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Misnomer Murder

And some popular misconceptions…

It’s not “The Orkneys” or “The Shetlands” It’s Orkney or Shetland or The Orkney Islands or Shetland Islands.

The “lead” in pencils is made of graphite and clay, not lead; graphite was originally believed to be lead ore, but this is now known not to be the case. The graphite and clay mix is known as plumbago, meaning “lead ore” in Latin, and is still known as “black lead” in Keswick, Cumbria and elsewhere.

Koala “bears” are marsupials not closely related to the Ursidae family of bears.

There is no evidence that Vikings wore horns on their helmets.In fact, the image of Vikings wearing horned helmets stems from the scenography of an 1876 production of the Der Ring des Nibelungen opera cycle by Richard Wagner.

A peanut is not a true nut in the botanical sense, but rather a legume. Similarly, a coconut is not a true botanical nut.

Several fruit that are not true berries include strawberries, bayberries, raspberries, and blackberries.

The signing of the United States Declaration of Independence did not occur on July 4, 1776. The final language of the document was approved by the Second Continental Congress on that date and it was printed and distributed on July 4 and 5, but the actual signing occurred on August 2, 1776.

“It’s like painting the Forth Road Bridge” No it isn’t. It’s like painting the Forth Bridge (never the “Forth Rail Bridge”)

Arabic numerals originated in India, though they came to be associated with the Arab world.

The Norway Rat (Rattus norvegicus) did not originate in Norway, but in North China.

French horns originated in Germany, not France.

The popular image of Santa Claus was not created by The Coca-Cola Company as an advertising gimmick; by the time Coca-Cola began using Santa Claus’s image in the 1930s, Santa Claus had already taken his modern form in popular culture, having already seen extensive use in other companies’ advertisements and other mass media.

Italian dictator Benito Mussolini did not “make the trains run on time”. Much of the repair work had been performed before Mussolini and the Fascists came to power in 1922. Accounts from the era also suggest that the Italian railways’ legendary adherence to timetables was more propaganda than reality.

Does anyone have some favourites of their own to add?

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4 Responses

  1. I like the one about how we live in a democracy

    • Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote. BENJAMIN FRANKLIN

  2. Not all Scotsman have ginger hair and beards, wear kilts and sporrans and walk around saying “hoots mon” and “och aye the noo.” Hard to believe I know.

    Seriously though, it’s fascinating with the advent of the internet
    and the availability of easy research to find out how little we really know. And to realise that some of the ‘facts’ we’ve been spoon-fed are really misconceptions or downright untruths.

    The internet and super-fast communication are making it more difficult to lead intelligent people by the nose, which is surely a good thing.

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