Monday 13 December 2021

Received Ideas in Quotes 23

These phrases are as insubstantial as spun sugar but they are made real and unquestionable by repetition.
(Mic Wright for Byline Times)

Yes, a few people like and use Latinx. But the assumption that these people represent a vanguard, and that society will eventually progress in the direction of that vanguard, needs to be sternly interrogated. (@Noahpinion. And others on this template.)

Il y a parier que toute idee publique, toute convention recue, est une sottise, car elle a convenu au plus grand nombre. ("You can bet on the fact that any idea and convention that is widely accepted is wrong, for it is simply convenient to the greatest number." Nicolas Chamfort, quoted by Auguste Dupin in Poe’s short story The Purloined Letter. Dupin’s unnamed Watson suggests that mathematicians are rational, poets irrational. He is trying to solve the mystery by deciding whether the thief (known to them) is a mathematician or a poet. The Prefect has searched for the letter by probing every object in the thief’s apartments and examining the floorboards and furniture with a “microscope”, while Dupin sits and smokes a “meerschaum”, while quoting from great European thinkers.)

Peppermint Patty: Do all fairy tales begin with “Once upon a time”?
Charlie Brown:
No, many of them begin, “If I am elected, I promise...”

My current favorite conspiracy theory involves the Denver International Airport, home to Illuminati skulking along miles of subterranean tunnels, bunkers and outbuildings, swastika-shaped runways, demonic leering gargoyles and of course Blucifer the horse (pictured). ( message boards)

People tried desperately to grow pineapples in Britain for centuries and just when they'd worked out how to do it, it became possible to import them.
(Alison Classe)

A swallow is associated with sailors since they were thought to carry their souls up to heaven if they drowned. (Lara Maiklem)

On 12 December 1917, Father Edward Flanagan opened Boys' Town in Omaha, Nebraska. for homeless boys. It was a place where troubled or homeless boys could come for help and adopted the motto: “He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother.” The slogan was later used in the famous pop song. (Prof Frank McDonough @FXMC1957. Pictures shows a statue from Boys’ Town of a boy carrying a smaller boy.)

Or is this the origin of the song's title? A clergyman visiting a Victorian slum sees a tiny girl carrying a baby almost as big as herself. "I'm afraid that baby is too heavy for you, little girl!" "He ain't heavy, he's my brother!"

My chemistry teacher told us about a friend of his who worked for ICI and who was quite in disgust because he found out about “a lake of mercury” under one of the factories that was being ignored for some reason. (James Wright, Fortean Times)

The Radley College swimming pool, circa 1980. A story used to circulate that the pool was a yard shorter than a standard pool, so that no local swimming club would want to use it for practice or competitive events. (Christopher Hibbert’s history of Radley, No Ordinary Place, corrects this myth: the pool was deliberately designed a yard longer.

Chocolate chip cookies were supposed to be normal cookies with a chocolate center and the inventor screwed up that badly. (@23cmnails)

The one-time Mrs Thrale apologised for still using rouge, because it had been customary in her youth “as a part of dress”, and as it had made her skin yellow, she could not leave it off. (Muriel Jaeger, Before Victoria. When white and red make-up contained lead, as in Queen Elizabeth I’s day, it left scars that needed covering up with more makeup, so that “once you started you couldn’t stop”. But this idea persisted into the 20th century, when make-up hadn’t contained lead for decades.)

Democrats want to turn the U.S.A. into a socialist hell-hole (without really identifying what that means). To me, this theme has more to do with the absence of a communistic adversary (USSR) in the years following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. The “Socialist” boogeyman enabled by the lefty Demoncrats fills that void nicely. The casual reader looking at the Democrats' platform and policies and comparing them to actual socialist countries would see there is a large gap between the two, but the right-wing fear machine spews this “Socialism!!” BS every chance they can to keep people afraid and on-edge, especially regarding needed government spending where everyone benefits (like infrastructure, social safety nets) and not just the rich and corporations. And the rubes never really spend the time and brainpower to verify things (reading). ( message board)

I read an essay from the late 19th century where a man was arguing that women shouldn’t go to medical school. He couldn’t argue that women weren’t intelligent enough to attend medical school, there were already women in both the United States and Great Britain who had graduated, so he had to find another angle. He argued that women who devout such time to developing their intellect would see their womanly parts deprived and would thus shrivel up and they would no longer be able to bear children. As I read that, I could not help but wonder whether or not the author actually believed what he wrote. ( message boards)

The tree-like patterns on Mocha ware are created by adding urine to the glaze.

In a world where people tend to have too much stuff, experiences can be welcome. (Cliché of the year from The Week)

There is a case to be made – according to nature writer Stephen Moss – that a Partridge in a Pear Tree is solely about birds: the Lords a-Leaping are black grouse, the Ladies Dancing are cranes. The five gold rings? Yellowhammers, since an old name for them is "yoldring". (LW And a perdrix in a pear tree?)

Chicken Tikka Masala was invented in Glasgow – not. (

I don't know if 10 percent of the Russian government's income comes from the sale of vodka. I don't know if a cow can go upstairs, but not downstairs. And I certainly don't know if a duck's quack doesn't echo. But I do know the following statement is false: The Eisenhower Interstate Highway System requires that one mile in every five must be straight. These straight sections are usable as airstrips in times of war or other emergencies...  I will conclude by saying that, for all I know, there are 293 ways to make change for a dollar, snails can sleep for three years without eating, and an ostrich's eye is bigger than its brain. But no law, regulation, policy, or sliver of red tape requires that one out of five miles of the interstate highway system must be straight. Trust me on that. Please! (Richard F. Weingroff,

Monks sang the offices at three-hour intervals, day and night. Before the invention of wax candles, they had to memorise the entire service. (Radio 3, paraphrase. The Romans invented wax candles in 500BC. Before that, we didn’t rely entirely on daylight but used flaming torches, oil lamps, butter lamps, tallow candles and rush lights. Beeswax candles were always expensive, which may explain the Catholic habit of buying candles to burn before icons and statues.)

In 1312 Jacques de Molay, the Grand Master of the Knights Templar, was burned alive by order of Pope Clement V. When his brothers came to collect his body, all that remained were his charred skull and two femur bones. The Knights Templar owned the world’s largest naval fleet at that time and to commemorate their martyred leader, they adopted the white skull and crossed bones on a black background as their fleet flag. The symbol became well-recognised, and widely replicated, used as a memento mori on mourning jewellery, graveyards and of course the infamous Jolly Roger flag of pirate ships. The symbol persisted through the centuries, on poison bottles and naval tattoos. (Monika Buttling-Smith)

Fireworks are being set off throughout the year at all times of the night to signal where drugs are being dropped for pick-ups. (Sky News interviewee)

My home town had "wild panther" stories, sightings claimed every few years. Allegedly goes back to US military having them as mascots while based there in WW2. (@arwon)

If you eat a whole pack of Polos you will become infertile. (@ProfThomasDixon)

I was first told "student demands mug of ale in exam per obscure ordinance; is later fined for not wearing broadsword" as fact, then a few months later it showed up in the Healey and Glanville Urban Myths column, which I think was running in Guardian Weekend at the time. (@JamesBSumner)

Henry Coventry, an 18th century writer of the English Enlightenment, helped bring “mysticism” into general usage. ... He argued that mystical religious practitioners—especially women—might believe they were passionately devoted to God, but were actually transferring frustrated sexual love onto an imagined divine object. In fact, he argued, sublimated sexuality made up “the far greatest part of female religion.” (JSTOR Daily. The same article argues that educated people became interested in Eastern religions in the 1830s, not the 1960s.)

The United States is based on having freedom of religion, speech, etc., which means you can believe in God any way you want (Baptist, Catholic, Methodist, etc.), but you must believe. I don’t recall freedom of religion meaning no religion. Our currency even says “In God We Trust”. So, to all the atheists in America: Get off of our country.
(Alice Shannon, Soldotna, newspaper clipping)

In response, Snopes says: Attempting to assign any kind of “true” or “false” status to letters to the editor is often tricky, because such letters are generally expressions of opinion (rather than fact), the senders of such letters are not necessarily the original authors of the material presented (i.e., readers often re-submit under their own names letters they’ve read in other newspapers, or material they’ve gleaned from other print sources), and such letters are sometimes couched in irony or sarcasm (a facet which can escape many readers) and are intended to express the opposite of what they literally state.  Snopes also says it has been “much circulated”. The letter was printed in the 29 January 2007 edition of the Alaskan newspaper Peninsula Clarion, over the name of one Alice Shannon of Soldotna, Alaska. Shannon later told the Clarion the letter was meant as a “joke”. Snopes concludes that there are a lot of people out there who agree with the letter.)

County Hall started sinking as soon as it was built. So did Bedford County Library – the original structure was razed to the ground and rebuilt.

A Facebook post (shared hundreds of times) claims the capital ‘P’ which appears on passports under “type” stands for “peasant” or “pauper”. (@FullFact)

Apparently despite being where they keep the Crown Jewels and one of the securest places in the country, the live-in staff [of the Tower of London] find it almost impossible to get decent contents insurance because they share a postcode with Tower Hamlets. (Ben Jeapes)

My friend’s Aunt Shirley owned a building worth a few million right off Times Square. One day she was sitting on her stoop with a paper coffee cup and someone threw change into it. She kept doing it for years “to earn some passive income”. (@thrasherxy. See Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's story The Man with the Twisted Lip.)

Back in the 1700s and 1800s life expectancy was much shorter and infant mortality was high. This made our ancestors accept loss more easily. (Auctioneer Charles Hanson)

Problem of actually keeping up with scholarship and not just trotting out the same "oh legend says an old monk built this in one night" and "the three windows symbolise the Trinity" stuff people expect but are just complete falsehoods about what these buildings truly represent. (@DrJACameron)

Old wooden buildings were “made without nails” – they just slotted together like a drystone wall! (They were held together by wooden pegs.)

What I don't believe about Columbus visiting Galway on his way to discover America is the yarn about him choosing to visit the city's Protestant church to pray, when he was in the pay of the Catholic Monarchs. (@AodhBC. He has a dry sense of humour – there were no Protestants in 1492.)

I said this before, and quite a few people actually couldn’t believe me when I said that my great uncle spoke (in 1980s) in an old Sussex accent that I couldn’t understand. I really doubt that today’s kids have trouble understanding grandparents born 5 miles from where they were. (@nicktolhurst)

People almost never smiled in photos back then. (Roger Karlsson. On a photo of two women smiling against a background of the San Francisco fire of 1906.)

Pinch and a punch for the first of the month: 'pinch' means a pinch of salt to 'make the witch weak' and the punch is to banish the witch. Makeup was believed to be a form of witchcraft. (@Cavalorn, paraphrase)

I’ve never been to Denmark, but a 6th grade music teacher in rural Illinois must have expected me to, and warned us never to say “Copen-hah-gen,” citing that as how the Nazis had pronounced it. (Straight Dope message boards)

Bermingham slang for good bye, ta ra, originates from Irish immigrants who said ‘tabhair aire’ to each other, which translates to ‘take care’. The locals picked up on it and shortened it to ta ra. (@baboig)

Some varieties of muslin were so fine that an entire sari made of such fabric could fit inside a matchbox...  the local English merchants also cut off the fingers of the artisans so that the native weavers could not teach the next generation the technique of weaving muslin. ( See Shetland shawls and wedding rings, and the Kremlin's architects – blinded.)

Preventives of cholera: Abstain from cold water when heated... (19th century poster. Became “Diarrhoea is caused by cold drinks/iced drinks”. If the water, or ice, was contaminated, avoiding it was sensible, but "Cold drinks are bad for you" lingered.)

Why don't kids today play outside? The big change is fewer kids: letting your 3-5 kids go play with large groups of kids is different to sending your only or two kids separated by several years, out on their own. (Farah Mendlesohn)

My high school dress code banned headbands because of an urban legend about Jimi Hendrix using his to imbibe LSD through his forehead. Which, even if it were possible, would have to be the least efficient possible way to consume a drug you could easily just pop in your mouth. (@raylehmann. Someone else says “I thought it was Axl Rose and cocaine”. @HowardeMiller adds: In Vietnam, we wore headbands to keep sweat out of our eyes”.)

In English, a turkey is a "turkey", while in Portuguese it is a "peru" and in Turkish, it is a "hindi" ("India"). (@qikipedia)

I read somewhere the fire in Australia last year between Sydney and Brisbane was to get people off the land to build a new high speed railway... not sure that was true.

Main reason is that [fires] make people believe that there is a climate change and convince them to use solar energy that will be connected to blockchain. They want to control everything on the earth through internet. (

Exactly this. The burning land will be 're-wilded' and the displaced people stuffed into micro housing in 'smart' cities. (

In the 1950s, Chinese peasants complained that birdsong was disturbing them, so Mao ordered all the birds to be killed. Free of birds, insects devoured the crops, causing a famine which killed 5 million people. (@IainSankey) 

One Fascist official, Giovanni Balella, never forgot a committee meeting over which the Duce presided in June 1943. On this hot oppressive afternoon, a dozen delegates were listening in silence as Minister for Agriculture Carlo Pareschi explained why that summer's harvest had fallen short of expectations. Suddenly Mussolini held up a lordly hand. 'Do you now what the birds do?' he asked them in a conspiratorial whisper. "Mystified, vaguely uneasy, each man shook his head. 'Days ago,' Mussolini confided, 'I was out in the country — and I saw what the birds do. They alight on the wheat stems so that their weight bends them over and they can't be seen. Then they eat the grain!' Suddenly, with almost manic intensity, he ordered: 'Kill the birds — kill them all!' (From Duce! By Richard Collier. But did Mussolini put this policy into effect? See Wikipedia.)

More here, and links to the rest.

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