old wives tale

An old wives' tale is a proverb, much like an urban legend, which is generally passed down by old wives to a younger generation [1] It is so named for the alleged lack of sophistication of old wives. Today old wives' tales are still common among children in school playgrounds. [2] Old wives' tales often concern pregnancy, puberty and nutrition. [3]

Most old wives' tales are false and are used to discourage unwanted behavior, usually in children. [4] Among the few tales with grains of truth, the veracity is likely coincidental. [5]

Common old wives' tales

Eating carrots improves your night vision


Carrots do contain Beta-carotene, which is converted to vitamin A in the small intestine. Vitamin A is a precursor to the protein Rhodopsin, a component of the rods (a photoreceptor cell) in the Retina that is very sensitive to light. Vitamin A helps to maintain healthy bones, but the carrots do not contain enough calcium to make any significant difference. This tale started in the Second World War when the British spread a rumour that their plane spotters were eating carrots to give them improved vision, concealing the truth about the invention of radar. Also the night fighter ace John Cunningham (21 kills) who was an early proponent of airborne radar in his Bristol Beaufighter, was nicknamed "Cat's Eyes" and alluded to have exceptional night vision because of his carrot eating. [6][7]

Having sex standing up is a contraceptive


This is an example of an old wives' tale in peer sex education. Sperm cells are capable of swimming up the vaginal canal, through the uterus to the fallopian tubes, where they may fertilize an egg, (which also actively pulls the sperm towards it), regardless of the body's position during or after sexual intercourse. It is also believed that certain muscular actions during intercourse draw the spermatozoa upward, as well.

The tale is believed to have originated as a misunderstanding of advice by fertility specialists not to be standing up during coitus, if one is attempting to become pregnant. While it is true that some positions encourage pregnancy, the converse idea that some positions prevent it is false.

Chocolate causes acne


Chocolate does not cause acne in healthy individuals[8][9][10], but can have an extreme effect if one is sensitive to a specific ingredient in certain confections, such as pasteurized milk or hydrogenated oil. Caffeine contained in many chocolate products can, however, cause increased stress which may temporarily increase the manifestations to individuals already affected with acne.

Masturbation causes blindness


This is an attempt to discourage masturbation (usually among young males) by associating it with blindness. In men, it is also associated with hairy palms and mental illness. Masturbation in females is sometimes said to cause infertility; this is equally false. Masturbation by a man may reduce fertility in the immediate future by using up some stored sperm, however this is not a long-term effect and not a reliable birth control: the sperm will be replaced naturally in a matter of hours and healthy young males are able to ejaculate again within half an hour.

The only correlation between the two is that semen contains a large amount of zinc (as much as 0.25 milligrams of zinc to 1 mL of seminal fluid), and a deficiency in zinc (although nearly impossible to achieve solely by masturbating) will cause a decline in a person's vision.

Staying out in the cold without a coat causes pneumonia


Pneumonia is caused by bacteria such as Streptococcus pneumoniae. Variations on this tale include that someone who stays out in the cold will catch a cold or the flu (which are both known to be caused by viruses).[11]

This tale was not debunked until fairly recently. As public awareness of the cause of disease increased, the tale evolved to include a number of different pseudoscientific explanations. One popular explanation is that a low core body temperature negatively impacts the effectiveness of the human immune system. This intuitively makes sense, as we know fever, an elevated core body temperature, is one of the immune system's defenses against infection. However, studies have shown that there is no statistical correlation between lowered core body temperature and decreased immune response. [12] Still, this old wives' tale, in its modern, pseudoscientific version, is still prevalent.

Another version of this old wives' tale common in much of the world is that sitting by an open window or by air-conditioning will cause colds and pneumonia. The standing water in some air conditioning systems may allow bacteria such as those that cause Legionnaires' disease to multiply. However, the chance of catching such a disease from air-conditioned air does not change depending on the distance one sits from an affected air conditioner.

Stepping on a rusty nail causes tetanus


Tetanus is an anaerobic bacterium and can be transmitted via puncture wounds such as those received by stepping on a rusty nail. It is not the rust on the nail that causes the tetanus, however, but the dirt on the nail, which may contain the tetanus pathogen; even a visibly clean nail (or other item) previously exposed to soil containing the bacterium can be the source of a tetanus infection. The apparent correlation between rusty nails and tetanus stems form the anaerobic bacteria requiring moist areas, making a good environment for rusty nails also a good environment for tetanus. It is believed that Robert E. Lee's horse Traveller died in this way, less than a year after Lee's death.

Any wound that closes over at the surface before healing underneath can harbour a tetanus infection. Under such conditions the tetanus bacterium can flourish in a person not appropriately immunized. The tetanus bacterium is commonly present both on skin and in soil. Before the availability of a vaccine for tetanus it was necessary to keep potentially dangerous wounds open so that they would heal from the bottom up, thus preventing the anaerobic conditions that tetanus thrives in.

See also: Correlation implies causation (logical fallacy)

Other old wives' tales

  • Habitual knuckle-cracking causes arthritis. False. [13]
  • Chewing gum, if swallowed, remains inside your body for seven years. False. Chewing gum is excreted like any other undigested piece of food or stray object swallowed.
  • If you make a face and the wind changes direction, your face will stay that way. False. This legend is prevalent among sufferers of Bell's Palsy and non-scientific health practitioners, but there is no causation.[14]
  • If you touch a toad, you'll get warts. False. Warts are caused by a virus, which are usually species specific. Almost all viruses that infect frogs do not have the correct receptors to infect humans as well.[15]
  • If you feel a burning in your ears, it means that somebody is talking about you. A variation on this is that if you hear a ringing in your ears, someone is thinking about you. In Pakistan, India, and former USSR countries, hiccups are a sign that you are being remembered by someone. In Japan, if you sneeze it means that somebody is talking about you behind your back. It is not possible to verify or disprove, so the adage is likely to persist indefinitely.
  • If you have a stye, you must have read or watched pornographic materials. False.
  • If you feed chocolate to a dog, it will get intestinal worms. False, but chocolate intended for human consumption can kill dogs. One component of chocolate, theobromine, is a mild stimulant in humans, but quite toxic in some other animals, including dogs. However, dogs are able to eat a small amount depending on their weight (though it is not advised to feed them any at all as too much will indeed kill them).
  • If you consume Pop Rocks followed by a carbonated drink, your stomach will explode and you'll die. False, but a very popular legend among children. This was even disproved on an episode of the Discovery Channel show Mythbusters.

External links


urban legend or urban myth is similar to a modern folklore consisting of stories often thought to be factual by those circulating them. The term is often used to mean something akin to "apocryphal story".
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Education encompasses teaching and learning specific skills, and also something less tangible but more profound: the imparting of knowledge, positive judgment and well-developed wisdom.
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Pregnancy is the carrying of one or more offspring, known as a fetus or embryo, inside the body of a female mammal such as a human. In a pregnancy, there can be multiple gestations (for example, in the case of twins or triplets).
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Puberty refers to the process of physical changes by which a child's body becomes an adult body capable of reproduction. Puberty is initiated by hormone signals from the brain to the gonads (the ovaries and testes).
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Nutrition is a science that examines the relationship between diet and health. Dietitians are health professionals who specialize in this area of study, and are trained to provide safe, evidence-based dietary advice and interventions.
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D. carota

Binomial name
Daucus carota

The carrot (Daucus carota subsp. sativus
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Beta-carotene is a form of carotene with β-rings at both ends. It is the most common form of carotene.
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Vitamin A is an essential human nutrient. It exists not as a single compound, but in several forms. In foods of animal origin, the major form of vitamin A is an alcohol (retinol), but can also exist as an aldehyde (retinal), or as an acid (retinoic acid).
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In biology the small intestine is the part of the gastrointestinal tract (gut) between the stomach and the large intestine and includes the duodenum, jejunum, and ileum. It is where the vast majority of digestion takes place.
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Rhodopsin, also known as visual purple, is expressed in metazoan photoreceptor cells. It is a pigment of the retina that is responsible for both the formation of the photoreceptor cells and the first events in the perception of light.
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Location Retina
Function Low light photoreceptor

Morphology rod shaped
Presynaptic connections None
Postsynaptic connections Bipolar Cells and Horizontal cells

Rod cells, or rods
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photoreceptor, or photoreceptor cell, is a specialized type of neuron found in the eye's retina that is capable of phototransduction. More specifically, the photoreceptor absorbs photons from the visual field and signals this information to other neurons through a change in
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For the moth genus, see Retina (moth).

The retina is a thin layer of neural cells that lines the back of the eyeball of vertebrates and some cephalopods. It is comparable to the film in a camera.
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Allied powers:
 Soviet Union
 United States
 United Kingdom
...et al. Axis powers:
...et al.
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"Dieu et mon droit" [2]   (French)
"God and my right"
"God Save the Queen" [3]
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A rumor or rumour (see spelling differences), is "an unverified account or explanation of events circulating from person to person and pertaining to an object, event, or issue in public concern" (33)[1]

Psychology of Rumor (1947)

In the 1947 study,
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Radar is a system that uses electromagnetic waves to identify the range, altitude, direction, or speed of both moving and fixed objects such as aircraft, ships, motor vehicles, weather formations, and terrain.
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Type Heavy fighter
Manufacturer Bristol Aeroplane Company
Fairey Aviation
DAP (Australia)
Designed by Leslie Frise
Roy Fedden
Maiden flight 17 July 1939
Introduction 27 July 1940
Retired 1960 (Australia)

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A spermatozoon or spermatozoan (pl. spermatozoa), from the ancient Greek σπέρμα (seed) and ζῷον (living being) and more commonly known as a sperm cell
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The vagina, (from Latin, literally "sheath" or "scabbard" ) is the tubular tract leading from the uterus to the exterior of the body in female placental mammals and marsupials, or to the cloaca in female birds, monotremes, and some reptiles.
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uterus or womb is the major female reproductive organ of most mammals, including humans. One end, the cervix, opens into the vagina; the other is connected on both sides to the fallopian tubes.
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The Fallopian tubes, also known as oviducts, uterine tubes, and salpinges (singular salpinx) are two very fine tubes leading from the ovaries of female mammals into the uterus.
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ovum (plural ova) is a haploid female reproductive cell or gamete. The word is derived from Latin, meaning egg or egg cell. Both animals and embryophytes have ova. The term ovule
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Sexual intercourse or copulation is the union of the sex organs of two sexually reproducing animals.[1] The two entities may be of opposite sexes, or they may be hermaphroditic, as is the case with snails.
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Pregnancy is the carrying of one or more offspring, known as a fetus or embryo, inside the body of a female mammal such as a human. In a pregnancy, there can be multiple gestations (for example, in the case of twins or triplets).
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Classification & external resources

Acne of a 14 year old boy during puberty
ICD-10 L 70.0
ICD-9 706.1

DiseasesDB 10765
MedlinePlus 000873
eMedicine derm/2   Acne Vulgaris
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Pasteurization (or pasteurisation) is the process of heating liquids for the purpose of destroying viruses and harmful organisms such as bacteria, protozoa, molds, and yeasts. The process was named after its inventor, French scientist Louis Pasteur.
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Hydrogenation is a class of chemical reactions which result in an addition of hydrogen (H2) usually to unsaturated organic compounds. Typical substrates include alkenes, alkynes, ketones, nitriles, and imines.
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Blindness is the condition of lacking visual perception due to physiological or neurological factors.

Various scales have been developed to describe the extent of vision loss and define "blindness.
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