Old wives' tale  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

An old wives' tale is a type of urban legend, similar to a proverb, which is generally passed down by old wives to a younger generation. Such "tales" usually consist of superstition, folklore or unverified claims with exaggerated and/or untrue details. Today old wives' tales are still common among children in school playgrounds. Old wives' tales often concern pregnancy, puberty and nutrition.

In this context, the word wife means woman rather than married woman. This usage stems from Old English wif (woman) and is akin to the German weib, also meaning "woman". This sense of the word is still used in Modern English in constructions such as midwife and fishwife.

Most old wives' tales are false and are used to discourage unwanted behavior, usually in children, or for folk cures for ailments ranging from a toothache to dysentery. Among the few tales with grains of truth, the veracity is likely coincidental.

The concept of old wives' tales is ancient. In the 1st century, the apostle Paul wrote to his young protégé Timothy, "But refuse profane and old wives' fables, and exercise thyself [rather] unto godliness" (I Timothy 4:7 KJV).

Examples:

  • Ice cream leads to nightmares.
  • Toes pointed up signify low blood sugar.
  • High heart rates lead to female fetuses.

See also




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Old wives' tale" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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