Friday 8 April 2016

Received Ideas (in Quotes) 2

Toothpaste grin

When folks ask "did we really need a study to tell us what we already know," the answer is yes. Much of what we "know" turns out to be wrong. (Michael J. Murphy @MichaelMurphyNY)

it hosts "furiously manufactured outrages". (Steven Poole, ES June 2013)

Why do we think Prince Charles has a man to squeeze his toothpaste for him? What’s the origin of that? These stories about monarchs and despots and tyrants – even our modern monarchs – they have a life of their own. Whether they’re true, we have no clue. (Mary Beard 2013-07-26)

Various claims about the accents of the Appalachian Mountains, the Outer Banks, the Tidewater region and Virginia's Tangier Island sounding like an uncorrupted Elizabethan-era English accent have been busted as myths by linguists. (

Green pigs are the enemies in Angry Birds because the swine flu epidemic was in the news during the game's development. (Mad Facts ‏@madfactz)

I think the u [in colour etc] was dropped by us angry Americans to promote slothfulness and as a form of a declaration of independence from the British spelling. (LInkedin discussion. Americans follow a dictionary written by a spelling reformer – Noah Webster.)

Is the pursuit of happiness ... a worthy goal? Many have said no, on the grounds that happiness comes only to those who don't actively chase it. ( And this magic carpet will take you anywhere as long as you don't think of a purple cow...)

Dandelions were called “chimney sweepers” in Shakespeare’s native Warwickshire. Dandelions start off gold, then go grey. “In 1971 a Canadian critic, Hugh Kenner, writing on Ezra Pound, reported that 'In the mid-20th century a visitor to Shakespeare’s Warwickshire met a countryman blowing the grey head off a dandelion: ‘We call these golden boys chimney-sweepers when they go to seed.' Apparently, Kenner had the story from Guy Davenport, a US writer and friend of Pound, who claimed to have had it from William Arrowsmith: presumably the US classical scholar of that name. Arrowsmith himself seems to have been the 'visitor' who received (but did not, apparently, record) this scrap of folk tradition.” (From livejournal, wolfinthewood. She exhaustively researches this story and concludes that it’s made up.)
“To buy Ray-Ban sunglasses, apartments in Paris, Ferraris and all the rest of it that goes with most of the foreign aid.” (Godfrey Bloom, MEP 2013 Aug)

If Miss Manners hears any more contemptuous descriptions of etiquette as being a matter of “knowing which fork to use,” she will run amok with a sharp weapon. (Judith Martin)

An anecdote you always seem to hear about almost any 1960s housing estate is that "it became known to residents as Alcatraz". (Douglas Murphy ‏@entschwindet)

Coral is a fairly common find on the Thames foreshore and would have been brought from as far away as the Caribbean as ballast, then dumped on the foreshore to make room for cargo. (London Mudlark)  This [cowrie shell] isn't native to the Thames and probably arrived in ship ballast, which was offloaded into the river prior to the ship loading up with cargo. (London Mudlark) It probably washed up from Ballast Quay in Greenwich.

When the First World War broke out, actor Ernest Thesiger fancied himself in a kilt and applied to join a Highland regiment, but as the accent he assumed for the occasion proved unconvincing, he spent much of the hostilities teaching embroidery to disabled ex-servicemen. (London Review of Books)

Many whodunnit novels are criticised for being artificial puzzles with little or no characterization. (Wikipedia)

Easter bunny and link with eggs concept is due to ancient belief that leverets were born from eggs as their eyes are open. (Countryfile)

To make a right Horlicks of something: [The hot drink company] once aired a series of TV commercials that portrayed a stressed-out woman enduring a series of mundane catastrophes. She ends the terrible day by relaxing with a hot nip of Horlicks. (From World Wide Words)

As I understand it, Shakespeare's plays were mostly fairly rough "scripts", and only written down for print by scribes sent to be in the audience. (RI)

Time is a concept that humans created. (Yoko Ono)

As long as there has been brain science there have been – in retrospect – misguided neurological explanations and justifications of sex inequality. Again and again, these hypotheses eventually find themselves hurled on the scientific scrap heap. (Cordelia Fine)

Oxford University Museum, Deane & Woodward,1854, was saved from demolition after a 1961 Victorian Society campaign. See also Clissold Park, saved for the people after a vigorous campaign. Protest never changed anything. But perhaps “campaigning” (hooray!) is not the same as “protesting” (boo!).

China to ban ivory imports for one year after international pressure (@TheArtNewspaper)

When, many years ago, the Queen visited Hatfield new town, her route passed by some public toilets so the whole of their frontage was covered up with new plywood and painted grey to look like the nearby walls. In a back-handed way, I'm pleased to hear that. For, it's claimed that Puddletown in Dorset was originally called Piddletown, but, when Queen Victoria was due to drive through, the town was renamed in order to spare HM's sensibilities. But, alas, my own research shows that the name 'Puddletown' appears in an 18th century will, and so predates the queen's visit by many decades. So it's good to have a replacement legend -- and a thoroughly up-to-date one, at that. :-)

Another favourite is that if [crusaders on tombs] are shown drawing a sword, then it's because they died in battle. If there's no shield they didn't die in battle. If the arm is crossed over but he lacks a sword, then he died in battle but using his fists. His crossed legs show that he's been castrated by a Saracen! Or, crossed legs at the ankle equals one crusade. Crossed at the knee and it's two. (

Atheism: It's a conscious willing choice to base one's life belief on irrational meaningless nothingness! (CV McDonald@vdld)

It is said Constantine was rescued by an angel, turned into marble & hidden in a subterranean cave to await the time to re-conquer the city. (@JamesThorne2 Like King Arthur and Francis Drake.)

Caravaggio’s Nativity with St Francis and St Lawrence “was so badly damaged that the man who ordered the theft sobbed when he saw it. Others have said it was hidden at a farm, where rats and pigs chewed it to pieces, or that it was buried in a chest full of heroin”. (Times Dec 2015)

Glasgow Central College (was College of Building and Printing) Great urban myth about 'swimming pool' on roof of B&P whch cd never b filled w/ water as wd be too heavy & crash thro floors. (@TheDrouth)

Aventurine was originally an accidental discovery made by Venetian glass workers during the 18th century. The name 'aventurine' was derived from the Italian words "a" and "ventura", which mean "by chance". The Miotti family from Italy created an iridescent Italian glass known as 'goldstone', which closely resembles aventurine. Goldstone was accidentally made when copper filings spilled into a batch of glass during production. This was the birth of goldstone and artificial aventurine. Muscovite mica was also named after a type of glass, known as 'Muscovy glass'. (

Bubble wrap was originally supposed to be used as wallpaper. (@madfactz)

According to my Facebook feed the Zika outbreak is caused by everything from GM mosquitos to chemtrails. (James Wong)

Antioxidants are good and free radicals are bad? The reason the notion of oxidation and ageing hangs around is because it is perpetuated by people making money out of it.
People have different learning styles? [Teachers] have disillusioned faces. Teachers invested hope, time and effort in these ideas. After that, they lose interest in the idea that science can support learning and teaching.
The world’s population is growing exponentially? Overpopulation is really not overpopulation. It's a question about poverty. (

The non-U words such as serviette, pardon and toilet derive from the French, and the upper classes associate them historically with the Napoleonic War when anything French was considered very tacky indeed. (Wikipedia talk page on U and non-U gets hold of the wrong end of the stick about every single item.)

Just mention IQ testing in polite company, and you'll sternly be informed that IQ tests don't measure anything "real", and only reflect how good you are at doing IQ tests; that they ignore important traits like "emotional intelligence" and "multiple intelligences"; and that those who are interested in IQ testing must be elitists, or maybe something more sinister. (Stuart Ritchie)

Australian accent is a product of early settlers' heavy drinking, claims academic (Indy Oct 2015)

Poor people are constantly exposed to a better life through TV, and it makes them angry. (Rudi Gernreich, 1975)

The organisers [of the British Museum’s Celts exhibition] have not let themselves be swamped by recent waves of anti-Celtic revisionism (“no such people existed: Celticity only invented yesterday by sentimental nationalists”), but they have taken some healthy dollops of it on board. (LRB Oct 2015)

Somewhere out there in the world of widely accepted ideas, there exists the notion that choral singers should stand still. … As singers warm-up, so will they rehearse. As they rehearse, so will they perform. (Tom Carter, US choral director)

People like to complain that modern life is ruining sleep, but they’re just saying: Kids today! It’s a perennial complaint but you need data to know if it’s true. (

Where did we get idea authentic working class anger can only be right wing? And all concern about 'the poor' is middle class hand wringing? (@MarkOneinFour)

"Until the 1950s, all the food we ate was organically produced."  Another (obvious) everyday-untruth. Food journos, please do your research. (James Wong ‏@Botanygeek)

NEED THE LOO?(1) it's short for "Waterloo," which in turn is slang for "water closet."
(2) It's short for "gardy-loo," a warning shouted by natives of Edinburgh in the days when it was still customary to empty your slops out the window.
(3) It's short for "Lady Louisa," Louisa being the unpopular wife of a 19th-century earl of Lichfield. In 1867 while the couple was visiting friends, two young wiseacres took the namecard off her bedroom door and stuck it on the door of the bathroom. The other guests thereafter began jocularly speaking of "going to Lady Louisa." In shortened form this eventually spread to the masses.
(4) It comes from the French lieu, "place," meaning, of course, that place. Some 17th century English architectural plans call the bathroom "le lieu." Similarly, Germans sometimes call it der Locus.
(5) It comes from the Continental practice of referring to the bathroom as "Room 100" — "100," when written hastily, looks like "loo." Take your pick.
Frank Muir on the origin of the word “loo”.

Alexander von Humboldt encountered many wondrous things [including] a parrot who spoke the last words of a language otherwise wiped out with its people by a rival tribe. (Darren Anderson, Imaginary Cities I thought that was Cornish.)

"The average person swallows 7 spiders a year in their sleep" is a myth. (Dean Burnett ‏@garwboy)

Today was asked on the plane if the Crown Jewels were real. Where has this rumour come from? Was also asked if I'd ever met a real cockney. (Polly Putnam ‏@CuratorPolly)

The phrase 'Hanging on Tenterhooks' came from this #Spitalfields street name (Tenter Ground). (@Look_UpLondon “A hooked nail for securing cloth on a tenter”, says the Free Dictionary. And a tenter was a frame for drying blankets or cloth.)

Apparently the Walkie Talkie was to face the other way until Sunand Prasad turned the model around in a CABE design review. (Ellis Woodman ‏@elliswoodman)

Economists have not been signing “round-robin letters”... but circular letters. Round-robin letters have the signatures arranged in a circle to disguise the order of signing. They became popular in the 18the century as a form of petition, in which the complainants concealed who had signed first. This was especially useful to sailors because mutiny was punishable by death. Leftwing groupthink may be misguided, but it is not a hanging offence. (Angela Polsen-Emy, writing to the Times Aug 2015 What difference would it make who signed first?)

in the 19th century it was widely reported that people in the Middle Ages thought the earth was flat, because it made for a good example of how backward the period was believed to be.
“Medieval torture devices” are much later.
While people would avoid polluted water in the Middle Ages, there were many sources of clean water which would be used for drinking. It was also common for water to be added to wine in order to make it less potent.
Medieval people did not have to eat everything with their hands. Knives and spoons were common throughout the Middle Ages, and the fork was introduced to the Byzantine Empire by the 6th century, and into Italy by the 11th century.
People in the Middle Ages did take baths, and would try to keep clean. Combs and other personal grooming devices were also widely used.
Women in the Middle Ages could inherit, buy and sell property, run a business, and had many legal rights... (which they later lost).
(Not everybody followed the Catholic Church without question:) ... church officials were often complaining that many other people were indifferent to following religious practices. We can also find that even peasants had their own ideas about religion, which diverged from official church teachings, and that among theologians there was a lot of debate over many issues.

Theophanu married Otto II, and was mocked in West for her "depraved" Byzantine habits: bathing daily, eating with fork not hand. (Dorothy Lobel King ‏@DorothyKing)

Wearing a veil with spots is said to injure the eyes. (Girls' Own advice ‏@GirlsOwn)

A Tijuana restaurateur named Caesar Cardini created a late-night snack for Prohibition-flouting tourists. All that he had left in the kitchen was Romaine lettuce, Romano cheese, bread and olive oil, which he mixed tableside. And a salad trend was born. (

Disability scholars refer to such myths of super-human skills as a “fantasies of compensation,” which, like most of our popular beliefs about disability, come from the Victorian Era. (

Every self-respecting lake should have the reputation of being bottomless. Optional extras might include concealing a lost village, or having been formed by the devil’s hoof when he was thrown from his horse. Lake Gormire has all of this, and more... (Times 2015-08-01 Other well-known examples, such as Ness and Champlain, have monsters. Even Lake Como.)

The acclaimed The Third Man, for example, owes a lot to the slow build-up of the Orson Welles character to appear, and even then seen only in shadows -- the shoes, etc. Reason for that was that Welles was holed up in Capri demanding to be paid more and they had to shoot a lot of his
scenes without him. (RI)

Legend says shoes came to Wales from Spain, where Persians imported the craft. (Deena Desh ‏@LDN_2471_BOY)

Loch Nan Uamh Viaduct, the central pylon of which entombs a horse and cart. (Ross Brown ‏@scotbrut)

Urban legend has it that a tunnel links the MI6 building to the Neo-Georgian office block on Vauxhall Park where cars go in but never leave... (@elliswoodman)

Everyone knew that the dead liked one to be brave and cheerful.
(Agatha Christie, Giant’s Bread)

1. Patent leather ‘draws’ the feet. 2. Eating flies makes cats thin. 3. October is the prettiest time of the year. 4. Cauliflower is good for growing bones. 5. Work at a table with the sun shining over your right shoulder. 6. Eat a little bread before going to church to stop rumbling during the sermon. 7. Finger-nails should be cut round, and toe-nails square. (Crazy Pavements (Beverley Nichols)

Abandoned hotel in Almeria, Spain... It was built in a national park and too close to the coast... They got the permit through bribing a local politician, and the project was abandoned once he was thrown out.. according to legend. (Philip Grönberg)

[He suffered from] jealous paranoia, which caused him to execute his beloved wife Mariamne, his two sons and any relative whom he suspected of threatening his security; but although Herod is best remembered for these excesses he was, in fact, an able ruler with several positive achievements to his credit. (The Jewish People: Their History and Their Religion, David J. Goldberg, John D Rayner  See reformist Richard III, town planner Nero, democrat Caligula etc.)

Now that Wikipedia’s a click away, it’s no longer safe to regale your friends with your theory about the mysterious disappearance of JFK’s brain or what happens if you wake a sleepwalker, or how Madonna and Camilla Parker Bowles are cousins: some killjoy will inevitably reach for an iPhone to clarify the facts. (Oliver Burkeman June 2015)

Film Noir happened because the heavy hitting directors and stars were overseas. All your outsiders were left behind to make "Hollywood" films. Do you know why noir is so dark and ugly? It's WW2 cutbacks forcing B-Movie people to get bumped up to the big leagues. (Holden Yer Buttz ‏@Nick_Hanover)

The other aspect to face painting for Morris dancers is that begging was illegal, but they danced to make a few pennies in the winter when there was no farm work available. The face paint was a disguise. (MJ, following an article saying that the “blackface” worn by some dancers was a relic of the dirty faces of coal miners).

Henry Fielding says that writers should focus on “matters of consequence” so as not to “resemble a newspaper, which consists of just the same number of words, whether there be any news in it or not.”

Snow White is said to be a metaphor for cocaine, and each of the seven dwarfs represents a side effect of using the drug. (@madfactz  See endless “and the Cowardly Lion represents the French monarchy” memes.)

Here we go again with the "agitator" narrative. Such B.S. & so disrespectful of the people who are rising up based on oppressive conditions. (Ida's Disciple ‏@prisonculture Baltimore, April 26 2015)

Mayonnaise was invented by the great-nephew of Cardinal Richelieu in the port town of Mahón which is why it's called mayonnaise. (Chris White ‏@bombaylychee)

Fun fact: women were warned against using powder too often as it would either possibly clog their pores [sure], turn their skin yellow [what?], or even paralyze them. (

A kind of cant phraseology is current from one end of the Metropolis to the other... (Pierce Egan, 1820s on kids today)

Tea was good for illicit sex: amongst the privileged tea drinking required a tea gown; this was loose-fitting and was not worn with the usual corset. That meant that no maid was required to dress m’lady who could enjoy an assignation, and a cup of tea, in her boudoir without a nosy maid being present. This was known as cinq-a-sept, the time when it all happened. (Daily Telegraph)

Apparently you are statistically more likely to be bitten by Jeremy Clarkson than a shark. (@JonnElledge)

I thought I loved him at the time, but of course it wasn’t really love. (Gellett Burgess, Are You a Bromide?)

Besides, you know God exists... you just don't believe that you believe God exists. (William Wallace ‏@monkshui)

Every Irish town has the "meant for somewhere else in the empire" urban legend. Paul Clerkin

Given that every generation in history has observed a calamitous drop in standards since their youth, it is clear that the early protohominins must have been absolutely godlike in intellectual and moral qualities. (SR)

Legend has it that in the days of pirates, when tales drifted ashore of the wonderful treasures being seized, an accomplice on land would tie a lantern around the neck of an old and gentle horse and this nag would slowly be led up and down the clifftop or highest point to signal to the ship that it was safe to land. The sight of the bobbing lantern known as the nag's head was the long-awaited signal the pirates' perilous voyage was finally over and celebrations could begin. (Daily Express on pub name “meanings”. Why attach the lantern to the horse? Is this a garbled memory of wreckers luring ships onto the rocks so that they could loot the cargo?)

More here, and links to the rest.

1 comment:

  1. There were stories that oysters in the Solent were leftovers from the transatlantic liners - thrown overboard at the end of voyages. But I think both unlikely and untrue - there were oysterbeds there in Roman times allegedly. (could be another myth of course.)