Friday, September 28, 2012

Turkish Delight

This myth made me smile. And not only because it's about one of my favorite treats (if you're ever overcome with the desire to get me something, I'm particularly partial to rose, lemon, and bergamot flavors). 

The myth is quite simple: That C.W. Lewis invented a candy called "Turkish Delight" that later enterprising candy makers made into a real treat. Much like how one can find recipes for Butterbeer from the Harry Potter series today. 

Fortunately, the world did not have to wait until 1950 to enjoy the deliciousness that is Turkish Delight. Turkish Delight as we know it today was invented in 1777 by Bekir Effendi who owned a confectionery shop in Istanbul.[*] The family still owns the shop and it still makes Turkish Delight. The confectionery is called Ali Muhiddin Haci Bekir Confectioners today (the link takes you to their website. I suggest you check it out!)

I suspect C.W. Lewis simply gets the credit (or the blame) because today it's not a common candy, so most people's first brush with it comes from reading about it in his novels or from watching the movies based on his novels. 

If you'd like to try to make it yourself, you can find a recipe to make Turkish Delight here.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

It's like posting First! in comments...

George Washington, by Gilbert Stuart (mostly). 

Ask anyone who the first president of the US was, and they'll either look at you blankly and have no idea, or they'll tell you that the first president was George Washington. 

Ask them when his presidency started, and most people will tell you 1776.

... Unfortunately, that's a myth. George Washington didn't become president until 1789.

Yes, that means there's a 13 year gap between the kick-off of the Revolutionary War / American War of Independence and Washington's presidency. 

So what happened? 

Friday, September 21, 2012

Ich Bin Ein Schmeckty

It's one of the few non-girlfriend related instances where the former US president JFK still gets ribbed -- his speech in Berlin on June 26, 1963.

It's said that in his speech he claimed to be a jelly doughnut. 

While I'm pretty sure we all know that he wasn't actually a jelly doughnut, did he actually make such a gaffe? 

Long story short, no. No he did not.

If you'd like the longer version, read on.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Spanish Flu

After the slog that was researching Custer myths last time, this one is going to be short and simple. 

You may be familiar with The Spanish Flu. Also known as The Great Influenza and/or La Grippe.

If you're not, I'll give you a very quick rundown:

The Spanish Flu was a highly contagious strain of Influenza (aka "the flu") that rampaged around the world starting around March 1918 and ending sometime June 1920. From Mid-1918 to late 1919, the United State's death toll was  675,000 people. [*] World wide estimates start at about 50 million fatalities world wide -- on the low end. [**] Higher estimates are closer to 100 million deaths.

But that's not the myth -- because it most certainly did happen. 

The myth is the name, the "Spanish Flu." 

You might have noticed from the dates that the flu coincided with World War I. This meant a lot of censors in the news media, and the countries involved in what was known then as The Great War didn't report anything about influenza epidemic. 

Spain was neutral in the war, and didn't censor its news. Thus, it was the only large European country reporting the outbreak. Since it was only appearing in Spanish papers, people assumed it was a Spanish disease. For the record, Spaniards  called it "The French Flu." [***]

Yep, they got the blame because they were honest. 

For the record, we still don't know for sure where the strain of influenza came from. The three most likely sources are China, Austria, and Kansas USA. [****]

Friday, September 14, 2012

Custer myths

Custer in 1875

This may be another mostly USian myth. For those who aren't inundated with tons of United States history, I'll give you some brief context.

George Armstrong Custer was in the US Army from 1862 though 1876. He died at what is called by the US government "The Battle of Little Big Horn", and what the LakotaCheyenne and Arapaho call "The Battle of the Greasy Grass." It's more popularly known as "Custer's Last Stand." 

There are a lot of myths about Custer. I'm not going to cover all of them, but some of the popular ones are: 

1) He was a general who was very popular with his troops.

2) The battle he died in was a trap sprung upon the US troops, after a heroic last stand.

3) There were no US troop survivors /  there was only one survivor and he was Custer's horse.

4) The Arapaho, Cheyenne, and Lakota refused to desecrate Custer's body because of their great respect for him. 

I'm afraid that's going to be a no, no, no, and a no.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Mona Lisa Myths

It's arguably the most famous painting in the world. Leonardo da Vinci's painting Mona Lisa is instantly recognizable -- even people who have no interest in art can still identify it. 

For all of its fame though, (or perhaps because of it) there are a lot of myths about the Mona Lisa. I'm not going to list all of them (we'd never get done here!) but some of the main ones are:

1) The identity if the woman in the painting is unknown or is Leonardo in drag. 

2) Leonardo carried the painting with him for the whole of his painting career. 

3) The woman in the painting has no eyebrows or eyelashes because women in her time removed them for being "too sexual."

For the record, I never thought I'd have "eyebrows" and "sexual" together on this blog.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Tall Tales of Anne Boleyn

Anne Boleyn is arguably the most famous of Henry VIII's wives. She's one of the few queens of England that most people can name who never reigned in her own right. 

When pressed most people can list a few things about her:

1) She was a wife of Henry VIII.

2) She had six fingers.

3) She had red hair.

4) She was executed for witchcraft. 

For once, they're not all wrong! Just... three out of the four. 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Off With Their Heads

The guillotine. 

Most people know a handful of things about this particular device, mostly (I'm guessing) because of its shock value. It's not exactly something one encounters every day.

Most people are able to confidently tell you that: 

1)  It got its name from its inventor, Mr. Guillotine.

2) It's how the French killed people during the French Revolution, after which it fell out of used because of its Revolution connections. 

Well, zero out of two isn't too bad...