The Norman Transcript

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October 18, 2013

Old wives’ tales

NORMAN — Do you put much credence in old wives’ tales?

Age tends to alter our assessment of what we are willing to believe or laugh off as horse pucky.

For example, when the nieces and nephews were children, they were more willing to believe the farfetched and strange things Aunt Liz told them. This magical state of acceptance also may be referred to as innocence. In any event, an off-hand remark I made hoping to lead them to some desired behavior had unexpected consequences.

“If you keep doing that, you’ll have hairy toes.”

Consequently, one niece blamed the hirsute condition of her toes on me. Then she wised up and later confessed her misdirected annoyance. Proving, once again, that with age wisdom follows, at least it should. In some cases, a blinkered viewpoint may cause a breakdown in the common sense process and such folks drift through life in the state of denial and/or self-induced ignorance.

According to that fountain of knowledge, Wikipedia, “an old wives’ tale is a term indicating a superstition or something deemed to be untrue . . . because women’s knowledge was not valued by men. The tales involved superstition, folklore or unverified claims with exaggerated and/or inaccurate detail.” Upon further investigation, instead of the usual brush off by brilliant men, some old wives’ tales have been validated.

The old tales were basically part of oral tradition, which is how knowledge was passed from generation to generation before books and the advent of social media. Quite frequently, the purpose of old wives’ tales was to teach a lesson and scare children to discourage unwanted behavior. Later, some of the tales were written down in the form of fairy tales by Brothers Grimm and others, again to teach lessons.

Under the “designed to encourage or discourage certain behavior” umbrella, there are several you have probably heard.

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