Thursday, March 7, 2013

Myths and Facts

"Fables should be taught as fables, myths as myths, and miracles as poetic fantasies.  To teach superstitions as truths is a most terrible thing.  The child mind accepts and believes them, and only through great pain and perhaps tragedy can he be in after years relieved of them." - Hypatia

"Myths which are believed in tend to become true." - George Orwell


Once upon a time I believed that my mother's back actually would be hurt if I stepped on a crack in the sidewalk.  No, I'm not particularly proud of that episode of childhood gullibility, but there it was.

I also believed at one point that if I ate more than an egg or two each week I'd die from a heart explosion.  (eggs are actually not as bad for us as they were thought to be in the 70's)

I also believed that adding a pinch or two of salt to water on the stove would make it take much longer to boil.  (it takes quite a concentration of salt in the solution to change the boiling point of water appreciably)

I also believed that it was possible, for an archer who was good enough, to split one wooden arrow with another.  (it's not; an arrow striking another arrow will be deflected rather than follow the grain down the stationary projectile's shaft)

I used to believe that a Zippo lighter could stop a bullet. (hey, I read too many war comic books growing up, but MythBusters set me straight)

All of these things, of course, have been proven to be untrue myths.  Bummer, right?

Thanks in part to such wonderful shows as MythBusters, I've been turned from myth-believer (and, sometimes, myth-behaver) to true skeptic.  Still, I've held to certain truths about language because, well, unlike physical myths, it's hard to test linguistic myths.  Thou shalt not, for example, begin sentences with conjunctions--who's available and ready to defend the poor conjunction as a worthy sentence starter?  And there are other examples, too.  Right?

That's why I was so tickled to find out that I can, in fact, select a preposition to end a sentence with.  That, and the passive voice can be used.  That, and it's acceptable for me to cleverly split my infinitives.

How did I find this all out?  One of my fellow authors shared, using the power of Facebook, an article by Professor Ben Yagoda that dispells those and several other grammatical rumors.  Now I can quit reading through what I write trying to insert "by zombies" after every verb (a tried-and-true way of detecting passive voice; if "by zombies" sounds okay then a passive case you have).

Ahhh, liberation.  Pass the egg salad, would you?


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