“Education should prepare our minds to use its own powers of reason and conception rather than filling it with the accumulated misconceptions of the past.”—Bryant H. McGill.
“The trouble with the world is not that people know too little; it’s that they know so many things that just aren’t so.”—Mark Twain.
We get a lot of things wrong. And a lot of things that we get wrong are based on incorrect and faulty thinking we have accumulated about certain subjects. Many of these misconceptions are passed down and learned through years of repetition, however, thanks to the internet, we are learning more and more about the world while correcting many of our misconceptions. Beyond popular historical misconceptions, there are also many cultural and personal misconceptions that people hold. Good for us, then, that Reddit exists to discuss these misconceptions and educate people on what they’ve been misinformed about through the years!
1. Africa Is A Massive, Diverse Continent
That Africa is a country and everybody there is the same. It’s about 3 times the size of the US and is so culturally diverse. Can’t stand it when people say they’re going to Africa.
Person: Oh, I’m going to Africa for the summer!
Person: East Africa
Person: Kenya, that’s close to Nigeria, right? And you speak Swahili, right?
Me: Nope and nope.
2. Wrong Way To Think About Eyeballs
“The human eye can’t see more than 30fps” That’s not even how your eye works!
Eyes don’t really see in frames per second – they just perceive motion. If you want to get technical though, myelinated nerves (retina nerves) can fire at roughly 1,000 times per second. A study was done a few years ago with fighter pilots. They flashed a fighter on the screen for 1/220th of a second (220 fps equivalent) and the pilots were not only able to identify there was an image but name the specific fighter in the image.
So to summarize, it seems that the technical limitations are probably 1,000 fps and the practical limitations are probably in the range of 300.
3. Don’t Mistake The Twins
Eughhhhh I’m a guy and I have a twin sister. SO many people ask, “ARE YOU IDENTICAL?” which is a silly question, but I’ve also had people who are dead set in their beliefs that there are such things as ‘identical boy-girl twins.’ NO THERE ISN’T.
4. Don’t Mistake The Scottish For English
That England and the UK are the same thing… It’s just ignorance.
5. To The Left, To The Left
I hate that people believe liberalism and socialism are the same thing.
6. Vanity Versus Vintage Sizing
That Marilyn Monroe was a size 12. I’m not sure why it bothers me so much, except that I used to be really into vintage clothing. People don’t understand that a size 12 in 1955 was the equivalent of a size 2 now. At her heaviest, she probably wore a modern size 6. I mean, you can tell just by looking at her that she’s not a modern size 12! What is wrong with you people?!
And I’m done ranting.
7. The Doctor Is Frankenstein, But The Doctor Is Also The Monster
When people refer to the monster as “Frankenstein”. That’s not right at all! It’s Dr. Frankenstein. The monster didn’t have a name, at all, ever. Drives me crazy.
But the Monster is Frankenstein. Frankenstein’s creation is just a tortured and lonely soul, despised by everyone he meets because of his hideous appearance. Only a monster such as Dr. Frankenstein could create such a being and then abandon it.
8. Making A Bad Name For Feminism
Heck, I’ll bite. This comment is Reddit specific. Feminism hasn’t been taken over by radicals/extremists. Going on Tumblr, searching up feminism, finding a stupid post, and claiming “This is what modern feminism is” is pretty stupid. It’s a pretty diverse field. Before someone says “The extreme people may be a minority, but they’re very vocal,” that’s because groups on the internet like to amplify them and give them a spotlight. I don’t recall ever seeing a post on Reddit discussing the ideas of Judith Butler, Lauren Berlant, or Simone de Beauvoir.
I’ll also propose another misconception about feminism. People who complain about feminism think that feminism is about how women are better than men. Yes, you read a person say that all men should die on Tumblr, now you think the whole movement is like this? Feminism is about reducing inequality between men and women. How can you be against that?
9. Born In The Middle East
That Jesus was a blue-eyed white guy.
10. Immaculate Misconception Of Christ
The “Immaculate Conception” is not the “Virgin Birth”. The “Immaculate Conception” refers to the conception of Mary, Jesus’s mom. Catholic dogma declares Mary to have been conceived without “the stain of original sin,” making her the perfect conduit for Christ.
11. Blood Is Not Blue
That blood inside your body is blue until it reacts with oxygen, complete bollocks.
12. Don’t Blame Shaving For Your Hairiness
Shaving thickens your hair.
13. You’re Allowed to Change Your Position on Things
The idea that you are a flip-flopper if you change a long-held idea, concept, or assumption when newer or more accurate information is presented to you. That being said, if you are a rational person who doesn’t let your ego consume you with ideas, then changing a view isn’t personal but logical. Your ideas, religion, and political associations are not you. They are only your ego grasping onto something to create an “I” or “my” in your life. Let it go.
14. There is Good Bacteria, There is Bad Bacteria
That all bacteria are bad for you, and therefore, that antibacterial hand wash, detergent, floor wipes, hand rub, clothes wash, etc. is effective and/or good for you.
15. There Is No Magic Pill
That there is some sort of magical pill for losing weight and getting healthy. Proper diet and exercise can’t ever be replaced by some sort of “pill.”
16. Not All Germans Were Nazis, And Not All Nazis Were German
That during WW2, all the Germans fighting in the war were Nazis.
17. Runners Knee Isn’t Really A Thing
Running is not bad for your knees! I am sick of hearing how I’ll be crippled when I’m older.
EDIT: I get it, your cousin’s husband’s sister’s dentist is a huge runner and now has bad knees. Anecdotal evidence doesn’t prove too much.
18. Cat In A Box Is Actually Absurd
That Schrodinger’s Cat was a serious thought experiment about superposition. The scenario was actually postulated to present issues with the Copenhagen interpretation, and superposition on a macro scale. It is an example of reductio ad absurdum.
19. Oh Baby I Like It Raw, But It Doesn’t Have To Be
Not all sushi is raw fish.
20. Wherefore You Have A Misconception
Wherefore does not mean “where”.
21. Anything You Can Do…Well, You Get The Point
That gender somehow dictates what you can and can’t do. Only boys can play with trucks and only girls can play with dolls? Bull. Let a kid be a kid and play with whatever they want. It’s crap like this that leads to adults feeling like gender can dictate job opportunities. Women can do just as well in science-based fields as a man. And in some cases, even better.
22. Size Matters
American people are a lot less fat than we’re led to believe. Yep, some obesity but no more than I see here in the UK.
23. See You Later, Alligator
I was wrong when I thought alligators just lived in the Everglades. Those critters are EVERYWHERE in Florida….
24. Prepare for All Kinds of Weather
How surprisingly cold some parts of Arizona can get. I visited it after spending a year in northern Ohio, and basically went there naked, as I didn’t expect anything could be worse than Cleveland’s winter. Nope, I almost froze to death when I went to see the Grand Canyon and it was snowing.
25. Looks Can Be Deceiving
My friend’s wife is from Costa Rica. She was shocked to find out that Americans take regular showers when she moved here… I guess most of the Americans she was exposed to growing up were the Backpack-Costa-Rica-Hippie-Types who didn’t clean themselves much…
26. The Good Old Second Amendment
My German friends wanted to shoot all my guns. When I told them I didn’t have any they looked at me like I was lying.
27. Getting Where You Need to Get
Well I recently learned that New York is a state as well as a city and that Washington isn’t in Washington.
28. Movies Versus Reality
My grandmother was an impressionable small town teenager in the UK during WW2, and fell in love with her fair share of American GI’s as there were hundreds stationed in her hometown. They took her to dances, swept her off her feet and left her with a hugely romantic view of life in the USA. Bolstered over the years by movies!!
In 2003 my family took her to Florida on holiday and she was devastated that everyone lived normal lives!
29. I Think You Just Need to Read the Newspaper…
Not really a misconception but I was pretty young when I moved to the US from mainland Europe. My parents mentioned that the US was at war (this was in 2003) and I wondered to myself why we were moving to a war zone. I thought that there would be air raids and bombings all the time.
30. Rubbing Elbows With the Stars
Hollywood. I believed it was wall to wall famous people, walking on red carpets dressed in golden gowns and everything was possible if you just walked on that beautiful Blvd. WRONG…..big time….
31. The Devil’s in the Details
I had an exchange student from Europe recently, and he said his mom said she’d be happy as long as he ended up anywhere in the US except Texas. I live in New Orleans. Like in the city. His mom was still happy it wasn’t Texas. He said he would fill her in on the actual danger to him in New Orleans versus Texas when he went home.
32. Life Is But a Dream
This one is a bit off topic but hear me out. I grew up watching American movies, American media, American everything, and it became this very familiar place that I had never been to, and it almost seemed like it was fake, like it was all just one big movie set, and people spoke a made up language I understood but never heard from native speakers in real life. At that point my view on America was almost disconnected from reality.
When I finally visited America it was completely surreal, like I was taking part in those fictional movies I had seen as a kid. I saw landmarks in cities that I had only ever seen on a screen. It was a crazy experience.
33. Something Positive for a Change
I don’t know if it is a misconception, but I expected Grand Canyon national park to be less well-maintained. Frankly it’s amazing for the amount of visitors, visited last year. 10/10. You people have an amazing national parks service (this year we decided to come back and tackle Yellowstone…next weekend actually).
Hats off to the national parks, that is some public sector—I hope you people decide to keep investing. For me, more than cities, they are the crown jewels of the US.
34. Subtle Differences
I thought Canadian and American accents were the same. Surprised me every time someone asked me if I was Canadian after speaking just a few sentences.
35. The Real Hollywood Is Slightly Different Than in the Movies…
If you’re into art the LACMA, MOCA, Broad are great, the Getty is free with a reservation (only the Getty Villa requires a reservation in advance!) and has beautiful gardens and views. Not to mention the Petersen Auto Museum if you’re into cars.
If you’re into food there are a thousand amazing restaurants but I’d recommend checking out Daikokuya or Shin Sen Gumi for some ramen, Sugarfish or Sushi Gen for some good sushi, Animal, Bestia, Republique, and The Bazaar for finer dining. Do NOT miss out on good Mexican food. Every city has their top taqueria so just ask around and go, don’t overthink it, the best ones are dingy little hole in the walls. If they look modern or hip just don’t bother. Get in-n-out once to try because it’s a Cali staple. There is an infinite amount of good restaurants here and if there’s a particular thing you’re looking for we’ll have it if you look around enough.
Go to one of the many beautiful beaches. I prefer anything south or north of LA, so malibu is great, or laguna beach. Both are a little snooty but beautiful nonetheless. Check out the Griffith observatory, I believe it’s still free and the views are to die for. Hiking around there in the hills is great too.
The farmer’s market on Fairfax is cool, Olvera street is a nice stroll, check out the grand central market, go see a live taping of a show like Conan (you gotta get tickets online but they’re free), take scenic drive down Mulholland, walk the Venice canals (avoid the beach), stroll down Abbot Kinney…I could go on and on and on. Basically there is so much better, more fun stuff to do than get mired in traffic and people on Hollywood Blvd! These are all the things I force my relatives to do when they visit and they typically end up leaving very happy.
Forgot to mention Silver Lake and Echo Park! Those two neighborhoods have become gentrified but are still super quaint and fun to visit on a nice day. Lots of boutiques and little book shops, etc.
36. Now That’s a New One…
Once hosted a guest from Africa. He was here on a church-sponsored event in my neighborhood. A friend asked if I could host him in my spare bedroom. On the last day I asked him what surprised him about America. He said his church people in Africa warned him that all Americans have orgies on Fridays and that’s why they all have AIDS.
37. Not So Rotten Renaissance
That people during the Middle Ages / Renaissance were always dirty and smelly. Disease and sickness was linked to bad smells in their mind, so nobody wanted to smell bad if they could afford not to, including the poor. They wore linen if they could, and most people cleaned their clothes at least weekly. Also teeth whitening was a thing during the Tudor era! And nobody ate rotten meat.
38. Can You Spare a Few Bucks?
Not a historian, but I just finished reading a 900 pg biography of George Washington and he was quite a remarkable man.
The misconception, however, is that Washington was the richest man in America. Yes, he was very wealthy in terms of land, but he actually had major financial problems after the Revolutionary War. In fact Washington, who had never borrowed money in his entire life, had to take out a loan to attend his own inauguration.
39. Hiding in Plain Sight
The #1 misconception about the British red coat seems to be “Oh, it was red so blood wouldn’t show” Absolute bollocks. Blood will show as a black stain. It was red #1 because that was one of the national colors of England. #2) Red is a really difficult color to distinguish at a distance. You’ll know that men are marching towards you, but it will just look like a heap of men, making it difficult to know now many are actually coming.
40. Medieval Misconceptions
Being a huge medieval nerd myself there are a few things that always irked me. Swords cut many things just fine, but not armor. That’s what more blunt weapons like maces, flails and war hammers were for (or axes, if you prefer keeping a blade). You couldn’t pick up a longsword and know how to use it, just like if you were trained in swordsmanship you couldn’t just pick up a flail or halberd and magically know how to use it instantly. Learning how to use the weapons took a long, long time.
A properly fitting suit of plate armor did not make the knight or soldier some clunky, immobile tank. You could still break it, and under certain circumstances, pierce it. But they could still move all the same as well.
41. Missing the Big Picture
People tend to ignore the bigger factors that drive history and instead focus on the actions of one or two smaller events as the sole movers of history. Things like warming and cooling periods, plagues, famines, societal collapses and so forth are the reasons events, and choices by individual people and society, are made. Yes people have agency but often the choices they have are limited by the times they exist.
The Reformation wasn’t created in a vacuum when some guy nailed stuff to a door. WWI wasn’t simply an escalation resulting, purely, from when a guy got shot in Sarajevo. Understanding the larger agents of change means we can understand how humanity functions and how much we are a product of the world in which we live. Dates of things and the “great men” of history are nice, but they should accentuate the bigger picture, not be the picture in and of themselves.
42. Remember the Cavalry!
Basically, the deciding factor in most battles was the cavalry. The cavalry was highly effective against unorganized infantry but it was useless against organized and disciplined infantry. Both armies would deploy their infantry in dense lines to deter the use of enemy cavalry.
In order to make their own cavalry useful they would attempt to disrupt the enemy infantry formation by shooting them apart and disrupting their formation enough to bring the cavalry in. There was some more complexity to it but this is the general overview. Until technology advanced on a large scale these tactics were sound.
43. Primitive Tactics
People forget about how every single one of those soldiers had to march for days in order to reach a battlefield, and still maintain their unit cohesion. That’s a big argument for regimented lines of infantry; the other argument being that it’s important that the commanders be able to order units AS A UNIT, and that volley and fusillade fire are way more effective than pot shots.
Artillery changes things too; cannons are heavy and expensive, and so much of the infantry’s job was to protect the artillery, and much of the way to win a battle was to establish the better artillery position to be able to either engage the enemy artillery or come right at the enemy infantry.
44. Eating Organic Doesn’t Mean You Won’t Get Fat
Organic foods are better for you.
Genetically modified foods are bad for you.
I hate how people think that just because something is natural, somehow, that makes it good for you. “Oh, but it’s ok, it’s natural (insert horse crap)”.
45. Mistaking What Makes A Steak A Steak
The red liquid that seeps out of a steak is blood and that’s disgusting so please cook my ribeye until all the blood is gone so I can enjoy it with some ketchup. FFFFFFFFFFFFF! No. Just… no. It’s not blood, please stop thinking that. It is a protein that literally defines that piece of meat as red meat. I don’t know how many times I have to tell you, MOM, that the little bit of pink found in your already ruined steak is not going to hurt you.
46. Mind The Heat
When you open the door in the winter and someone says “Hey, you’re letting the cold in!”
You’re technically letting the warm out.
Good concept, bad example. As you open a door on a cold day, yes, the hot air escapes, but in its escaping, it is replaced by cold air, so one is letting out the warm (air) and letting in the cold (air). Now, when you grab onto a steel pole with bare hands on a cold day, you are letting out the heat in your hands only, it’s not giving you cold.
47. Let’s Get the Obvious Out of the Way First
Kenyan here. That Africans know the local languages and a little English. Most people here are fluent in at least 3 languages (native language, Swahili and English). Anyone below 20 years is likely to have studied French too (it’s a recent addition). And no, Africa is NOT a country.
48. Burkina What-Now?
To start, 90% of the people I come across have never heard of my country before. (I’m from Burkina Faso and I live in the US.) That makes things already difficult. I therefore actively avoid answering the “Where are you from?” question, because, when I answer, people are very often baffled. I then have to go through my well practiced spiel of: “Don’t feel bad, it’s a tiny country, and we share a border with Ghana—heard of Ghana?”… for the conversation to carry on to easier topics.
The ones that know about Burkina rarely have misconceptions—they know it’s not a rich country, but for them to know about our existence, they usually have to be pretty familiar with Africa to start with. On the other hand, I have LEGIT had to answer all the questions below: “Are there zebras running around?” “Do you still live in huts?” “How did you travel here?” “Do you guys have war?”
FYI: Answers are no, no, I took a plane, no.
49. All Mod Cons
I live in Nairobi, Kenya and when I recently went back to Europe to meet up with friends they all asked me questions like: “what does it feel like to live without wifi?” or “How do you even get to school?” Which are the stupidest questions. People have to understand that it isn’t totally different and that a lot of things are the same.
P.S. They also didn’t believe me when I told them there’s KFC here
50. Tall Tales
Cameroonian here (Country: Cameroon). If you do not know where it is, it is a funny shaped country to the east of Nigeria also known as Africa in Miniature. Studied in the mid 2000s in the Netherlands. Old lady at the bus stop asks me which African tribe I come from and if some people still live in trees because she saw that one National Geographic documentary of the Korowai people (Indonesia) who do. I told her yes and the Dutch ambassador to Cameroon had the tallest tree…The look on her face at that moment still puts a smile on my face to this day.
51. Kentucky Fried Chicken and a…
South African here, the first time I travelled to America, LA to be exact, one of the first questions I was asked was if I had ever had pizza before. I mean, South Africa performed the first successful heart transplant, we’ve had the nuclear bomb, and yes, we have had a chain of pizza huts (among other brands) for decades.
52. Experience Does Not Dictate Scientific Fact
I hate when people think that it’s fine to pass off and ignore real scientific evidence just because of one personal experience.
“I hate it when my kid eats sugar, it makes him so hyper!”
“Scientists have actually proven that sugar doesn’t make children hyper, it’s a myth.”
“Well, those scientists have never seen my kid after a bowl of ice cream.”
53 Touchy About The Pickle
Late to the party: That your flaccid penis size is related to your erect penis size. It’s not. It’s common to see people commenting on a nude guy’s flaccid penis size (normally negative comments about being small), but it seems no one realizes that there is no little relationship between the flaccid and erect lengths. Someone could have a 5-inch flaccid penis that doesn’t lengthen during erection, and someone else could have a 2-inch flaccid penis and have a 7-inch erection.
It really bothers me when people make small penis jokes based on an image of a flaccid penis.
EDIT: Because apparently, I sound like a bitter man with a small penis, I’m actually a woman. I just like penises.
54. Underestimating The Power Of Anxiety
That an anxiety/panic attack is just when someone feels stressed and overreacts. You know what an anxiety attack is like? You know that feeling when you’re going down the stairs with your arms full and you miss a step. Or when you lean back in your chair just a bit too far, then it almost tips you over?
It’s that feeling NON-STOP FROM ANYWHERE TO A MINUTE TO HOURS LONG! Annnddd then you can’t breathe…like a fat guy is sitting on your chest.
54. Success Is In The Eye Of The Beholder
That being poor means you didn’t try hard enough to be successful. Success can be measured in ways other than wealth.
55. Enjoying Silence Isn’t Weird
No, I’m not a social outcast. No, I don’t hate people. No, I’m not a “lazy loner”, and I don’t hate being social.
I just like to enjoy silence, and have a good time being alone. Is that so bad? Why does your definition of “enjoyable” have to be the only one?
56. So Fresh And So Clean, Clean
I dry my entire body with a single towel. Why is it gross for people to use the same towel you’ve used to dry your butt to dry your face? You’ve just taken a shower, you are clean!
57. Exercise Is Important
That lifting weights will make girls bulky.
EDIT: Females lack the amount of the muscle building hormone testosterone, so it is physically impossible for females to put on bulky man muscle.
If a female bodybuilder were to supplement with such steroids then, yes she will put on bulky muscle. For every other female who lifts weights, the worst thing that will happen is that you will get stronger, leaner, healthier and achieve a more ‘toned’ looked. Not to mention girls who lift are immediately more attractive to the opposite sex.
So ladies please ditch the treadmill and pick up a barbell!
58. Everybody Has Ups And Downs
That all people with mental disorders are “scary, unstable, and dangerous.” There are high-functioning people and then there are low-functioning people with disorders. Some of the greatest people I know have mental disorders whom are high-functioning and are able to live normal day-to-day lives. But heaven forbid they breathe a word of their depression, bipolar mood swings, borderline fits of rage, etc. without judgment being passed or people fearing them. Educate yourselves.
59. Don’t Hate On Einstein
Sometimes people think that Albert Einstein was bad in school or received bad grades in school. The truth is, he was very good in school and exceptionally good in mathematics and science classes. However, there are far more common misconceptions which annoy me a bit.
EDIT: To clear it up a bit, the root of this misconception lays in several early biographies of Einstein where the author(s) mixed up the school grading system of Germany and Switzerland. He received mostly good and very good grades, his only really bad grade was in French. He had mostly good to very good grades throughout his life as student and was often the best or among best of his class.
60. Learning To Live With Yourself Is Important
Many people assume that being alone is a negative thing. I’m an artist and I will occasionally spend an entire day working by myself on my artwork, without any human interaction. I was doing this one day a few weeks ago and a friend came over late that evening. It had been a very productive day and I was proud of what I had accomplished. We were chatting and he asked what I had been up to all day. When I told him, he acted like I was on the verge of suicide.
“What the hell man? You need to get out of the house.”
“Your life is just ticking by. One day you’ll wake up and realize you’re 50 and haven’t done anything with your life.”
“Stop being so depressed. Why don’t you come hang out with your friends and try to have some fun for a change?”
“You’re such a hermit.”
Sorry, but I don’t need other people to validate how I choose to spend my time. I don’t rely on others for happiness.
61. Don’t Normalize Suffering
Casual use of psychological terms like OCD, schizophrenia, antisocial, etc. People have made them these really dilute, inaccurate adjectives that really should just be replaced with things like “organized,” “moody,” or “introverted.” The misconception is that these mental illnesses are nothing more than personality quirks and it sort of makes light of the severity in people who genuinely suffer from them.
62. Medieval Times Life Wasn’t That Ignorant
Two historical ones:
- No one in medieval times really thought the world was flat.
- Just because you hear that the life expectancy in medieval times was around 30, doesn’t mean you were very likely to die at 30. It was the child mortality rate that skewed the life expectancy average downwards. If you made it past childhood, you had a good chance of going past 60, as long as you didn’t fight much with bits of metal.
63. Money Does Not Equal Quality
Best-selling = best.
I accidentally read The Da Vinci Code because of that misconception.
64. Sorry to Disappoint!
I thought you Americans ate pizza every friday, that’s why I wanted to go to the USA in the first place.
65. Unintended Results
Martin Luther didn’t set out trying to destroy the Catholic Church. His 95 Theses were meant to start a discussion to end corruption in the church, and it kind of snowballed.
66. Middle-Aged in the Middle Ages
The average age people lived to in the Middle Ages was about 30, due to people having way more kids than nowadays ( many of them already dying during birth), and many of them dying at a young age due to diseases that later became easily treatable, once a basic understanding of hygiene started existing. When you survived your childhood there was a “good chance” you’d live till at least 45.
67. Embellished and Exaggerated
The problem with many accounts of emperors’ lives is that more juicy stuff like making a horse a consul, or waging war on the sea, are usually described in the writings of political opponents, or the Roman equivalent of gossip magazines. And even seemingly ridiculous stuff like waging war on the sea sometimes has a plausible alternative meaning, like punishing unwilling soldiers.
68. Don’t We All Wish?
That Wakanda is a real place.
69. Classical Education
On the topic of Puritanism in the colonies:
Popular belief in a “Bible or nothing” education for Puritan children. A simple glance through the libraries and catalogs of even common people shows this to be an outright fabrication; even the ministers (who had theological training) were well-schooled in the classical scholars of Greece and Rome.
70. An Act of Worship
It is a misconception that the pyramids of Egypt were built by slaves. Most of the pyramids were built during the Old and Middle kingdoms, and there is no evidence of slavery at that time. The pyramids were built by free citizens who believed their pharaohs were incarnations of Horus the sky God. Being a builder of a pyramid was actually an honor and a spiritual experience. They would even have feasts and party during the building too.
71. Not Quite a Majority
That a majority of Germans voted for Hitler. The most he got in a free election was around 1/3rd share of the vote.
72. Party Like It’s 1787!
The delegates who attended the Constitutional Convention spent much of their time drinking. One surviving document from the time is a bill for a party on September 15, 1787, two days before the signing of the Constitution.
Items on the bill were: 54 bottles of Madeira, 60 bottles of Claret, 8 bottles of whiskey, 8 bottles of cider, 12 bottles of beer and 7 bowls of alcoholic punch—all of this for 55 people.
73. Worth Their Weight in Salt
There’s not a single primary source that can corroborate the notion that Romans were paid in salt. There aren’t primary sources on the subject; just people citing blogs or mistranslating untrustworthy ancient historians.
74. Artistic Liberties
The film The Patriot. For most of the war, every American soldier did not have a proper uniform. The British weren’t burning civilians alive in their churches. And the colonial militias spent a good deal of time fighting loyalist militias in the south, instead of always taking on the British.
75. Putting Words in Her Mouth
Marie Antoinette never said “Let them eat cake” when she was told French peasants didn’t have any bread. That was 100% Revolutionary propaganda. Contrary to popular belief, she did care about her people.
76. Cut Down to Size
Napoleon wasn’t short. It was English propaganda, picturing him as a short man to make him unimpressive. I read he would have been around 1m70 in height. This isn’t tall, but it’s certainly not short either. For that period, that was even “above average.”
Edit: as /u/combat_wombat1 correctly points out, this was also due to a difference in English inches and French inches, which the English were more than happy to forget as to portray him as a short man.
77. Changing at a Rapid Pace
That the time we live in now is “normal” and “stable” as opposed to back in the day when everything changed every few thousand years. We’re living in one of the most fast-paced revolutions in the history of mankind. People have been born before television and grow up with an established internet. Historical breakthroughs are happening on a regular basis. We’re sending people into space for the first time, almost all the people who “invented” things like the internet, video games, computers—things that are going to stick around with us for the rest of humanity—are still alive. It’s insane.
That in World War II, Polish cavalry charged German tanks with sabers and lances only to be mowed down. Didn’t happen.
Poland used cavalry, but mainly as a form of mobile infantry. They did, in fact, use the charge tactic, but only against enemy infantry, and that with success. The rumor that they charged against tanks came from a battle where Polish cavalry charged German infantry, dispersed them, only to be ambushed by Armor cars and retreat.
An Italian reporter, brought in to see the aftermath, saw the dead horses and made up a story where the cavalry charged tanks with sabers and lances. There weren’t even any tanks involved at all.
79. Don’t Learn Law From The Movies
The laws about entrapment. Some people really need to do some googling before they start asking drug dealers if they’re cops.
80. No One Knows Who Coined It, But Chicago Ain’t That Windy
Chicago is no windier than other cities. It’s called “the windy city” because of the politicians—but no one knows exactly who coined that, possibly Mark Twain. Everyone asks how windy it is here, and I always have to explain it.
81. Child Brides
Marriage ages! Especially very young girls marrying much older men in the past being a super common thing.
With regards to medieval Western Europe, I find that the public greatly underestimates average marriage ages and overestimates the average age difference between the bride and the groom. The stereotype of a 14-year-old bride getting married off to an older man is more associated with the upper classes (a very small percentage of the population) and southern Europe in the Middle Ages.
For your average gal in, say, a 14th-century farming village in England for example, getting married at 14 would be super weirdly young and your husband was usually about your age. Because the church kept very good records, marriage patterns are actually something that we can document fairly well for the Middle Ages, so this is a misconception that can easily be corrected with concrete data. Depending on which century and where exactly in Europe you lived, average ages ranged from late teens/early 20s to even mid/late 20s in some areas!
82. I’m No Dunce!
Einstein never failed math. In fact, when he was shown a clipping from Ripley’s Believe It or Not where it claimed that, he responded, “I never failed in mathematics. Before I was 15 I had mastered differential and integral calculus.”
83. Transit Accessible
Egyptian here. So few people realize that the pyramids are quite literally in the middle of the city. Everyone just assumes it’s just somewhere in the middle of the desert.
84. He’ll Never Make It
What’s really interesting is that Columbus had trouble getting financial backing not because they thought he’d fall off the end of a flat earth, but because they rightly calculated that he’d never have enough food/water to make it all the way around the earth to India.
85. Not as Dumb As You Think
What always bothers me the most is the idea that people in pre-history were somehow dumber than we are today. The truth is, their physiology and their brains are exactly the same as ours today and they were capable of the same complex thoughts and accomplishments that we are. It pisses me off when “documentaries” claim aliens built ancient structures. People are capable today and they were capable then. They found a way.
86. Political Genius
Cleopatra wasn’t some promiscuous ruler who slept with literally anyone, she was an incredibly cunning political genius who really only slept with two men as far as we know. The portrayal of her in the new Assassin’s Creed game is incredibly incorrect and the only reason people view her as this promiscuous person is because of a decent slander campaign from certain Roman leaders against her after her death.
87. So Much to See, So Much to Do
Ethiopian here. There’s a couple. That we speak “Ethiopian.” The official language is Amharic, and there are many dialects—none of which are called Ethiopian. I assume this is particularly offensive to families who speak other languages (i.e. Tigrinya, Oromo). That everyone is starving and unhappy. No. Even my family that lived in a mud house (dad’s family) was happy and decently fed. You don’t need much to be happy—of course now that my dad’s been in America a couple decades he complains about internet speeds like the rest of us.
That it’s in the desert. This one is actually partly true, however the capital (Addis Ababa) is on the Ethiopian Highlands. It’s ~2300m (1.4 miles) above sea level and has a quite lovely climate. Highs in the 70s, lows in the 50s and 40s. Never goes above 90, though I’ve heard it can reach freezing. The highlands cover about 70% ish of Ethiopia. There are 3 different climates in Ethiopia, one of which is (depending on the year) the hottest place on Earth.
Oh, and also we’re the birthplace of coffee!
88. Behind Every Great Man Are Lots Of People
There’s something called the “Great Man Theory.” It’s an idea from Thomas Carlyle, and it’s mostly bunk. It’s the idea that history is mostly advanced by only a handful of “Great men,” e.g. historical figures that we associate with history, like Napoleon or Winston Churchill or Alexander the Great or Leonardo da Vinci, and that everyone else just sat on the sidelines.
Really though history is much more messy. Napoleon was one guy, for example, but he had a ton of staff, a ton of soldiers working for him, the backing of several newly rich Republicans, and so on. He was a smart guy who worked hard, but he also was in the right place at the right moment in history.
The Great Man Theory opens the door to hero worship, and it’s also pure elitism. History is made of ordinary people working their butts off day after day. Some just happen to get written about.
89. Not Such a Coincidence!
Gavrilo Princip did not “just happen to be having a sandwich” when the Archduke [Franz Ferdinand] drove by. Gavrilo chose that deli to wait for another chance specifically because it was along the original parade path that the Archduke was meant to take through Sarajevo that day.
Unbeknownst to Princip, the Archduke changed his plans and decided to head to the hospital to visit the civilians injured in the initial assassination attempts. The Archduke’s driver was some Austrian guy who didn’t know Sarajevo, and ended up following the original parade route by mistake. Gavrilo was waiting along the parade route, hoping for this exact situation. Yes the whole thing was still highly coincidental, but Gavrilo wasn’t there for just a sandwich.
90. What it Even a Sandwich?
Another detail—it’s highly unlikely that Gavrilo was buying a sandwich. It simply isn’t a traditional snack for common folk in Sarajevo, then or now. It’s more likely he bought something like burek (meat pie), siruša (chease pie) or ćevapi / pljeskavica (~Balkan hamburgers).
91. Morocco’s Modern Life
Moroccan here and people from Europe still think that we ride camels and live in the desert…..we have fiber optics, 4g, Netflix, Imax, and camels of course.
92. The Critical Elite
Nero didn’t play the fiddle/harp/whatever when Rome was burning down. He wasn’t even in the city when it started. He returned to Rome and helped organize relief and firefighting efforts.
Most of what we know about Nero nowadays is questioned. There’s evidence that he was actually quite popular among the lower classes; it was the elite that hated him (many of the writings critical of him came from the wealthy), and several people in the late empire claimed to be descended from him or a reincarnation of him to gather support from the masses.
93. Don’t Smile!
There are a lot of myths about photography that people perpetuate. Not every weird looking photo from the 19th century is a Memento Mori (i.e. post-mortem). A lot of photos floating around on the internet labeled as such are actually living subjects. And only in the earliest days did photographs take a long time to produce. By the Civil War, exposure times were rapidly becoming comparable to modern cameras. People didn’t smile for photos because they thought it made them look foolish. Portraits were supposed to be serious and formal.