Talk:Old wives' tale

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Correct saying is "Old Wives' Tale"[edit]

To the two users below me, perhaps english isn't your first language, or no mans land maybe you've just heard it wrong... the fact remains that the saying is "old wives' tale" NOT "old wise tale". It's akin to some people hearing the saying "a dog eat dog world" as "a doggy-dog world", people may misuse it, but that does not make it correct. In addition, you'll find the only version of the saying in the Merriam Webster Dictionary as "old wives' tale". For more proof, you can do a google book search and see the only areas where "old wise tale" is used is to emphasize a character's ignorance, or simplicity. Callopo (talk) 06:17, 31 July 2009 (UTC)

Does the saying Old Wise Tale or Old Wives Tale the correct saying? If humanity tells a story about something that is thought to be "common sense" (which I think is an Old Wise Tale also) by passing along information that is thought to be from ancient times or historic where the word OLD is used and WISE is thought to be very smart or knowing all, and the word TALE which means story. The correct says has been mocked over the years and it should be WISE
Old WISE Tales
I believe it is called old wise tales. I've never heard the old wives tale title. Or is it called something different due to region? I suggest it be changed to old wise tales. Mallow's Basement 13:00, 29 June 2007 (UTC)

Swimming & Cramps[edit]

"If you go swimming less than an hour after you've eaten, you'll get cramps. False, but some scientists do in fact advise not to swim - or engage in any physical activity - for some time after eating, as the parasympathetic nervous system will kick in and start digestion, overriding the orders of the sympathetic nervous system which brings the body into the mode for physical activities"

I edited out that entry per>

When exercising, a side stitch (or side cramp) is an intense stabbing pain under the lower edge of the ribcage. It is also referred to as exercise related transient abdominal pain (ETAP). This pain is caused by the internal organs (like the liver and stomach) pulling downwards on the diaphragm. It is therefore more likely to occur in sports involving up and down actions - like running, jumping and horse riding.

There are more theories regarding ETAP than merely stretching of the visceral ligaments due to repeated vertical translation and jolting. Other theories include:

   1. Diaphragmatic Ischemia   2. Imbalances of the thoracic spine   3. Irritation of the parietal peritoneum 

The reasons for these theories include, in particular, the prevalence of ETAP during swimming.

Preventing a side stitch

    * Improve fitness    * Strengthen the diaphragm by using exercises such as those that aid respiratory rehabilitation[1]    * Strengthen core muscles (abdominals, lower back, obliques)    * Limit consumption of food and drink two to three hours before exercising  

(in particular, drinks of high carbohydrate content and osmolality (reconstituted fruit juices))

there seems to be a legitimate dispute regarding that old wives tale, and limiting food intake, ensuring proper hydration, fitness ect are a reasonable precautions, Im all for debunking, but few entries here have the potential to be as fatal as drowning represents. A blanket statement either way seems false, with a large number of other variables coming into play, for some a 5 course meal followed by a moonlight dip is likely fine, for less fit or the dehydrated far less intake could be dangerous.

Overly pessimistic maxims do save lives if only in a small percentage of cases Rather maybe a link to a separate wiki entry weighting the arguments both for and against.

Page title[edit]

In researching I've seen lots of references to "old wives' tale". It is "old wive's tale" because "wives" is only ever a plural, much like it is "children's coats". What is it about the apostrophe that people find so hard? CGS 22:02 25 Jun 2003 (UTC).

Are you sure? Old wives' tales looks right to me... Evercat 22:04 25 Jun 2003 (UTC)
I'm with Evercat on this one. More importantly so is the Random House Dictionary of the English Language :) -- Cimon Avaro on a pogo stick 22:22 25 Jun 2003 (UTC)
The singular is "wife" though. Ah! Silly me, because of the "s" it goes at the end, after the "s". One rule says it doesn't, but the other does. I'm moving it. CGS 22:31 25 Jun 2003 (UTC).
Don't go just yet; The "s" is always on the end of "wives." Therefore the appostrophe goes after the "s." A co-worker and I were just researching the origina and spelling of this phrase and made the same mistake. We sorted it out after about 10 minutes, but we had to accept the dictionary's opinion until we realized. Rather humbling.

No coat in cold[edit]

Hey, it's at least half-true that standing in the cold without a coat, and particularily without a cap causes cold, pneumonia and other diseases of the respiratory system.

It's true that cold is caused by a virus, and pneumonia is caused by a bacteria. But these germs are abundant, and do not attack just everyone - they attack mainly when organism is hypotermized.

--Grzes 00:27, 22 Nov 2004 (UTC)

There are studies that have shown there is no correlation between lowered core body temperature and susceptibility to disease. I am aware of these studies because my father, a physician, has read them and related them to me. Unfortunately, I have had a hard time finding the studies on the Internet. Otherwise I would put a link to them here. CyborgTosser (Only half the battle) 12:43, 26 Jan 2005 (UTC)
You cannot empirically demonstrate that any two things are totally uncorrelated. If you look at the abstract for these studies, there will be some numbers there. These numbers are actually important! Without some idea of what those numbers are, I cannot give any weight to what you are saying.
Further, the common cold article says that "researchers at the Common Cold Centre at the University of Cardiff recently demonstrated that cold temperatures can lead to a greater susceptibility to viral infection." -- 02:08, 29 March 2006 (UTC)

Spending prolonged amounts of time in the cold, could lower the core body temperature, which could adversely affect immune responses(at least partially) the same way lack of sleep or lack of food would. I'd admit that the effect would be weak, and wouldn't guarantee exposure to pathogens, but i think in the case of a severely hypothermic person, it would be significant. But I suppose if hypothermia is your problem, the hypothetical increase in succeptibility to a disease you probably wont come into contact with and won't affect you for at least a few days would be the least of your worries. Who would be willing to even test that? And who really cares besides? Who wants to be in the cold without a coat anyway? 09:50, 21 April 2006 (UTC)

Most infectious bacteria propagate better in temperatures slightly lower than the normal 37C of the human body (hence the purpose of fever). However your "core temperature" being slightly lowered is the defenition for hypothermia. My understanding of the bacteriology unit was that heavy breathing of cold air is capable of lowering the temperature of the lungs, increasing susceptibility to any pathogen that targets the lungs. But it's not just about temperature, as protective cilia and mucous line the lungs. Studies are often not as specific as they should be. Perhaps a study of subjects running in the cold might show different results.

I don't think this should be here at all. It may be a common misperception, but not an old wives' tale like the other ones. It certainly does someone no could, gives one a chill. William Quill 12:12, 21 May 2006 (UTC)

Pneumonia may be caused by several pathogens not just bacteria. viruses, fungi, and protozoa may cause pneumonia as well, since it's a broad term The Nanto (talk) 10:19, 12 January 2008 (UTC)


Chocolate causes acne


Chocolate does not cause acne; in fact, there is little evidence that one's diet affects acne at all. This is an example of an old wives' tale used to discourage something (the large quantities of chocolate some children eat is unhealthy in other ways) by associating it with something that people are afraid of.

Although it's true that what you eat won't affect acne, you still might get rashes or other allergic reactions. This might be as subtle as a little redness, which is also caused by acne. In addition, eating oily foods and then touching your face might do something. Blueaster 00:38, 19 August 2005 (UTC)

"This is not at all true as chewing gum is digested just like any other piece of food." "digested" means broken down, leading to absorption. Gum is not digested, but passes through your system. So maybe "excreted" would be a better word Blueaster 00:47, 19 August 2005 (UTC)

Since I rarely eat chocolate, I can say with absolute certainty that my face ALWAYS breaks out the week following consumption of chocolate, with no other changes in my diet. I know what the scientists say, but I can say from personal experience that chocolate does indeed cause acne- at least on me.

The same thing happened to my dad when he ate butter. Also to me when I eat onions. Your experience doesn't mean that chocolate is dangerous to everyone on earth: it only means that you specifically are affected. --Charlene 08:50, 30 November 2006 (UTC)
Yeah, I know someone who has a reaction to chocolate. But it does not cause acne in general.

A while ago i read that eating chocolate (or excessive amounts of sugar) increase your insulin level's, which inturn increases the amount of oil in your sweat, thus incresing your chance of pimples. I will try and find verufucation of this, but nutrition facts seem to change from week to week, so who knows.

Rusty nail[edit]

I'm not so sure about rusty nails being no worse than other nails. It is true that an anaerobic climate is necessary for growth of Clostridium tetani and that oxides of iron would not be expected to depelete their neighborhood of oxygen. However, this simple view does not take into account the fact that rust particles and dirt accumulated within the rust could be deposited as "foreign bodies" in a wound, giving rise to infections with other organisms, changes in the actions of enzymes and other metabolic effects together with devitalization of the affected area, all of which could encourage proliferation of the tetatus microbe. Perhaps there are reports in the medical literature that might clarify whether rust contributes to tetanus. Myron 15:42, 17 October 2005 (UTC)

Is this really an Old Wives Tale? Was there a time when people went around stepping on nails such that a story of the horrors of stepping on them was necessary to prevent it? 14:54, 21 August 2006 (UTC)

Yes. Back when horses were ubiquitous and all horses wore horseshoes (attached by nails, of course), old nails were everywhere. Also many people back then didn't own/couldn't afford shoes and went around barefoot, especially in the southern US where you could do that without losing toes to frostbite three months a year. Add this to the fact that one of the most common sources of tetanus historically was horse feces, and the old wives' tale begins to make a little more sense. --Charlene 08:47, 30 November 2006 (UTC)

Origins of the Phrase[edit]

How about a phrase origins section? Looks to be the title of a 16th century play. Unless anyone posts opposition I will work on sorting this out. 22:57, 31 October 2005 (UTC)

Shave or not?[edit]

Shaving/cutting hair makes it grow thicker than before While stabilised hair should not have much impact, the usual thin hair all over the skin has. Shaving that hardly visible hair can make it thicker or darker, more visible anyhow. At least i know one woman who told me she tries in her 14yr histeria to shave top of breasts - and later had great regret on this. Perdon my poor English.

It's not true. The hair that is above the surface of the skin is dead. Cutting it will have absolutely no effect on the living tissue inside the skin that produces the hair. The only tiny kernel of truth in this myth is because of how hair is tapered at the end. If you cut off the tapered tip, only the thicker, lower part of the hair will be left as the hair continues to grow. This may create an optical illusion that the hair is thicker, but it is no thicker than it would be if you had not cut off the tapered tip. When the cut hair naturally falls out and is replaced by a new hair, the new hair will be completely unaffected by the previous one having been cut. --Icarus (Hi!) 04:12, 8 November 2006 (UTC)
Additionally, I've heard some people say that some hair, particularly facial hair, will slowly 'bleach' and lose colour in the sun (particularly in pre-pubecent moustuche hair), so by removing it, the stubble that regrows is a slightly darker tone. Is there any truth in this? Reverieuk 23:49, 14 December 2006 (UTC)

Masturbation and blindness[edit]

What if you get some in your eyes?--Kawachan 17:19, 30 December 2005 (UTC)

Watching television too much/up close will give you square eyes[edit]

Why does it say "Of course, watching television too much or too close up will damage the eyes"? This could very well be an Old wives' tale in itself:

'Dr. Lee Duffner, spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology, responds in his professional opinion: "Hogwash. You won't cause any physical damage to your eyes."'


Vs. superstition?[edit]

Toward the end of the article, there seems to be little difference between these tales and general superstition. How would you define the difference? I looked at the article on superstition, and it seems as if the difference might be that the consequence in superstition is just generally "bad luck" or "good luck," while old wives' tales have more specific consequences. What do the rest of you think?Lawikitejana 22:47, 19 August 2006 (UTC)

'Feed a cold, Starve a fever.'[edit]

Surely this one is very famous? Anyone got any information on it?

I found This new scientist link in favor --Reverieuk 00:30, 15 December 2006 (UTC)

Use of 'wife'[edit]

I believe the "wife" in "old wives' tale" doesn't refer to "wife" as we know it, but to the Old English term for a woman. Hence, old women's tales.

Same as "housewife." She's not married to a house, she's a woman who is associated with the house.

So "alewife" for a woman bartender or "farm wife" for a female farmer.

Maybe also "man and wife" although I don't vouch for it.Hypostasis 00:43, 17 December 2006 (UTC)

Cold hair[edit]

There's an old tale if you go outside in cold weather with wet hair you'll catch a cold. I don't know for sure if it's true or not because wouldn't the water absorb heat? Cold weather alone is enough to give you a runny nose.

It's safe to say that it's probably not true. The moistness of your hair should have no impact on your immune system, or any other factor that would make it likelier for you to catch a cold. It's certainly not true in an absolute sense: I've done this plenty of times and never caught a cold from it, and while anecdotal evidence is not conclusive, it at least proves the method is not reliable...
Also, having a runny nose doesn't necessarily mean you caught a cold, though it is one of the symptoms. See Mucus#Cold weather and mucus for an explanation of how cold weather can cause a runny nose in an otherwise healthy person. 00:56, 14 January 2007 (UTC)

Really Old "old wives' tale"[edit]

Wording of "never jump up and down it will give u a rash to be energic" is so confusing... Could someone please rephrase it? JBatista 12:47, 26 January 2007 (UTC)

Removing a bunch of article[edit]

I removed a bunch of the text of this article, due to it being unsourced. In fact, almost the entire article is unsourced, but these bits appear to be the most dubious. Note that we don't merely need sources showing that an old wives' tale is false/true, we need sources that it even exists in the first place. Please find sources for this, if anyone wants to re-add it, or for anything else you wish to add to the article:

"Watching television too much/up close will give you square eyes False

This rumor is likely told to keep children from sitting too close to a television set or watching too much. Watching television for extended periods, and/or too closely, may cause fatigue, but it won't change the natural shape of the eye.

 Very old wives' tales  

None of these have any basis of truth:

Not to mention the main ingredients of rice pudding. mh. 22:18, 28 May 2007 (UTC)

Sex Standing Up[edit]

"The tale is believed to have originated as a misunderstanding of advice by fertility specialists not to be standing up during coitus, if one is attempting to become pregnant. While it is true that some positions encourage pregnancy, the converse idea that some positions prevent it is false."

Actually, the reasoning here seems sound, as long as the word "prevent" is changed to "discourage". If certain positions improve the chances of pregnancy over the average of all positions, then the use of positions which do not improve the chances of pregnancy over the chances of all positions should decrease the chances of pregnancy. The myth seems to lie in the belief that, if certain positions "cause" pregnancy (stronger than the actual "encourage"), than other positions "prevent" pregnancy (again, stronger than the correct "discourage"). —Preceding unsigned comment added by Editor437 (talkcontribs) 02:52, 3 February 2008 (UTC)

The entry on birth control (a redirect from contraception defines it as "prevent or reduce the likelihood of pregnancy or childbirth". If it is really true that "some positions encourage pregnancy", then some positions must make it less likely. I think the status of this one should be changed to "half-truth". —Preceding unsigned comment added by Farannan (talkcontribs) 00:18, 20 March 2008 (UTC)

could be true[edit]

"If you feel a burning in your ears, it means that somebody is talking about you. A variation on this is that if you hear a ringing in your ears, someone is thinking about you. In Pakistan, India, and former USSR countries, hiccups are a sign that you are being remembered by someone. In Japan, if you sneeze it means that somebody is talking about you behind your back. Similarly, choking mildly on food is also supposed to mean that somebody is talking about you. False."

While such beliefs might be false most of the time, there is no scientific evidence against the claim. Should remove the false at the end. -Max —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 20:45, 3 May 2008 (UTC)

What scientific evidence do you have to support your claim? -- Smjg (talk) 22:25, 27 May 2008 (UTC)

Old Wive's Tales Over Places and Time.[edit]

Could some Old Wive's Tales from maybe 100 years ago have since lost the label "Old Wive's Tales" if they have been proven scientifically true leaving us with nothing but false tales?Lots of herbs meant to cure things really work, but were once Old Wives's tales. Cramp Bark Tea relieves menustruation cramps, Rapeseed (the weed used to make Canola Oil) causes goats to act crazy when forced to eat it (the acid that causes this has been removed for human consumption, thus the name change), Devil's claw relieves Arthritis, etc.

I can't agree with the statement Old Wive's Tale's are generally false or the comparison made here on Wiki to Urban Legends. Urban Legends are almost always untrue and sensational, granted the best ones are based on some fact, making for good converstaion. Old Wive's Tales true or not are some kind of teaching anecdotes, not really tales or stories.

A much more useful discussion would be to discover what the intended purpose of an Old Wive's Tale was, this would explain why it was perpetuated. (talk) 18:55, 7 November 2008 (UTC)

Is a widely-believed but false belief automatically an old wives' tale? A very common one I think is the belief that an item must be sold at the marked price. The belief in it persists even though it is illogical - if true it would mean any dishonest person would only need to swap price tickets between cheap and expensive items. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 01:45, 7 February 2010 (UTC)

some examples[edit]

I have always heard ``If you step on a line, you'll break your mother's spine.`` and ``Don't make silly faces or it will stay like that forever.``. I was wondering if anyone knows the origins of these old wives tales. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 18:22, 19 May 2011 (UTC)

Does this count?[edit]

My mother always said ``Always wear clean underwear because you never know what could happen.`` and I was wondering if this counts as an old wives tale. If it does, is it true? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 15:47, 20 May 2011 (UTC) The meaning of your mothers statement is (as my grandmother put it) that heaven forbid something bad happen (like car accident or something) that required a stranger to see your underwear... You wouldn't want them to be dirty! — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 01:09, 12 December 2012 (UTC)

Oral Tradition[edit]

I have added a section to the article about the oral tradition of old wives' tales. I think this section could be expanded even further. Does anyone have any opinions on this? Pilkie01 (talk) 04:41, 1 November 2011 (UTC)

This article has been hijacked by feminists. It's painful to read. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 09:48, 22 April 2014 (UTC)