Sometimes, folk wisdom handed down through the generations — things we might think of as "old wives' tales," "old-fashioned thinking," or "weird crap your grandma used to go on about after her third martini" — actually turns out to be true. Which makes some sense — old wives tales developed in the days before modern technology, when someone noticed a seeming correlation between two things, made note of it, and then passed that information on to others. So odds are high that some of these things — like using peanut butter to remove gum stuck to hair — would turn out to be true. (How the first person thought to put peanut butter on gum-covered hair, we'll never know, but we'll have to assume it had something to do with how boring life was before they invented premium cable.)
However, the vast majority of old wives' tales — ones that your parents, teachers, and other authority figures might invoke to this very day — are bunk. Which makes sense when you think about them for a sustained period of time — they all kind of sound like something your Uncle Steve (your dad's brother who once told you that if you buried a quarter, you'd grow a money tree) would tell you, rather than the product of sound scientific reasoning.
This madness stops right now, guys. It's time to debunk seven old wives' tales that you still hear all the time today. Because I don't know who these Old Wives are or what their end game is, but I'll be damned if anyone tries to tell me when I can and can't swallow gum. Also, man, Uncle Steve was really a d*ck sometimes. I hope I don't have to sit next to him at Thanksgiving this year.
1. Chocolate Causes Acne
The Rationale: Teenagers love chocolate and teenagers have acne — thus, chocolate causes acne.The Truth: There has never been any conclusive proof that chocolate causes acne — though some research has suggested that diets that lean heavily on foods with a lot of fat and sugar can lead to skin inflammation, which can make you more vulnerable to skin problems. But there is no direct causal relationship between having some chocolate syrup today and getting a zit tomorrow. Also, why are we blaming acne just on chocolate? Why don't we try blaming acne on other things teenagers like, like smoking clove cigarettes behind the science building or telling your mom that you don't care what she thinks, YOU know that you and Todd are going to be together FOREVER?
2. It Takes 7 Years To Digest A Piece Of Gum After You Swallow It
The Rationale: It's very tough to get gum out of a rug or a couch; so it's probably equally hard to get gum out of your digestive tract.
The Truth: Gum gets digested, the same as any other thing that you put in your snackhole — most gum passes through your digestive system and out in less than a week. If you're a habitual gum-swallower — as in, you're choking down several pieces a week — there is a chance that all the different pieces of gum (which do get digested more slowly than other foods) could fuse into a blockage and constipate you. But even that is pretty rare — so if swallowing a ton of gum is your dream, I mean, that's a terrible dream, but there's no reason for you to not live it.
3. Cracking Your Knuckles Will Give You Arthritis
The Rationale: Well, it certainly sounds like you're doing some damage up in there when you crack your knuckles, right?
The Truth: The "crack" of cracking knuckles isn't the sound of your ligaments ripping, or whatever your parents might have been picturing when they told you about this — rather, that sound is just bubbles within your synovial fluid (the stuff that lubricates your joints) popping. Habitual knuckle cracking can lead to swelling in the hands, so it's still not a great way to kill time; but the occasional crack won't ruin your life.
4. Feed A Cold, Starve A Fever
The Rationale: Many traditional beliefs held that eating generated "warmth" within the body — so, if you want to cool down, you need to cut off the source of that warmth.
The Truth: It's not a good idea to starve yourself when you're sick with anything — consistently consuming nutrients, even if you feel too sick to eat, helps you keep your strength up and fight off infection. And it turns out that fevers raise your body temperature, which in turn burns calories — meaning that it might be smart to eat even more than usual when you're sick with a fever.
5. Peeing On A Jellyfish Sting Will Help Lessen The Pain
The Rationale: Due to very important Pee Science Reasons, the only way to neutralize the sting of a jellyfish is to pee on the afflicted area.
The Truth: While this myth has yielded a number of delightful film and TV moments through the years, including but not limited to that one episode of Friends and that weird movie where Nicole Kidman peed on Zac Efron, there's no truth to the idea that pee can neutralize a jellyfish sting. Joe Mulligan, a British Red Cross representative, told The Mirror UK that "Urine just doesn't have the right chemical make-up to solve the problem."
In fact, your pee could actually make the jellyfish sting worse — most cases of jellyfish stingings end with a tentacle or two attached to the victim's body, and certain chemical interactions can actually cause the detached tentacles to sting the victim all over again. Mulligan recommends using the infinitely less hilarious saltwater to neutralize a sting. I mean, you're still free to pee on your friends at the beach if you want — just know what you're getting into.
6. Going Outside With Wet Hair Will Make You Catch A Cold
The Rationale: Being wet and cold weakens your immune system, and then...uh...colds.
The Truth: Since colds are viruses, you can't catch them from water, having wet hair, or feeling cold — you can only catch them from other living creatures. In fact, the New England Journal of Medicine tested this theory out by exposing two groups of test subjects to cold germs — one group waited in a warm temperate room, and one group stayed in a cold one. Subjects in both rooms came down with colds at the same rate, which proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that being cold doesn't give you a cold (and also some scientists totally seem like they got their doctorate in punking people).
Remember: you've only got on life to live! So make sure it involves as much wet hair and partially digested gum as you want. Those old wives can all suck an egg (which is, coincidentally, a traditional remedy for giving bad life advice).