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Stale Content Alert!

This post was written a long time ago, and my views have almost certainly evolved since then. Please keep that in mind while reading, commenting, or sharing.

Maybe you haven’t noticed, but there are a lot of silly urban legends out there. In fact, chances are, you haven’t noticed, since there are a lot that have been adopted as fact, even though they’re no such thing.

Being who I am, I figured I’d address some of the most prevalent myths. With the aid of Snopes.com and Google, I bring you three of the most common urban legends.

Myth #1: We only use 10% of our brains.

Fact: Almost everyone has seen a PET scan–those rainbow-coloured maps of the human brain. It’s such a bizarre case of doublethink going on here; people have seen these images and yet continue to perpetuate this myth.

The colours in a PET scan represent blood flow to an area–in other words, brain activity. The warmer colours usually represent more blood flow. We’ve seen many different pictures of brains that have many more hotspots than the 10-percent statistic would have you believe. It’s obvious from PET scans alone that we don’t only use 10% of our brain.

There’s another force working against this tale: biology. Specifically, evolution. It’s terribly inefficient in terms of resources and energy to only use 10% of an organ as complex as the brain. With the eons that the brain has been in circulation, it’s not too hard to believe that such a big wrinkle would have been ironed out. Even for those who favour the idea of creationism, it seems unlikely that a creator would make such a ridiculously wasteful system.

That isn’t to say that our brains are always running at 100%. The amount of brain activity will vary from activity to activity; however, in a typical day, most of the brain is used.

Myth #2: Mountain Dew has some adverse effects on guys.

Fact: I’m not sure what it is about that citrus soda, but for as long as I remember, there’s been that cloud of perilous rumour hanging over Mountain Dew. Drinking it lowers your sperm count, or shrinks your penis or testicles, or hits guys below the belt in another way. Oddly enough, it was always something to do with genitals, and it was always only males who were affected.

Mountain Dew has been sold across the United States since 1964. People have been drinking it for forty-two years. Not only is that the answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything, it’s also a considerable period of time. If some secret ingredient in Mountain Dew was causing sterility or shrinkage of the penis or testicles, I think it’s safe to assume that by now, the male population would have noticed it. Gents, you can do the Dew all the want, and you’ll still be in good shape.

Well, in terms of genital health. I won’t make any guarantees about anything else.

Myth #3: “Ring Around the Rosie” was originally about the Black Plague.

Fact: This one has spread like wildfire, and it’s complete nonsense. Ask a handful of people, and most will tell you that Ring Around the Rosie, that famous nursery rhyme, was coined during the time of the Black Plague, about, well, the plague. In fact, the song was first published in 1881 in an edition of Mother Goose. That version was as follows:

Ring a ring o’ roses,
A pocketful of posies.
Tisha! Tisha!
We all fall down.

There’s no evidence in print of that rhyme existing any time before 1881. In comparison, the Great Plague of London, one incidence of the Black Plague, was in 1665, and the earlier incidence of the plague was in the 1300s. At very best, there’s more than two centuries between the last big outburst of plague and the first printed record of the song. To throw more time into the mix, the notion that the rhyme was inspired by the plague was not published until 1961, in James Leasor’s book The Plague and the Fire. If the song was written during the plague’s heyday, that means that there were three or six centuries of people singing the song before they realized what they were singing about, or bothered to write it down.

I’m sorry, that’s just silliness.

There you have it. If you can think of more that are just plain untrue, let me know in the comments.

2 thoughts on “Urban Silliness

  1. Except, according to this, plague victims weren’t cremated, but buried in mass graves. This is supported by Agnola di Tura’s account of the plague, Cronica Senese, in which he states: “[G]reat pits were dug and piled deep with the multitude of dead. And they died by the hundreds both day and night… And as soon as those ditches were filled more were dug … And I, Agnolo di Tura, called the Fat, buried my five children with my own hands.” This clearly indicates mass graves. Further indication of mass burial is given in the plague account of Gabriele di’Mussi, a notary from Piacenza: “Whilst we spoke to them, whilst they embraced us and kissed us, we scattered the poison from our lips. Going back to their homes, they in turn soon infected their whole families, who in three days succumbed, and were buried in one common grave.“How on earth could the song, first recorded in any form at all in 1881, have been “modified for the times” when “the times” were two hundred to five hundred years prior? Unless you mean that the “original” version of the song referred to the plague–in which case, why haven’t any versions of the song published before 1881 been found? In addition, if the “original” were the song we sing today, why was it “modified” to fit the times of 1881, and then re-modified to the version we sing today? That simply doesn’t make sense at all.

  2. The song was probably modified for the times. People used to use the posies as a way to “breathe fresh air” when others around them would breathe. So they’d keep them in their pockets. (Pocket full of posies) and the “ashes, ashes” was because they had to burn the dead.

    I think it fits all too well to be a HUGE urban myth. I mean, seriously. That’s ridiculous.

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