Monday, June 10, 2019

Truth or Fiction Again: Old Wives' Tales

Annamaria on Monday

This all started while drafting my WIP.  Regular readers of MIE have probably come across my confessions as a "pantser" -  a person who writes mystery fiction without an outline.  I create the situation of the story and then let my characters deal with it.  I write down what they say and do.  This past week a young man walked into a room where his sister was holding her five-month-old in her lap:

(She) was cooing to little Paolo, standing in her lap, when Danilo came to the door.
         “He is on his feet!” her brother exclaimed. “Is he not young for that?  Will it not bow his legs if you allow him to stand at this age?”   

She tells him that is an old wives' tale.  But since my characters are speaking Italian, I wanted to see if there was an Italian equivalent of the phrase--so I googled it.  What I got was nothing about Italian, but a torrent of internet hits on the subject of this blog.  (Aside: I always love it when a blog subject smacks me in the face sometime during the week.)

I thought then about what I am going to call an old husband's tale.  It goes like this:  My son-in-law had a habit of filling his car gas tank only after the refill light came on, a behavior that I found troublesome since I sometimes had to use the car to transport my grandchildren, and gas stations are FEW and FAR between in Manhattan.  To my polite inquiry about this, he answered that sludge collects at the bottom of a gas tank, and it is best get it close to empty before refilling.  That way, according to this highly intelligent holder of advanced degrees, the sludge won't ruin the motor.

Bumping over NYC potholes, afraid of running out of gas before I found a station, I thought: Gasoline is liquid.  The liquid in a gas tank must slosh around when the car is moving.  How then could sludge collect?

Would it be at all correct to call my son-in-law's belief an old wives' tale?  Are old wives' tales sometimes true?

As a matter of fact they are.  Here is what my research this week revealed on that score.  Various organizations such as the New England Journal of Medicine, Oxford University, the British Ministry of Food, and Johns Hopkins Hospital are the sources of these conclusions.


  • Don't go outside with wet hair .  You'll catch a cold.
  • Foods with mayonnaise spoil faster*
*This might be true with home-made mayo.  With commercial mayo, the opposite is true.  The vinegar in commercial mayo actually acts as a preservative
  • People with ulcers must not eat spicy foods
  • Put brandy on the baby's gums to relieve teething pain
  • Never open the oven door when baking a soufflé 
  • Pulling out a grey hair will cause you to grow two more
  • Eating chocolate causes acne
  • Cracking your knuckles will give you arthritis
  • An apple a day keeps the doctor away
  • Reading in dim light damages your eyes
  • Hair of the dog: drinking more booze will cure a hangover



  • Chicken soup can cure a cold.**
  • Feed a cold, starve a fever**
**Not eating weakens you.  If you eat you will be better able to fight off a cold.  Chicken soup would be a nice soothing choice.  One source I consulted said that the original saying was "Feed a cold and stave a fever."

  • Bad things come in threes***
***Since anything can come in threes, including children, bad things sometimes come in threes.
  • Eating carrots will improve your eyesight****
****This is not a straight line issue.  But since carrots can be metabolized into vitamin A, which does promote eye health, there is relationship between the two.
  • Chocolate helps relieve menstrual cramps******
*****As far as I am concerned, chocolate makes EVERYTHING better.
  • Eat raisins that have been soaked in gin to ease arthritis pain.  (Need I comment?)


  • Honey really does suppress coughs
  • Cheese can actually give you weird dreams
  • Oily fish really is brain food
  • Hot baths can actually damage sperm*****
*****I would, however, not recommend this as a from of birth control
  • Heartburn during pregnancy really can mean that the baby will be hairy
  • A long labor really is likely to indicate that the baby will be a boy

  • To reduce restless leg syndrome, put a few potatoes in bed with you at night.
  • Apply a mixture of raw eggs and milk to a snake bite
  • Put earwax on a cold sore to help it heal faster.
  • It's bad luck to open an umbrella doors
  • Masturbation will make you blind or grow hair on your palms
  • Making silly faces can turn into permanent disfiguration
  • Taking a bath while pregnant can drown the fetus.
  • To cure foot fungus, urinate on your own feet.  Then rinse them.


It collects in stationary tanks, not in moving ones.  So there!

I loved Bennett's novel.  I am going to look into the series.
The book is NOT about the dumb stuff that women AND men believe.


  1. I am quite certain that crossing one's fingers helps one's luck!!

  2. Yes, it does, but only if you sleep with potatoes and always remember to rinse your feet.

  3. How about an apple, a bit of chocolate, and honey working on keeping that doctor away?

    PS. Aren't you proud, sis, at how I resisted commenting on the ones you undoubtedly put in there expressly to entice comments from EvKa and me.