Myth and misconception have a way of weaving themselves into our collective understanding, often perpetuated by tradition, anecdote, or even popular culture. These false beliefs can be surprisingly persistent, and many of us may have grown up accepting them as facts. In this article, we will uncover 18 of these misguided notions, shedding light on the truth behind each one. So, prepare to be enlightened and surprised as we debunk these common misconceptions that often masquerade as truths.
1. Fortune Cookies Are Not Chinese
You might think that fortune cookies are a traditional Chinese treat, but the truth is they aren’t from China. Despite their presence in Western-based Chinese restaurants, fortune cookies originated in Japan and are rarely found in China.1
2. The Buddha Was Not Fat
The popular image of the jolly, portly Buddha is a common misconception. In reality, this image is often confused with a 10th-century Chinese folk hero called Budai. The historical Buddha was an ascetic who practiced extreme self-denial on his path to enlightenment.
3. Mozart Did Not Compose “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star”
Contrary to the widely whispered belief that Mozart composed the classic children’s song as a child, it actually originated from a French folk song. Mozart later composed variations of it when he was in his mid-20s.
4. “Golf” Does Not Stand for “Gentlemen Only Ladies Forbidden“
Many have heard that the word “golf” stands for “Gentlemen Only Ladies Forbidden.” However, there is no historical evidence to support this claim. “Golf” existed as a standalone word during the Middle Scots period.
5. Vikings Did Not Wear Horns on Their Helmets
Despite the iconic image of Vikings wearing horned helmets, there is no historical evidence to support this. The idea likely stems from an opera scene in Richard Wagner’s “Der Ring des Nibelungen.”
6. The Great Wall of China Is Not the Only Human-Made Object Visible from Space
While it’s commonly believed that the Great Wall of China is the only human-made structure visible from space, this is a misconception. In reality, none of the Apollo astronauts reported seeing specific human-made objects from the Moon, and Earth-orbiting astronauts could barely see any. City lights are more visible from space.
7. Napoleon Was Not Short
Napoleon Bonaparte is often portrayed as being very short, but his recorded height in French feet was five feet two inches, which is equivalent to five feet seven inches in English feet. This made him slightly taller than the average Frenchman of his time.
8. John F. Kennedy Did Not Identify Himself as a Doughnut
The legend that President John F. Kennedy called himself a donut when he famously stated “Ich bin ein Berliner” in Germany is actually a misconception. His sentence was the standard way for a German to identify themselves as someone from Berlin.
9. Three Kings Did Not Visit the Baby Jesus
While the story of the three kings visiting the baby Jesus is a well-known tale, it’s not explicitly found in the Bible. The Bible mentions that kings might visit the baby and describes three gifts but does not specify the number of kings or their names as Balthazar, Melchior, and Casper.
Read: 9 “Healthy” Habits That Are Actually Really Bad For You
10. Cutting Earthworms in Half Does Not Create Two Baby Earthworms
Contrary to the belief that cutting an earthworm in half results in two baby earthworms, this is not the case. Typically, only the front half may survive, while the back end dies.
11. Bulls Get Angry When They See the Color Red
A common misconception is that bulls are enraged by the color red. They are red-green colorblind, so the movement of the matador’s cape is what incites their response.2
12. Goldfish Only Have a Three-Second Memory
The notion that goldfish have only a three-second memory is false. Research suggests that they can remember things for a longer period, possibly up to five months.
13. Humans Only Use 10% of Their Brains
This widespread misconception suggests that humans use only 10% of their brains, leaving 90% untapped potential. In reality, modern neuroscience confirms that almost all parts of the brain are active and play essential roles in our cognitive functions.
14. George Washington Had Wooden Teeth
While it’s commonly believed that George Washington had wooden teeth, but this is a misconception. His dentures were made from various materials, including ivory, gold, lead, and even other human teeth.
15. Women Accused of Witchcraft Were Burned at the Stake During the Salem Witch Trials
Contrary to the belief that women accused of witchcraft were burned at the stake during the Salem Witch Trials, most of them were actually hanged, while some died in jail waiting for their trials. The burning of accused witches in Salem is a misconception and was more common during Medieval witch trials in Europe.
16. You Need to Drink at Least Eight Glasses of Water Every Day
While it’s often recommended to drink eight glasses of water a day, this is not a hard and fast rule for everyone. The amount of water you need depends on various factors, such as your health, activity level, and climate.
17. You’ll Get Cramps If You Go Swimming Right After You Eat
It’s a common belief that swimming immediately after eating will lead to cramps. In reality, while the body does require more blood for digestion, it’s not enough to prevent the muscles in your arms and legs from functioning properly.
18. In the Days of Christopher Columbus, Everyone Thought the World Was Flat
The myth that in the days of Christopher Columbus, everyone believed the world was flat is not true. By the third century B.C., most educated individuals in Western Civilization accepted the idea of a spherical Earth.
These misconceptions may have persisted for years, but understanding the truth behind them helps dispel these common myths and fosters a more accurate and informed perspective on the world around us.
Keep Reading: 10 Popular Lies In History That People Still Believe Today
- “10 common misconceptions most people think are true.” Independent. Jess Staufenberg. March 26, 2021.
- “50 Well-Known “Facts” That Are Actually Just Common Myths.” Best of Online. June 12, 2020.
- “17 Science “Facts” That Are Actually Not True.” RD. Marissa Laliberte. May 9, 2023.