Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Ring around the noises

You all know the poem. 

Ring around the Rosie,
Pockets full of posy,
Ashes, Ashes, 
We all fall down. 

Or some version of it anyways. 

Pretty much every-time this rhyme comes up, someone points out that it's all about the Black Death. Or the Plague. Or something similarly quasi-disease related. 

Because children's rhymes are totally the best source of historical accuracy. 

Friday, July 27, 2012

Shakespeare's pen

Cobbe Portrait of William Shakespeare

This one I don’t even. It’s come up a couple times and I’m still baffled every time it comes up. Most mythbeliefs I can kind of see the quasi-logic behind, but with this one I really can’t.

So what is this mythtory? That William Shakespeare didn’t write Shakespeare’s plays. Edward de Vere is the usual “true” author given when pressed for an alternate author, but I’ve seen other names tossed out as well, like Christopher Marlowe.

So did Shakespeare write Shakespeare? 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Princess of the Powhatan

This particular Mythbelief is probably one that’s pretty much exclusive to USians, and possibly Canadians. Until the Disney movie came out, that is, then Pocahontas got a little more worldwide recognition.

 The story it pretty basic, and most people know a couple things about her:

1) She was an Indian Princess.
2) She saved her friend/lover John Smith’s life.
3) She brought the White People and the Indians together.

That can’t be too off base, right? 

Friday, July 20, 2012

Leaps of 1929

Panic of 1907, Outside U. S. Subtreasury building at Wall and Broad St. in October 1907

The Great Depression wasn't the first depression for the US economy, but it's certainly the best known. The most famous story is that on Black Tuesday, 29 October, 1929, that stock investors, realizing that they were financially ruined, threw themselves from their office windows down to the pavement below. 

I was taught in high school that when the stock investors realized that they'd lost so much money they'd never be able to get out of the debt, they jumped from the windows of their high office buildings 

It wasn't even 100 years ago, so how wrong could it be?

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

War of the Panic

Artwork from the 1906 Belgian edition of The War of the Worlds by Henrique Alvim CorrĂ©a

Everyone knows that people who lived before now were stupid.  That’s why they couldn’t tell the difference between a real news program and the radio drama by Orson Welles, The War of the Worlds. Then everyone read about it in the newspapers the next day and realized how stupid they were – but felt better when they realized that everyone in the nation had panicked.

Really, how much of that is there to get wrong?

More than it would seem, apparently. 

Friday, July 13, 2012

The Cake is a Lie

Gary Larson, how do I love thee. Let me count the ways…

It’s probably one of the most famous phrases in history: “Qu’ils mangent de la brioche.

Or, as it’s more usually heard in English, “Let them eat cake.” Everyone knows that Queen Marie Antoinette said this famous phrase when she was informed that the population of France had no bread.


Well, no, not exactly.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Viking Longhorns

Everybody is familiar with the visual image. Horned helmets mean you’re looking at a Viking. Horned helmets and long ships, it’s their thing.

Only without the horned helmets.

I know, I know, is nothing sacred?

Friday, July 6, 2012

Stars, Stripes, and Circles

"The Birth of Our Nation's Flag" by Charles H. Weisgerber
See Washington swooning on the far left.

Everyone knows that Betsy Ross designed the first American flag. She got the job because she astonished George Washington with her unrivaled ability to cut out a five pointed star from cloth (seriously, that’s the lesson I learned in school).

If you’re not a USian, this is probably not a familiar story at all, so lemme put up a version of what an average school history book says:

“George Washington was a frequent visitor to the home of Mrs. Ross before receiving command of the army. She embroidered his shirt ruffles and did many other things for him. He knew her skill with a needle. Now the General of the Continental Army, George Washington appeared on Mrs. Ross's doorstep around the first of June, 1776, with two representatives of Congress, Colonel Ross and Robert Morris. They asked that she make a flag according to a rough drawing they carried with them. At Mrs.Ross's suggestion, Washington redrew the flag design in pencil in her back parlor to employ stars of five points instead of six.” [*

And then she sewed it up, and everyone swooned at its awesomeness, and it was the FLAG OF AMERICA.

So there has to be dozens of proclamations, records of the momentous event, and an ancient statue somewhere immortalizing her amazing ability to cut pretty 5 pointed stars and arrange them in a circle.

Well, no. Not really. 

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The Midnight Fear of Paul Revere

Ah, Independence Day. A time for all USians to come together and remember the heroes of our country’s founding, and the heroic acts they performed heroically.

Today I’m tackling the ride of Paul Revere. If you’re from the US, you’ve probably heard the poem about him. It starts off like this:

Listen my children and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-five;
Hardly a man is now alive
Who remembers that famous day and year.

This was written in 1860, 85 years after the actual ride. I’m pretty sure it was safe to say that “no man who is now alive.” A couple of women might have remembered it though.

Paul Revere by John Singleton Copley, c. 1768–70 
Did you know Revere's day job was being a silversmith AND a dentist?

Few people know all 13 verses of “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere”, but most people raised in the US school system know the basics:

1) Paul Revere warned everyone that the British were coming by bravely riding through the night warning everyone singlehandedly.

2) He knew if they were coming by land or by sea because lamps in a lighthouse told him so.

3) He yelled “"The British are Coming!" as he rode along, to warn all of the Americans.

4) He completed his ride Revere rode triumphantly into Concord, having safely completed his journey.

Sounds about like I was taught, and my school couldn't have gotten it that wrong, right?