Fact or Fiction? Debunking Common Misconceptions

I cannot explain it, but there is a great deal of perpetuated information that is not factually correct. The misinformation campaign has been going on for years; if you do not believe me, you can ask your grandparents about what I am going to debunk. I do not think incorrect information is always being passed on maliciously or for some devious purpose. I believe if specific knowledge is repeated enough times it becomes deeply ingrained. The skewed information is not typically dangerous, but it is funny how we tend to think things are right and never question the status quo. For example:

A Camel stores water in its hump. Camels store fat for food in their humps, not water. They can go weeks without food. It is the Camel’s red blood cells that allow it to withstand long periods without water.

Most Americans will tell you that we celebrate our independence from Britain on the 4th of July. This is wrong; the 4th of July represents the anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. The fight went on for seven more years, and we got independence from Britain on September 3rd, 1783 with the signing of the Treaty of Paris.

Van Gogh cut off his ear and sent it to Gauguin. Today, this is accepted as true. Don’t get me wrong, Van Gogh had a tumultuous relationship with Gauguin, but he did not cut off his ear. Gauguin cut off just part of Van Gogh’s ear, the ear lobe, with a sword during a fencing exercise. After the two's relationship had deteriorated entirely, Gauguin, spread the rumor that Van Gogh had cut off his ear to paint Van Gogh as nuts.

The United State of America was always a democracy. Nope! Madison and Jefferson did not believe in a real democracy, they believed in a mix; thus we have the Executive (Monarch), the Senate (Aristocracy), and the House (Commoners). Finally, the Electoral College made us the Democratic Republic.

There are many more examples, including but certainly not limited to: Christopher Columbus discovered America. Well, maybe after Leif Erickson had already done so 492 years earlier. Or that Sir Isaac Newton discovered gravity when an apple hit him on the head. Nice story but not true. Or that Napoleon was short. Wrong, Napoleon was 5 foot 6 inches, the exact average height of any French male at the time. 

I know this is silly and really at the end of the day, believing any of the above false facts does not cause harm — I kind of like urban legends, or shared cultural folklore. Nonetheless, be careful about the information you pass on and the facts you believe.