Things that are Wrong

“Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.” – Daniel Patrick Moynihan¬†

There are certain rumours that people keep repeating. They need to stop. They are wrong. Not just “matter of opinion” wrong, but wrongly wrong, like someone who got a PhD in Incorrectness at Mistaken Facts University.

Natural blondes will NOT become extinct in 200 years. Neither will redheads.
This one originates from a misunderstanding of recessive genes. If blondes mate with non-blondes, their children might be dark-haired, but their great-grandchildren may well be goldi-locked. Since there are no known factors that are killing off blondes or preventing them from reproducing, there’s no reason why the fair-hair genes would die off.

Think I’m just having a blonde moment? Read Snopes’ take on the blonde extinction myth.

Women do NOT say 20,000 words a day while men say only about 7,000 (or numbers in a similar ratio). Honestly, if you wanted to make up a statistic like this, you could at least make it credible; I might buy a 20% increase in talkativeness, but nearly 3 times as much? Actually, most studies have found that men and women speak about the same number of words, on average. Individual difference are much more pronounced, so chatty Cathy and silent Sam are balanced out by shy Susie and blabby Bill.

Don’t want to take my word for it? See what Language Log has to say about sex-linked lexical budgets.

People in ancient Rome/Medieval Europe/Colonial America were NOT considered elderly by 30 and at death’s door by 40. It’s true that the increase in life expectancy is one of the great achievements of the modern era. In Medieval Britain, life expectancy at birth was an estimated 35 for both sexes, but this doesn’t mean that a 35-year-old in 1400 was due to drop dead at any moment. The low life expectancy was largely affected by the high child mortality rate. If you survived to adulthood, you had pretty good odds of living to be an old codger.

Don’t believe this old fogey? Check out the facts at the Local Histories page.

So, now you know better and can sound much more sensible in conversation. Or at least, you can avoid a tedious lecture from people like me!

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