What is in a Word? Part Thirty-five
We have all heard things in our lives that we just assume as true, or take on as part of our thinking because they are the commonly percieved notion of all things. But just because they are a commonly held notion, does that really make them true? From the mundane to the deeply held convictions that guide ones life. Misconceptions are everywhere.
Why not read a few of these commonly held notions of our species and ask yourself which ones do you see as … fact….
Searing meat does not “seal in” moisture, and in fact may actually cause meat to lose moisture. Generally, the value in searing meat is that it creates a brown crust with a rich flavor.
Adding cooking oil to pasta that is being boiled is widely believed to prevent the pasta from sticking. However, oil is an insoluble hydrophobic substance, such that it will float on the surface of the water. Therefore, the pasta (which sits on the bottom of the saucepan) has virtually no exposure to the oil during the cooking process. The oil may eventually come into contact with the pasta only after draining. The primary reason to add oil is to avoid foaming and/or boiling over
Sushi does not mean “raw fish”, and not all sushi includes raw fish. The name sushi means “sour rice”, and refers to the vinegared rice used in it
There is no evidence that coffee stunts a child’s growth.
Sugar does not cause hyperactivity in children. Double-blind trials have shown no difference in behavior between children given sugar-full or sugar-free diets, even in studies specifically looking at children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder or those considered sensitive to sugar. It may be all the other chemicals that are put into many products that causes reactions, not the sugar.
Alcohol does not make one warmer. The reason that alcoholic drinks create the sensation of warmth is that they cause blood vessels to dilate and stimulate nerve endings near the surface of the skin with an influx of warm blood. This can actually result in making the core body temperature lower, as it allows for easier heat exchange with a cold external environment
A vegetarian or vegan diet can provide enough protein. In fact, typical protein intakes of ovo-lacto vegetarians and of vegans meet and exceed requirements. However, a strict vegan diet does require supplementation of Vitamin B-12 for optimal health.
Swallowed chewing gum does not take seven years to digest. In fact, chewing gum is mostly indigestible, and passes through the digestive system at the same rate as other matter.
Words and Phrases:
It is frequently rumored that the expression “rule of thumb” which is used to indicate a technique for generating a quick estimate, was originally coined from a law allowing a man to beat his wife with a stick, provided it was not thicker than the width of his thumb. In fact, the origin of this phrase remains uncertain, but the false etymology has been broadly reported in media including such places as the Washington Post, Time Magazine and CNN.
The word “fuck” did not originate in Christianized Anglo-Saxon England as an acronym for “Fornication Under Consent of King”; nor did it originate as an acronym for “For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge”, either as a sign posted above adulterers in the stocks, or as a criminal charge against members of the British Armed Forces; nor did it originate during the 15th-century Battle of Agincourt as a corruption of “pluck yew” (an idiom falsely attributed to the English for drawing a longbow). Modern English was not spoken until the 16th century, and words such as “fornication” and “consent” did not exist in any form in English until the influence of Anglo-Norman in the late 12th century. The earliest recorded use of “fuck” in English comes from 1475, in the poem “Flen flyys”, where it is spelled fuccant (conjugated as if a Latin verb meaning “they fuck”). It is of Proto-Germanic origin, and is related to either Dutch fokken and German ficken or Norwegian fukka.
“Xmas” is not a secular plan to “take the Christ out of Christmas.” “The usual suggestion is that ‘Xmas’ is … an attempt by the “ungodly” to x-out Jesus and banish religion from the holiday. In reality however, X stands for the Greek letter Chi, the starting letter of Χριστός, or “Christ” in Greek. The use of the word “Xmas” can be traced to the year 1021 when monks in Great Britain used the X while transcribing classical manuscripts into Old English” in place of “Christ”.The Oxford English Dictionary’s first recorded use of ‘Xmas’ for ‘Christmas’ dates back to 1551.
Bulls are not enraged by the colour red, used in capes by professional matadors. Cattle are dichromats, so red does not stand out as a bright colour. It is not the colour of the cape, but the perceived threat by the matador that incites it to charge
Contrary to popular belief, dogs do not sweat by salivating. It is not true that dogs do not have sweat glands or have sweat glands only on their tongues. They do sweat, mainly through the footpads. However, dogs do primarily regulate their body temperature through panting
Ostriches do not hide their heads in the sand to hide from enemies. This misconception was probably propigated by Pliny the Elder (AD 23–79), who wrote that ostriches “imagine, when they have thrust their head and neck into a bush, that the whole of their body is concealed.”
It is commonly claimed that the Great Wall of China is the only human-made object visible from the Moon. This is false. None of the Apollo astronauts reported seeing any specific human-made object from the Moon, and even Earth-orbiting astronauts can barely see it. City lights, however, are easily visible on the night side of Earth from orbit. The misconception is believed to have been popularized by Richard Halliburton decades before the first moon landing. Shuttle astronaut Jay Apt has been quoted as saying that “the Great Wall is almost invisible from only 180 miles up.
Black holes, contrary to their common image, do not necessarily suck up all the matter in the vicinity. If, for example, the Sun was replaced by a black hole of equal mass, the orbits of the planets would be unaffected.
Seasons are not caused by the Earth being closer to the Sun in the summer than in the winter. In fact, the Earth is furthest from the Sun when it is summer in the Northern Hemisphere. Seasons caused by Earth’s 23.4-degree axial tilt. As the Earth orbits the Sun, different parts of the world receive different amounts of direct sunlight. When an area of the Earth’s surface is oriented perpendicular to the incoming sunlight, it receives more radiation than when it is oriented at an oblique angle. In July, the Northern Hemisphere is tilted towards the Sun resulting in longer days and more direct sunlight; in January, it is tilted away. The seasons are reversed in the Southern Hemisphere, which is tilted towards the Sun in January and away from the Sun in July
The idea that lightning never strikes the same place twice is one of the oldest and most well-known superstitions about lightning. There is no reason that lightning would not be able to strike the same place twice; if there is a thunderstorm in a given area, then objects and places which are more prominent or conductive (and therefore minimize distance) are more likely to be struck. For instance, lightning strikes the Empire State Building in New York City about 100 times per year.
A penny dropped from the Empire State Building will not kill a person or crack the sidewalk. The terminal velocity of a falling penny is about 30–50 miles per hour, and the penny will not exceed that speed regardless of the height from which it is dropped. At that speed, its energy is not enough to penetrate a human skull or crack concrete, as demonstrated on an episode of MythBusters. As MythBusters noted, the Empire State Building is a particularly poor setting for this misconception, since its tapered shape would make it impossible to drop anything directly from the top to street level.
The Big Bang theory does not provide an explanation for the origin of the universe; rather, it explains its early evolution.
The word theory in the theory of evolution does not imply mainstream scientific doubt regarding its validity; the concepts of theory and hypothesis have specific meanings in a scientific context. While theory in colloquial usage may denote a hunch or conjecture, a scientific theory is a set of principles that explains observable phenomena in natural terms. “Scientific fact and theory are not categorically separable”, and evolution is a theory in the same sense as germ theory or the theory of gravitation.
Evolution does not attempt to explain the origin of life or the origin and development of the universe. While biological evolution describes the process by which species and other levels of biological organisation originate, and ultimately leads all life forms back to a universal common ancestor, it is not primarily concerned with the origin of life itself, and does not pertain at all to the origin and evolution of the universe and its components. The theory of evolution deals primarily with changes in successive generations over time after life has already originated. The scientific model concerned with the origin of the first organisms from organic or inorganic molecules is known as abiogenesis, and the prevailing theory for explaining the early development of our universe is the Big Bang model
Humans did not evolve from chimpanzees. The two modern chimpanzee species are, however, humans’ closest living relatives. The most recent common ancestor of humans and chimpanzees lived between 5 and 8 million years ago. Finds of the 4.4 million year old Ardipithecus indicate the ancestor looked like a small, long limbed chimpanzee with a rather short snout and was a moderately competent bipedal walker. Contrary to the idea of chimpanzees as “primitive”, they too have evolved since the split, becoming larger, more aggressive and more capable climbers. Together with the other apes, humans and chimpanzees constitute the family Hominidae. This group evolved from a common ancestor with the Old World monkeys some 40 million years ago
There is no evidence that Jesus was born on December 25. The Bible never claims a date of December 25, but may imply a date closer to September. The fixed date is attributed to Pope Julius the First because in the year 350 CE he declared the twenty-fifth of December the official date of celebration. The date may have initially been chosen to correspond with either the day exactly nine months after Christians believe Jesus to have been conceived, the date of the Roman winter solstice, or one of various ancient winter festivals.
Nowhere in the Bible does it say exactly three magi came to visit the baby Jesus, nor that they were kings, rode on camels, or that their names were Casper, Melchior and Balthazar. Matthew 2 has traditionally been combined with Isaiah 60:1–3.
“Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. 2For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will be seen upon you. 3And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising.”
Three magi are supposed because three gifts are described, and artistic depictions of the nativity after about the year 900 almost always depict three magi. The wise men in the biblical narrative did not visit on the day Jesus was born, but they saw Jesus as a child, in a house as many as two years afterwards (Matthew 2:11).
The Immaculate Conception is not synonymous with the virgin birth of Jesus, nor is it a supposed belief in the virgin birth of Mary, his mother. Rather, the Immaculate Conception is the Roman Catholic belief that Mary was not subject to original sin from the first moment of her existence, when she was conceived. The concept of the virgin birth, on the other hand, is the belief that Mary miraculously conceived Jesus while remaining a virgin.
The forbidden fruit mentioned in the Book of Genesis is commonly assumed to be an apple, and is widely depicted as such in Western art. However, the Bible does not identify what type of fruit it is. The original Hebrew texts mention only tree and fruit. Early Latin translations use the word mali, which can be taken to mean both “evil” and “apple”. German and French artists commonly depict the fruit as an apple from the 12th century onwards, and John Milton’s Areopagitica from 1644 explicitly mentions the fruit as an apple. Jewish scholars suggested that the fruit could have been a grape, a fig, wheat, or etrog.
The Buddha is not a god. In early Buddhism, Siddhārtha Gautama possessed no salvific properties and strongly encouraged “self-reliance, self discipline and individual striving.” However, in later developments of Mahāyāna Buddhism, notably in the Pure Land (Jìngtǔ) school of Chinese Buddhism, the Amitābha Buddha was thought to be a savior. Through faith in the Amitābha Buddha, one could be reborn in the western Pure Land. Although in Pure Land Buddhism the Buddha is considered a savior, he is still not considered a god in the common understanding of the term.
A fatwā is a non-binding legal opinion issued by an Islamic scholar under Islamic law. The popular misconception that the word means a death sentence probably stems from the fatwā issued by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini of Iran in 1989 regarding the author Salman Rushdie, whom he stated had earned a death sentence for blasphemy. This event led to fatwās gaining widespread media attention in the West.
The word “jihad” does not always mean “holy war”; literally, the word in Arabic means “struggle”. While there is such a thing as “jihad bil saif”, or jihad “by the sword”, many modern Islamic scholars usually say that it implies an effort or struggle of a spiritual kind. Scholar Louay Safi asserts that “misconceptions and misunderstandings regarding the nature of war and peace in Islam are widespread in both the Muslim societies and the West”, as much following 9/11 as before.
The Quran does not promise martyrs 72 virgins in heaven. It does mention virgin companions, houri, to all people—martyr or not—in heaven, but no amount is specified. The source for the 72 virgins is a hadith in Sunan al-Tirmidhi by Imam al-Tirmidhi. Hadiths are sayings and acts of the prophet Mohammed as reported by others and as such not part of the Quran itself. Especially the hadiths that are weakly sourced, such as this one, must not necessarily be believed by a Muslim. Furthermore, the correct translation of this hadith is a matter of debate