Trivia Teaser

It starts with a B, means 'critical point' or 'precipice', and rhymes with WHICH of these words?

Pong
Whiff
Smell
Stink

Old Wives Tales

05
Aug
2008
 

By Christine Lovatt

Old wives tales are perhaps as old as language itself. They’re mostly based on common sense from trial and error over the centuries — the collective wisdom of our ancestors, mixed in with a bit of guesswork. Why do we cling to such tales about common ailments when we live in a world rich with medical expertise and proven treatments and cures?

Swinging a wedding ring on a thread over a pregnant woman will tell the baby’s sex. If it swings in a circle, it’s a girl, in a straight line it’s a boy. Or is it the other way round? Nowadays an ultrasound is a lot more reliable.

Getting out of bed on the wrong side was said to have happened if someone was bad-tempered. This has several possible sources, one being that the ‘wrong side’ is the left, which is associated with the devil. It was also believed that you should always get up on the opposite side to the way you got in, thus completing the ‘magic circle’.
A further source involves the possibility of starting the day badly by stepping into the chamber pot by accident – that would certainly start you off in a bad temper! 

Feed a cold, starve a fever has caused a lot of confusion. Does it mean we don’t eat when we’re sick or we do? People variously believe that it’s either a tip to eat plenty of food when you have a cold, to ward off a fever or a warning that if you eat when you have a cold it’ll lead to a fever. Doctors nowadays disagree with this proverb, of course: a healthy intake of food is recommended for a cold, with no suggestion that a fever will result. People suffering from a fever often don’t feel like eating anyway, but should drink plenty of fluids.

There are many superstitions that focus on eating and drinking. The humble act of chewing gum is also surrounded by false myth – you often here that accidentally swallowed gum will remain undigested in your stomach for seven years! In actual fact, gum will pass through your body like any undigested food.  

And now they tell us that it’s NOT dangerous to swim for an hour after eating. Who hasn’t spent a miserable hour as a child sitting at the waters edge watching others having fun in the water, all because you had the misfortune to eat a sandwich?

Eating carrots helps night vision. This tale was deliberately spread during World War II by British intelligence. The rumour went that their pilots had remarkable night vision because they ate lots of carrots. They didn’t want the Germans to know they were using radar.
Old wives will probably get the blame for this too!


Happy puzzling!

 

 

1 Response to

Old Wives Tales

avatar
said:
August 22, 2008 at 6:32 PM

Interesting would love to hear more old wives tales!