The Norman Transcript


October 18, 2013

Old wives’ tales



“If you eat the entire apple, an apple tree will grow in your stomach.” I’m still waiting for even one twig to sprout since I have always eaten the entire apple. I happen to like the taste of apple seeds.

“Wash your hands after touching a banana peel or you’ll catch leprosy.” The hand washing was a no-brainer. I’m a clean freak and do not like the banana peel residue on my hands. Leprosy is a highly contagious bacterial infection believed to spread through contact. Since bananas are a tropical fruit and one of the Hawaiian Islands, Kalaupapa, Molokai, had a leper colony in the 1800s, it is possible someone made the erroneous connection between leprosy and the fruit.

“If you don’t stop doing ‘that,’ you will go blind.” Various behaviors, such as reading in dim light, were associated with that particular threat, but none of them proved to be true, unless you simply close your eyes on purpose.

“Cats can steal the air from a baby’s mouth.” Perhaps the cat is attracted by the smell of milk on the baby’s breath. However, according to, “it’s anatomically impossible for a cat or other animal to suffocate a baby by sealing the baby’s mouth with its own.”

“Wait an hour after eating before swimming.” Unless you ate a heavy fatty meal and plan to swim laps, feel free to dip those toes in the water. But sometimes an error is made in translating this old wives’ tale and it is loosely applied it to something similar.

The grandchildren of an acquaintance were heading for the shower after a late dinner and granny said, “You should wait at least 30 minutes.” After the spontaneous eruption of laughter, she saw her mistake.

Today, validated old wives’ tales have been renamed household hints. For example, plants in the home purify the air. Or, cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze, those snot particles have to go somewhere.

Rule of thumb: If a kernel of wisdom sounds farfetched, do not believe it.

Elizabeth is a freelance writer and author. Her novels “The Dionysus Connection” and “The Marathon Man” are available on Visit her website:

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