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Old wives� tales get reality check
Old wives’ tales get reality check
A group of us was at the lake enjoying a post-lunch loll by the shore when one of the kids asked to go in the water and was given the thumbs up by her parents.
What? We had just eaten! Everyone knows you don’t go in the water after swimming or you will get cramps and drown.
But the child’s dad is a medical professional, so ... “what’s up with that?” I asked as we watched the child cannon ball off the dock.
“Old wives’ tale,” he answered.
He should know, but, just for curiosity’s sake, I checked it out when I got home that night.
Sure enough, it is OK to swim after eating, claimed the gospel, according to Google. There is nothing in the medical literature to suggest eating and swimming cause cramps or drowning. There it was in black and white with footnotes.
But how do you do a 180-degree turn and reject the lesson learned in childhood on all those trips to Lake Erie beaches?
“No, you cannot go into the water after lunch, you’ll get a cramp and drown. So just sit there and digest.” The digestion period was anywhere from an hour to half an hour. It was the law.
It’s an example of one of those long-held beliefs impossible to un-believe. There are so many of these kinds of superstitions, urban legends, old wives tales we still pay homage to, even though we know better.
Not that many years ago, pregnant women did not raise their arms over their heads, fearing the umbilical cord would wrap around the baby’s neck.
And they never let a cat near a sleeping baby, because the cat would steal the child’s breath. It must have been rooted in the mystery of sudden infant death syndrome.
You are sure to have bad luck if a black cat crosses your path. If a black cat crosses your path on Friday the 13th, then forget about it, you are doomed. Break a mirror, and it’s seven years bad luck. Guaranteed.
Toads cause warts, itchy hands mean you are about to come into money, and carrying a rabbit’s foot will bring luck, but step on a crack and all bets are off. Better call Mom to find out how her back is holding up.
Crazy, right? And yet our gut believes while our brain shouts, “Oh, puh-lease, really?”
Many folks found basis in what passed for fact in the days of superstition. When a villager experienced misfortune, it must have been caused by the scary black cat that had crossed his path. Or folks noted how a hunter had incredibly good luck after field dressing a rabbit and pocketing its foot.
Mostly, they are harmless, these long-held beliefs. They don’t hurt anyone. But there are others that do hurt. These are the ones that perpetuate cruel stereotypes about people. They are passed around, joked about and whispered so often they become true in the minds of many.
“‘They’ are good with money, you know.” “‘They’ never met a welfare program they did not sign up for.” Certain Eastern European nationalities are naturally dumb. Members of a certain political party are weak on defense, while members of the other party lack the empathy gene.
There are other examples, but most are unprintable. They ought to be un-repeatable too.
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