Close up Hands Tea x

Sit a bit and hear some observational stories I’ve been steeping.

Know-it-All (wrong)

Turns out, some of those grown-ups that I put my ever-lovin’ childhood trust in to know everything, did NOT know everything.  As a result, my youthful attempts to achieve know-it-all status ultimately turned into more of a know-it-all, but know-it-all-wrong kind of thing.

The problem with having wrong information fed to you is akin to one of my (many) favorite Steve Martin comedy routines which featured the concept of teaching a child to speak completely wrong, so that when they started school they’d raise their hand to say something like, “Can I mumbo dogface in the banana patch?”  Thanks to a large batch of erroneous facts fed to me from my early days, there have been times when I felt a bit like that when I opened my mouth.

For example, as a child a beloved piano teacher breathlessly announced that the entire world was “tuned to A” and I believed her.  I was a kid.  We tend to do that.  Especially when you big people with authoritative tones speak with conviction.  This well-meaning woman told me that car horns, phone dial tones, etc. were all “Tuned to A, darling!”  Hours spent digging into extensive research as a terribly curious adult (the bigger kid version of me) revealed otherwise.  I discovered that up until the 1960's most American car horns were tuned to the notes E flat or C and that many modern horns are now tuned to F sharp and A sharp.  Well, even though it is a half step off on the musical scale, that’s still not A, is it?  Close, to be sure, but too pitch-y for me, Dawg.  Then, I dug a little deeper into musical vibrations of the world, only to be disheartened to find out that telephones do contain the 440 Hz of A, but they also contain an interfering F tone – so the truth is that there are two tones, not the lonely A that I’ve espoused for most of my adult life.  Well, son-of-a-biscuit-eating-bulldog.  Know-it-all-wrong, once more.

Another factoid that turned out to be fiction was when a relative told me that George Washington had wooden teeth.  Uhm?  No.  He didn’t.  Stop spreading that lie and get your facts straight.  Not that George’s choppers weren’t plenty unusual enough, having actually been created from gold, hippopotamus ivory, lead and actual human teeth and ones from horses and donkeys.  But, HELLO!?  The truth is waaay more fascinating than the whole fabricated carved-from-trees story.  And speaking of this need to fabricate Presidential facts, John F. Kennedy did not embarrass himself talking about a jelly donut to the people of Germany when he spoke the words, “Ich bin ein Berliner” – nobody really thought he was talking about Pfannkuchen, the jam donut.  Of course, at the time I was just a baby and couldn’t weigh in on that one (and still working on my English skills, not yet delving into German).

There were, of course, many concepts presented to me as a child that have taken a lifetime to suss out fact from fiction.  Allow me this opportunity to set the record straight, in case you were told these, too:

Chewing gum does NOT take seven years to digest in your system.

It is mostly indigestible, but eventually passes through your internal plumbing like that other possibly questionable stuff you ate.

It is NOT easier to balance an egg on end during the first day of spring.

It is just as impossible on that day as it is the other 364 days out of the year.

Ostriches do NOT bury their heads in the sand.

During the incubation period, they spend a lot of time turning over their eggs in a rather large pit of a hole (up to 8 feet wide and 3 feet deep).  From a distance, it can appear as though their heads are buried.  Trust me, they are not.

Lemmings are NOT suicidal.

For years people have accused lemming of being all “drink the fruit punch” crazy, following their fearless stupid leaders off cliffs en masse.  They don’t.  But, for some reason, this wee furry rodents are associated with all kinds of crazy misconceptions, like they fell out of the sky during stormy weather and died suddenly when the grass grew in the spring.  So, maybe they do have a freakish side that needs to be investigated further.  You go, Scully.  The truth is out there.

And sharks DO get cancer.

Long ago, I gave up my 12 year old’s dream of becoming a know-it-all, but thank heavens for the ability to access encyclopedias, university archives, the internet and good ol’ Snopes.com because the taller and older version of myself can at least hone knowledge down to a finer (truer) point.

As for you?  If you’re still holding out for your chance to wear the Crown of I Know All and to get your Mensa card in the mail this year, I’d like you to check out one of my favorite writers, A.J. Jacobs, who wrote a hysterically funny book called, appropriately enough, “The Know-It-All” – which he wrote after taking a year to read the entire Encyclopedia Brittanica (all 128 pounds of it) from A to Z (or, as he says, “From a-ak to zywiec”).  [http://www.ajjacobs.com/content/book.asp]

Get back to me once you accumulated some of your facts.  I’d love to hear about them.  Especially, when you speak with conviction in those authoritative tones.  It will help if you start your email with: Did You Know?…

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