of all the Muslims.

I go purple faced with rage when people perpetrate one of these 10 grammar errors.

My toddlers are crying because Nickelodeon is off the air for 17 minutes in support of the students protesting about gun control and Paw Patrol is the one show I let them see and I can’t explain it to them. (Twitter, paraphrase)

I’ve been sitting here in the hospital sobbing my heart out for an hour because they said I ought to get my grandchild vaccinated, and it was just so insensitive. (There was a string of these on Facebook, with variations.)

The past is viewed through rose-coloured spectacles.
When I was a child, all schools and Government buildings had a union jack flying outside them, not now.

Schools never shut – I used to walk four miles to school through snowdrifts.

I travelled alone on long train journeys when I was six and I was fine because there weren’t all these paedophiles then.

We all left our doors unlocked and I remember when it was all fields round here.

More nonsense here.

Saturday, 17 March 2018

Received Ideas (in Quotes) 8

The fact is that the vast majority of people are absolutely impervious to facts. Test the average man by asking him to listen to a simple sentence which contains one word with associations to excite his prejudices, fears or passions --- he will fail to understand what you have said and reply by expressing his emotional reaction to the critical word. It was long before I understood this fact of psychology.” (
Aleister Crowley)

Racist and classist grammar was predominantly invented in England in the 1920s for school textbooks.
(via Twitter Sexist perhaps, but racist and classist?)

Twitter: People are so easily offended these days! Atheism is a religion. Won't somebody think of the children? If we come from monkeys why are there still monkeys LOL! Why isn’t there a white history month? You should be worrying about (something completely different). Wake up, sheeple! Guns don’t kill people, people kill people. (Via Alex Andreou of the Guardian)

“This exhibition is about challenging people’s preconceptions” says curator of show about venomous insects at the Natural History Museum, as if he was the first person to think of it.

"Making ends meet" refers to accounting: balancing "end" gains & "end" losses at the end of the year (where "meet" means "equal," not "come together"). (Jason P. Steed ‏@5thCircAppeals Surely ends of a piece of string?)

In the midst of sorrow and loss the symbolism of the weeping willow offered solace and reassurance the dead would rise to heaven as quickly as a willow branch takes root. (Surely the weeping willow is a symbol of mourning because of its drooping branches?)

Hazel nuts were said to have contained so much bite-sized wisdom they became the source of the phrase “in a nutshell.” (via Twitter. It's a metaphor for packing a lot of information into a few words.)

Reading The Old Curiosity Shop last night and noticed Dickens used 'bran-new' which was endnoted with explanation that china used to be packed with unwanted bran, so a fresh bit of china was 'bran-new'. (Claire Cock-Starkey @NonFictioness)

The Hawaiian beachcombers talk about their marbles being from ballast on ships from back in the day. (via FB)

In the late 1700's Sydney's Aboriginal people made stone tools from Thames flint, bought to Australia as ballast on convict ships.

There’s a yarn whereby someone had a load of pyrites, perhaps used as ballast, and had to get rid of it, thus leading to “streets paved with gold” – it was used to make roads.
 (@guessworker It's metaphorical again – it's so easy to make money here it's as if the streets were paved with gold.)

There is plenty of evidence for Britain's colonial past on the foreshore, such as this huge lump of coral at Rotherhithe. Used as ballast on ships returning from the West Indies.
(@ThamesDiscovery Possibly, but I doubt ballast stories on principle.)

Here's my favourite thing in Palermo. The kamelaukion with which Honorius III crowned Constance of Aragon as Holy Roman Empress in 1220. Found in her tomb when her coffin was opened in the 18th century. (mym @LiberalDespot)

Edvard Grieg wrote In The Hall of the Mountain King as a satire of terrible music and said he could barely stand to hear it. It is now one of his most played and best remembered pieces. (Quite Interesting @qikipedia)

Peter Lorre liked to claim he hardly knew any English when Hitchcock hired him for The Man Who Knew Too Much, but the wonderfully nuanced line readings he delivers in this film prove he was fibbing. (peterlorrecompanion.com In Fritz Lang's M he plays a sinister character who compulsively whistles In the Hall of the Mountain King.)

My teenage son told me that our insatiable appetite for quinoa has transformed it from a daily staple to an unaffordable luxury in some communities & that I therefore must never buy it... is there any truth to this? (@SnowdenFlood)

Nope. The idea that quinoa is unethical stems from a baseless, scaremongering article from 2013. It ironically has lifted tens of thousands out of poverty. Shows how damaging irresponsible journalism really can be, even years later. Feel free to enjoy it!
(James Wong @Botanygeek)

Putting an onion in your sock will NOT:
1) clean your blood,
2) filter out bacteria,
3) draw chemicals and poisons out of your foot, or
4) make your foot smell better.

More here, and links to the rest.

And if you like this sort of thing, why not read my book, expanded and updated.