One of my favourite tv shows is QI (for quite interesting), a panel game hosted by Stephen Fry that lifts the lid on common misconceptions.
This ABC post picks a few such snippets from the Second Book of General Ignorance, a Christmas gift that kept me quiet and entertained for for days.
The term caesarian section is named after Julius Caesar who was “cut” from his mother’s womb
Sort of true. Pliny the Elder believed that the name Caesar came from the Latin caesus, meaning cut and that he had been given the name because he had been cut from the womb. This wasn’t true because such a procedure was only ever performed to rescue a baby whose mother had died and Caesar’s mother, Aurelia, lived for many years after his birth.
The most likely origin of Caesar is from caesaries meaning ‘a beautiful head of hair‘ which is ironic because Julius Caesar was bald.
The ‘stiff upper lip’ is a British invention
No it isn’t. The term was first coined in America as long ago as 1815 to describe that state of being steadfast and unemotional in the face of adversity. Americans were stiff upper lipped in Uncle Tom’s Cabin and in the letters of Mark Twain, but the expression didn’t appear in Britain until the late 19th century.
Drinking alcohol stops antibiotics from working
No it doesn’t. Drinking heavily will slow down the effects of antibiotics because it is competing with alcohol for processing time in your liver, but it doesn’t stop the drug working full stop.
This idea was put about after WWII for those being treated for venereal disease, the reason being that people who are drunk are more likely to jump at the chance of casual sex and so pass on the infection before the drug had chance to work.
The one commonly used antibiotic that is best not mixed with alcohol is Metronidazole. It stops the body breaking down alcohol properly and leads to a build up of highly toxic acetaldehyde, a close relative of embalming fluid. Not good for your health.
The chances of a coin landing on heads are 50-50
Nope, it’s 51-49. Students at Stanford University recorded thousands of coin tosses with high speed cameras and discovered that a coin that is heads up to begin with is more likely to land heads up.
Which country ritually burns the most American flags?
Oddly, it’s the USA. Every year, the Boy Scouts of America and the American Legion burn thousands of them.
This is because Section 176(k) of the US Flag Code stipulates: ‘The flag, when it is in such a condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning.’
Although the code debars the mutilation, defacement or other maltreatment of the flag, the Supreme Court ruled in 1990 that this was a restriction of freedom of speech, so you can do what you like with the Stars and Stripes in the US. Doing so in private might be advisable though.