I'll be real with y'all — 2021 was not an easy year. But hey — I learned a lot!
Or, more specifically, I learned I was wrong about a lot. This year, I have shared with y'all all the "facts" that we grow up learning that are actually false — and now I've rounded up some of the best to close the year off!
Here are 100 fake "facts" that I learned were false this year!
1.It probably seemed like most of the colonists were pretty in favor of a war with England during the Revolutionary War. Actually, the percentage of colonists who supported the war was closer to 45% — and often below that. One-third of the colonists actually fought for the British.
2.Paul Revere did not shout "The British are coming!" during his midnight ride. Revere actually said, "The Regulars are coming out!" To say the "British" were coming would've been confusing for colonists who considered themselves British.
And he was not the only rider. After he reached Lexington, he was joined by William Dawes, who had arrived to deliver the same news. They met a doctor named Samuel Prescott on the way to Concord who decided to help them — he was the only one to actually finish the ride and reach Concord before fighting began.
3.Lincoln did not own slaves. However, Lincoln's vice president, Andrew Johnson – who succeeded Lincoln — had owned slaves in Tennessee and asked Lincoln to leave the state out of the Emancipation Proclamation.
4.Louis-Michel le Peletier did not cast the deciding vote for Louis XVI's execution. While it's true that the vote to immediately execute the king was 361 — a majority by 1 — the vote actually reported was 387 in favor of execution versus 334 not in favor.
However, it was rumored that Louis-Michel le Peletier had cast the deciding vote, leading to his assassination the day before King Louis was executed.
5.Marie Antoinette never said, "Let them eat cake." Not only would this have been uncharacteristic for the queen (according to her biographer Lady Antonia Fraser), but that phrase had already been around and attributed to other sources before Marie.
Jacques Rousseau had written a very similar phrase, saying a "great princess" had said the words, years before it was attributed to Marie — when Marie was only 10. Thus, she couldn't possibly have originated the phrase.
6.Napoleon wasn't short. He was actually a bit above 5'5", which was pretty average for the time.
The idea that Napoleon was short came mostly from British cartoonist James Gillray, who started illustrating Napoleon as very short, and other cartoonists followed suit.
7.Medieval peasants did not eat potatoes. Potatoes are native to the Americas. They were not brought to Europe until the mid-1500s, meaning no one in Europe ate them before then.
8.Tomatoes were not in Italian food prior to the 1500s — they weren't even brought to Europe until the discovery of the Americas.
9.Medieval people did not wear all brown. They actually had a number of natural dyes that were often used and could produce many colors, including reds, blues, yellows, and greens.
10.Corsets were not the torture devices they often are remembered as. They were rarely for drastically decreasing waist size. They mostly provided bust support and, yes, a flattering shape and a smooth line for fabric to lay over.
Tight-lacing was an optional trend that started around the 1840s. And no one had their ribs surgically removed so they could fit their corsets better.
Surgery was not safe enough back then to consider.
11.There's no evidence that prima nocta — where lords could sleep with any woman under their leadership in Scotland — was ever actually in practice.
12.The storming of the Bastille didn't free hundreds of political prisoners. They actually only freed seven prisoners.
13.Rosa Parks was not just an older woman who didn't want to leave her seat. First of all, Rosa was not tired nor old — she was 42. She was also a longtime NAACP member and activist, and had worked to raise funds for a previous woman who had been arrested for not giving up her seat on a bus, 15-year-old Claudette Colvin.
14.She also was not sitting in a "Whites Only" section of the bus. She was sitting in a middle section that was first come, first serve. She was asked to move for a single white passenger — the three Black passengers in her row obliged, meaning the man had a spot to sit. However, the driver still demanded that she move.
15.Civil rights leaders did not use nonviolence as a tactic because they believed in loving their neighbor and meeting hate with love. While of course individuals may have believed this, the strategy as a whole was tactical.
Nonviolence was effective because it provided a stark contrast to the violence of segregationists, and when these images were spread throughout the country, it was very clear who the "bad guys" were in the situation because the segregationists were the only ones inflicting the violence.
16.People in the Middle Ages didn't think the Earth was flat. Actually, most people in the Middle Ages knew the Earth was round. Ancient Greeks (specifically Eratosthenes) had deduced this many years prior.
17.Queen Victoria never said, "We are not amused," to a risqué story that was told. She actually had a purported great sense of humor and apparently told her granddaughter she never said this.
18.Neanderthals were not the only other human species to exist alongside Homo sapiens. At least nine species existed 300,000 years ago, one of which may have outlived the Neanderthals — the Denisovans. Some sources say they went extinct 50,000 years ago — while others say it was more like 15,000.
19.Also, there's no evidence to suggest that Neanderthals were dumber than homo sapiens. They had just as advanced tools and were able to hunt and communicate just as well.
20.Shah Jahan did not have the hands of the workers who made the Taj Mahal cut off or their eyes gouged out so they could never recreate something similar. Though you may hear this on a tour of the site, there is no evidence to suggest that either of these legends are true.
21.AD doesn't means after death. It actually means Anno Domini, which translates to "in the year of our lord" in Latin.
Suggested by u/Evincer1968
22.You were probably taught about gravity through a story about Isaac Newton being hit in the head by an apple...Except that didn't happen! He did say the idea came to him after observing apples falling from a tree, but there is nothing to suggest he was hit in the head.
23.Speaking of Newton — he came up with the color spectrum/the seven colors of the rainbow: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and purple. But it's likely he used seven colors because of a superstition or occult belief around the number seven.
Modern physics generally uses a six-color spectrum/rainbow, since it is difficult to differentiate the wavelengths enough between indigo and blue/purple.
24.Christopher Columbus did not "discover" the Americas. Leif Erikson had been to Canada hundreds of years prior. Columbus also never even set foot on North America.
25.And Columbus' ships the Niña, Pinta and Santa Maria, were probably not named that at all.
26.Whether or not you went to a religious school, you probably learned about Christianity and the story of Adam and Eve, and how they were expelled from paradise after eating an apple. But in the story, it's not an apple. It's just an unspecified fruit.
27.George Washington didn't have wooden teeth. While Washington did wear dentures, none of his fake teeth were wooden, and in fact wooden teeth were not used during that time.
28.And the cherry tree story — in which Washington admits to his father he cut down a cherry tree and his father lauds him for his honesty — is also a myth. It was invented by Mason Locke Weems for his biography of Washington.
29.Everyone knows FDR had polio, right? Well, he actually didn't. While he was diagnosed with polio at the time, it's more likely that he had Guillain-Barré syndrome.
30.Congress didn't sign the Declaration of Independence on July 4. The vote for independence occurred on July 2, and the document's final language was approved on July 4, but the signing occurred on Aug. 2.
31.No suspected witches were burned at the stake in Salem. Many died in prison and the rest were killed by other means, such as hanging.
People were burned to death in European witch trials, but not in Salem.
32.A lot of the imagery around the Middle Ages deals with weapons and torture devices such as the Iron Maiden. But the Iron Maiden didn't exist — at least, not in the Middle Ages. Art collector Matthew Peacock created the first Iron Maiden in the 1800s using artifacts from the Middle Ages.
33.Another fake invention that was not actually used in the Middle Ages? Chastity belts.
34.You likely have also heard the Middle Ages referred to as the Dark Ages in school. But there were plenty of advancements, trade, travel, and spread of ideas during this time. In fact, modern historians reject the term "Dark Ages."
35.Knights were not chivalrous. Chivalry was introduced in the Middle Ages to curb the mass civilian casualties that brutish and violent knights had been causing — but even after its adoption, it was more about fitting in among the noble class than being honorable to civilians.
In fact, much of the literature about chivalrous knights was either not written by knights themselves (but instead clergy or poets) or was written after the fact, adapting the word "to define ideal male behavior."
36.In psychology, I remember learning about bystander syndrome/the Genovese effect in regard to Kitty Genovese, who was murdered outside her New York apartment in 1964. The New York Times reported that 38 neighbors/bystanders heard and did nothing.
While still a good example of bystanders doing nothing, it's not fair to say that 38 people did nothing. Most witnesses just heard random screams and didn't know what was happening or how serious it was. The attack happened in two different locations. And some bystanders actually did call the police.
37.If you're an American whose ancestors immigrated through Ellis Island, you may have heard that Ellis Island often changed immigrants' last names. However, this did not happen. The only thing officials did with names was check people's names against the ship's passenger list.
38.If you took a media class, you may have heard about how Orson Welles' radio program War of the Worlds caused tons of people to genuinely think there was an alien invasion happening.
In reality, not that many people actually listened to it, and rumors of mass evacuations and emergency calls were played up by newspapers, who wanted to suggest to advertisers and regulators that radio was an untrustworthy news source.
39.You probably learned about Buddha as a happy, chubby figure. However, the figure you think of as Buddha is actually 10th-century Chinese monk Budai, who was thought to be an incarnation of a deity. He often gets mistaken for Buddha — Siddhartha Gautama — in the West.
40.Pythagoras did not discover the Pythagorean' theorem — it had been discovered centuries prior. In addition, many of Pythagoras's "discoveries" may have come from his students.
41.Thomas Edison wasn't the first person to invent the light bulb — versions had already been invented. Edison was just the first to create a cheap and effective light bulb that could be used by the average family in their home.
42.Humans have way more than five senses.
43.I'm sure you've heard the warning that if you dropped a penny from the top of the Empire State Building, it could kill someone on the street below. However, this is simply false. It would not be able to gain enough velocity.
44.Tomato juice does nothing to counteract the smell of a skunk spraying your pet. It is as ineffective as using any other strongly scented item.
45.The number of ships and planes that have disappeared or gone down in the Bermuda Triangle is not significantly higher than any other well-traveled waterways and oceans.
46.Has your mom ever told you to stock up on vitamin C during cold or flu season? Well, tell your mom she was wrong, because vitamin C supplements have little to no effect on preventing or shortening a cold.
47.December 25 wasn't Jesus' birthday. The Bible references shepherds watching over their flocks during Jesus' birth, suggesting it was summertime (or at the very least not winter). There is no reference to any date — and certainly not December 25.
48.Also, Jesus would not have been white, nor is there any evidence that he had long hair.
49.Dogs and cats — but especially dogs — don't age the equivalent of seven human years per year.
50.The volcano in Yellowstone is not overdue for an eruption. If you're counting the average years between explosions, we still have 100,000 years to go — however, these numbers are largely meaningless, as volcanic eruptions are unpredictable.
51.Earthworms don't become two worms when they're cut in half. The half with the head may be able to grow back its tail and survive, but the half with the tail can't grow into a new worm and will die.
52.You've probably heard Phil Collins was inspired to write the song "In the Air Tonight" after witnessing someone drown and wanting to confront an onlooker who could've stopped it. However, this is nothing more than an urban legend. Collins himself has stated that he wrote the song about his divorce.
53.The sun isn't yellow. It's white. It only appears yellow because we're looking at it through the atmosphere.
54.Snakes' jaws don't unhinge. The lower bones of their jaws do not connect and are attached with a stretchy ligament that allows them to open their mouths super wide — but they aren't unhinging their jaws.
55.People's hair and fingernails don't continue to grow after they die. What actually happens is that skin around fingernails and hair follicles dry up and retract, which can make stubble and nails appear to have grown, even though they have not.
56.Carrots don't improve eyesight. In fact, the idea was actively invented by the British government to spread misinformation that would hide the existence of their radar systems during World War II.
57.Cremating alone doesn't turn a body into ashes. It leaves behind bone fragments, which are basically put into a blender until they fit in with the other ashes.
58.Abilities aren't actually separated into "left brain" or "right brain" abilities. There are not "left brain dominant" or "right brain dominant" people, and most cognitive skills — like math, and even language (though dominant on the left) — rely on both sides of the brain.
59.Female praying mantises don't always eat their male partner after mating. At least, not every time, and not in every species. In the species where this does happen, up to 28% of males are eaten by their partner.
60.Beer doesn't make you any warmer. You might feel like you're warmer — or you're at least distracted from the cold — but if anything, it's actually making you colder.
61.It's also false that alcohol kills brain cells.
62.And drinking liquor before beer doesn't prevent nausea/a hangover. That's right, folks: "Beer before liquor, never sicker; liquor before beer, in the clear" has no basis in reality.
Your hangover will be just as bad either way!
63.Babies used to not be given any sort of pain-relieving drugs during surgery because people were taught that babies couldn't feel pain, and you may have been led to believe this, too.
But, uh...they definitely do. Now, there are ways to provide pain relief for infants, although some surgeries do proceed without it.
64.If you're babysitting or around any kids, their parents might've told you not to give them sugar because they get hyper. However, sugar doesn't actually increase hyperactivity in kids!
65.You also might've heard parents talking about keeping their kids away from violent video games. However, numerous studies have shown that violent video games don't make kids violent.
66.Twinkies could definitely not survive an apocalypse. In actuality, their shelf life is 45 days.
67.People use wayyy more than 10% of their brains — every part of the brain has a function, and even simple tasks use far more than 10% of the brain — scientists have confirmed this with PET and fMRI machines mapping brain activity.
68.You can't actually be swallowed up by quicksand. Because people are mostly water, they float even in quicksand — and while you can definitely get stuck, you won't sink to the point where it's pulling your head under.
It's still dangerous, though!!
69.Mice and rats like cheese no more than they do any other available food. The myth may come from rats often chewing cheese wheels in people's cupboards and pantries — but this is likely just because it was a large amount of food in one spot that's easy to get to and sneak around in.
70.It is not true that if you don't read someone their Miranda rights, they can be released.
71.Urine isn't sterile at all — it has bacteria in it. And you should not drink it unless you absolutely have to in order to survive — in which case you should drink it immediately after it leaves your body so it doesn't attract further bacteria.
72.Similarly, peeing on a jellyfish sting does not stop the stinging. While it's possible that some parts of urine (like ammonia) may help, others (like sodium) may make it worse. Sea water would be better, though it also has salt.
73.Lightning certainly will strike the same place twice. It actually strikes the same place often, especially tall things like the Empire State Building.
74.Wolf packs do not have an alpha. They do have parents — which are in charge the same way human parents are — but there is no "alpha" or "beta" or "omega" in wild wolf packs.
75.Absinthe does not make you hallucinate. It is just like any other high-proof drink. It'll get you drunk, but it has no hallucinogenic properties — not even back in the day.
76.Piranhas don't eat people — it would take about 300 to 500 piranhas to eat a human, and while there is some evidence of piranhas eating human flesh, it's in cases where the person was already dead. Also, many piranhas are omnivores, and some are even vegetarians.
77.Sharks rarely attack humans, and if they do, it may only be because they were curious or confused — studies show that they may mistake humans on surfboards as seals or sea lions. Humans are not a part of sharks' natural diet, and they'd prefer to eat something else.
78.King Tut's tomb has no inscription threatening those who would disturb it, and it's unlikely that it ever did. Instead, it seems to have been a claim invented by journalists or by excavator Howard Carter to keep people away from the tomb. Similar phrases have been used in past literature about other tombs and graves, which is probably where they got it from.
79.Dying elephants do not go off to an "elephant graveyard" to die.
While skeletons are sometimes found in the same spot, this is likely because there was softer vegetation there for older elephants whose teeth had worn down, so they moved to that area when they were close to death, or because elephants were gathering around one of the last food sources during a drought or famine when they died.
80.You may have heard that it's scientifically unrealistic for bees (and bumblebees specifically) to be able to fly. If you compare them with an airplane, sure, it doesn't make sense. But bees are not at all like airplanes — they flap their wings back and forth, not up and down, creating small vortices that lift the bees up.
81.Humans, sabertooth tigers, and woolly mammoths were not alive at the same time as dinosaurs. While humans did live at the same time as sabertooth tigers and woolly mammoths, dinosaurs were long extinct by that time (unless you're counting their evolutionary descendants, birds).
82.It wasn't cyanide-laced Kool-Aid that Jim Jones fed his cult members in Jonestown. It was Flavor-Aid.
83.And not everyone willingly drank it. Jones reportedly said that if they didn't comply with his orders and drink the poison, the Guyanese Army would torture them, castrate the men, and eventually kill them.
84.Ninjas didn't wear black. In reality, ninjas more likely wore navy blue, which blended in better. The misconception seems to have come from Japanese Kabuki theater.
85.It's actually "Pandora's Jar," not "Pandora's Box." A translation error caused the meaning to be muddled a few hundred years ago.
86.The United States did not mainly fight the Nazis to free the Jews. According to the US Holocaust Memorial Museum's website, the US prioritized military victory over saving Jews being persecuted and killed by Nazis. They didn't even enter World War II until 1941 (it had begun in 1939), when they were attacked by the Japanese at Pearl Harbor.
In fact, the US actively turned away thousands of Jewish refugees during the war, despite not having filled their quota for German immigrants.
87.Italy did not switch sides in World War II. Dictator Mussolini had sided with Hitler, but Mussolini had been deposed, and his successor, Pietro Badoglio, reached an armistice with the Allies. However, Nazis seized strongholds in Germany and broke Mussolini out of jail to make him leader of the parts of Italy they controlled, creating the Italian Social Republic.
88.Germany didn't invade Russia in the winter during WWII. In fact, they invaded in June. The invasion lasted longer than hoped for, and they were stuck there in the winter, leading to many of the difficulties you have likely heard of them experiencing.
89.Benjamin Franklin never said that beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.
90.He also never said, "A penny saved is a penny earned.” What he actually wrote was, “A penny saved is two pence clear.”
91.The Library of Alexandria was not destroyed in one big fire.
92.The claim that the Caliph Omar was the perpetrator of one of the fires is also disputed. First of all, Jewish and Christian texts in the library would've also been sacred Muslim texts. And it's unclear if the library even existed at the time of its "burning."
93.Also, losing the library did not set humanity back centuries.
94.Anastasia did in fact die with the rest of her family, and her body has been found.
95.Roman gladiators were not all convicts and slaves. While it may have started that way, many people signed up for fights willingly to prove their prowess, and some gladiators became celebrities.
96.And gladiator fights were not always to the death. Somewhere between 1 in 5 and 1 in 10 matches ended in death, but many times they did not. Promoters put money into training and housing their gladiators, and didn't want them killed so easily.
97.Marilyn Monroe was not a size 16. While Monroe is now often called "curvy" and lauded for a non-traditional figure compared to other actors during the Golden Age of Hollywood, she actually would've been around a size 4 by today's standards.
98.Einstein did not fail math. While Einstein was expelled for being rebellious — though he later re-enrolled at another school — his science and math grades were actually great, according to a biographer.
99.The ancient Egyptians did not worship cats. They had some feline-appearing gods, but this did not mean they worshipped cats. They simply admired them, as we do today.
100.And finally, we've all heard about the G-spot...but there is no solid proof that the G-spot even exists.