Did You Know about These Common Misconceptions

Chances are, you have heard several misconceptions that your parents or grandparents have told you, or you have even seen circulating on the Internet. Such misconceptions include: peanuts are nuts, fortune cookies are part of Chinese cuisine, Vikings wore helmets, or Frédéric Chopin is the composer of “Spring Waltz.” These misconceptions are embraced by many people, believing them with full conviction that they are infallible “facts.”

Check out some of the most common notions and see how many of these things you accept are true – which turn out to be wrong all along.

1. Alcohol keeps you warm

Johnnie Walker Black Label whisky, and nuts

While alcohol does make your skin feel warm, this apparent rise in temperature is deceptive. A swig or two actually causes your blood vessels to dilate, which moves the blood closer under the surface of your skin, making you feel warm – but only temporarily. Those same veins pumping blood closer to your skin will make you lose core body heat.

2. Tomatoes are vegetables

a basket of tomatoes

Tomatoes are technically fruits. The same goes with the other crops: cucumbers, peppers, eggplants, pumpkins, and okra.

3. Going for a swim right away after eating causes stomach cramps or drowning

diving into the pool

This is nonsense. While there is a correlation between drinking alcohol or drowning, there is no such evidence between the consumption of food and stomach cramps. So there’s no need to wait for an hour after eating before going for a dip.

4. Waking sleepwalkers harm them

Sleepwalker in pyjamas and with a pillow

There is no evidence that waking sleepwalkers can cause them severe distress. While the person may be startled or disoriented for a while after awakening, it does not cause them any further harm. In contrast, they may trip or lose balance because of bumping on or tripping over objects while sleepwalking.

5. Humans have five senses

While it is true that humans have five senses, the fact is that there is at least nine senses. Other categorizations list up to 20 senses in addition to the five most common: sight, smell, hearing, taste, and touch. These are the senses referred by Aristotle. The other lesser-known senses of the human body include pain (nociception), acceleration (equilibrioception), body and limb position (proprioception), and relative temperature (thermoception).

6. Fortune cookies are a Chinese tradition

two fortune cookies with a paper containing a message

These crispy and sugary cookies, with a piece of paper inside containing an aphorism or prophecy, are usually served at several Chinese restaurants in the US, were invented in Japan and introduced to the US.

7. Caffeine dehydrates the body

a cup of hot coffee with coffee beans alongside it

While it is true that caffeinated drinks such as coffee and tea are diuretics (properties that may cause one to unrinate), their effect is only mild. Some experts tend to agree that they don’t seem to cause an increased rate of dehydration, so continue to enjoy your cup of brewed coffee!

8. Mount Everest is the tallest mountain in the world

Mount Everest

Mount Everest in the Himalayas is considered, officially, as the tallest mountain in the world, but its summit pales in comparison to Mauna Kea in the US state of Hawaii. Measuring from the base to the summit, Mount Everest stands 29,035 feet above sea level while Mauna Kea rises 33,000 feet. However, half of the Mauna Kea is submerged in the Pacific Ocean, so it stands at only 13,796 feet above sea level.

9. “Spring Waltz” was composed by Chopin

Chopin's grave at Pere Lachaise cemetery in Paris, France

One of the popular YouTube uploads is “Spring Waltz,” which is attributed to the 19th-century Polish pianist and composer. But this attribution is wrong. Chopin never composed anything such as “Spring Waltz,” which isn’t a waltz, anyway. This popular solo piano piece is actually titled “Mariage d’Amour” (Marriage of Love), composed by French composer Paul de Senneville in 1979.

Only true Chopin fans would know right away, from the few bars of this piece, that it doesn’t sound exactly “Chopinesque.” Chopin did compose and arrange music for a song that celebrates spring – “Wiosna” (Polish for “spring”).

10. Vikings wore helmets

A Viking wearing a horned helmet

While these horned helmets are popularly associated with the Vikings, there is no historical evidence that they ever wore this type of headgear. In fact, the image of Vikings wearing horned helmets is originated from a scenography in Richard Wagner’s opera cycle Der Ring des Nibelungen, WWV 86.

11. Christopher Columbus was the first European to visit the Americas

portrait of Christopher Columbus

Every October 12, Americans celebrate the arrival of Christopher Columbus in the Americas. However – sorry to disappoint them – Columbus was not the first European to visit it.

There were other Europeans who set foot in the New World way long even before Columbus did. Leif Erikson, and possibly other Norse or Viking explorers before him, explored a coastal area named Vinland. It was either the present-day island Newfoundland or a part of today’s Canada. Another fact that debunks this myth is that Columbus never reached any land or region that formed the present-day United States. Most of Columbus’ landings made on his four voyages – including his initial arrival on October 12, 1492 – were on the islands of the Caribbean, which are now independent countries.

12. Bulls get enraged by the color red

bullfigthing in Spain

This popular misconception that a bull gets mad whenever they see the matador’s red muleta waving at it remains just that  – a misconception. The fact is that bulls only see blues and yellows. They only get mad because of the fluttering of the matador’s red cloth, combined with his taunting.

13. Peanuts are nuts

Peanuts with shells on

While peanuts do look and taste “nutty” like true nuts, they are not really nuts at all. Hard to believe it, but peanuts are actually legumes. Peanuts are closer relatives to peas, beans, chickpeas, lentils, and soybeans. They are also called groundnuts.

14. Rust causes tetanus

While people associate rust with tetanus (also popularly known as “lockjaw”), there is no evidence that rust is the cause of tetanus infection. The bacterium that causes tetanus, Clostridium tetani, is found in dirty environments such as soil, lava, dust, saliva, and manure.

15. Vitamin C prevents cold

citrus fruit and vitamin C capsules

People who suffer colds are encouraged to take doses of vitamin C. If taken daily, vitamin C may reduce the symptoms, but it won’t help treat the illness. Instead, vitamin C is thought to help build up the immune system to ward off potential cases of flus and viruses.