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MARTHA SEZ: Don’t believe everything

April 24, 2014
By MARTHA ALLEN , Lake Placid News

Conventional wisdom, in my book, is not wisdom at all. Nothing infuriates me more than other people nodding sagely while piously intoning some truism that I believe to be untrue.

"It takes two to tango," people will say, for example, when a relationship goes sour. Even if one partner winds up with multiple gunshot wounds, someone is sure to point out, "He (or she) must have done something to provoke it."

If a person's house is torched and burned to the ground by a disgruntled ex-spouse, bet your life people will equivocate, "Well, I haven't heard the other side of the story."

I say some people are just bad. It takes two? Sure it does. The perp and the victim.

If a young woman is sexually attacked, someone is bound to ask, "What was she wearing?" I have observed, however, when a young man is sexually accosted, no one wonders how he was dressed.

"Whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger," someone will say, and another person will concur, "You end up stronger in the broken places."

No, you don't. This is no more true of human beings than it is of china cups that have had their handles broken off and then glued back on. I'm pretty sure that scar tissue is not an improvement on healthy, untraumatized tissue, nor is emotional scarring particularly beneficial to mental health. The conventional wisdom is that negative experiences, like drugs and alcohol, are useful for writers. I'm hoping it's true.

Occasionally, while repeating some piece of erudition for perhaps the hundredth time, I find myself wondering where I picked it up and whether there is any truth to it. After performing research and discovering the supposed fact to be spurious, I become irrationally annoyed when I hear it repeated by someone else.

Me: Oh, right. Where'd you hear that?

Someone Else: I heard it from you, Martha.

A factoid is misinformation commonly believed to be true, and often promulgated by the media. How likely are you to fall for-and repeat factoids? Take this quiz to find out.


1. Daddy longlegs are the world's most venomous arachnids, theoretically capable of killing a human with one bite. Luckily for us, their mouths can't open wide enough to bite humans.

2. Spiders frequently bite sleeping people, On average, Americans swallow five spiders a year in their sleep. In fact, all over America, sleeping people unwittingly provide virtual thoroughfares for spiders and heaven knows what all.

3. The camel spider, a large arachnid encountered by our service men and women in the Near East, anaesthesizes humans and camels in order to eat chunks of their flesh (mostly, but not necessarily, while they sleep).

4. Uncooked rice is indigestible and sometimes deadly to birds who eat it, and so the tradition of throwing rice at weddings is environmentally unsound.

5. Chocolate is poisonous to dogs, fatal at approximately one ounce of chocolate per pound of dog. Cocoa mulch, a landscaping material, is also poisonous to dogs.


6. President George W. Bush has the lowest IQ of any United States president in the past 50 years.

7. The epithet "bra burner" was coined by a "New York Post" reporter for feminists who were protesting the 1968 Miss America Pageant. No brassieres were actually harmed at the event; the reporter simply intended to link the feminist protesters with draft card burners.


8. A young woman cooked (basically microwaved) her internal organs by frequenting a tanning booth in preparation for her wedding. The first clue to her condition was the smell of rotting meat she gave off during her honeymoon. (What was she wearing?) Of course, she died shortly thereafter.

9. During the early 1960s, a young woman unwittingly housed a nest of spiders in her beehive hairdo. They naturally burrowed into her head, where they laid eggs. (It is assumed that she was sleeping at the time.)

10. Men who insist on keeping their hats on indoors pay a price for their ungentlemanlike behavior. The constant wearing of baseball caps or other headgear increases the chance of going bald.

11. Shaving and/or cutting hair on the head or body will make it grow back thicker and faster.

12. Eating chocolate will make an acne condition worse.

13. Smoking tobacco is bad for the skin, hastening the aging process.


Question 5, 7 and 13 are true. The rest are false, according to my sources.

Have a good week!



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