Guest Author - Phyllis Doyle Burns
Our grandmothers have handed down a legacy from generation to generation and the tales they have told us often influence our way of doing things. Would you ever not throw a pinch of spilled salt over your left shoulder? If you believed that to not do this would bring you bad luck, then it might be a good idea to do what grandmother advised.
It can be said that an Old Wives' Tale is similar to a proverb. It is a type of urban legend that consists of superstition in the realm of folklore. These tales are not always verified, but, try to not follow them and see what happens - there could be a grain of truth in them. However, most of these tales were meant to discourage children from doing things they should not do. This concept is ancient and the tales are as old as the first attempt at communication between humans.
Like all folklore, old wives' tales were begun as oral traditions and handed down within families and the local villages. They have survived through the ages and many times have brought comfort or good luck to those who needed it.
I still pick up a Penny when I see one on the ground and say "Find a penny, pick it up, I will surely have good luck!", then, for good measure, I put the same penny in my shoe and say, "Put a penny in your shoe, luck will surely come to you!"
Many old wives' tales have proven false, such as "Feed a cold, starve a fever." With today's knowledge of illnesses and wonderful doctors, we know that both high fevers and colds can cause fluid loss, so we need to drink plenty of liquids. Also, eating regular meals will give us the nourishment and strength we need to fight off the viruses.
Some sayings are debatable. Is it true that "coffee will stunt your growth"? Well, it is said this is false and that it will not affect your growth, but, it is also said that children should not have coffee because it prevents absorption of calcium and other nutrients. Now, maybe the old wives were correct there, for without the calcium and vital nutrients a child needs to grow then would coffee hinder their growth? I would think so.
"Fish is brain food" has been found to be true because of the omega-3 fatty acids that are really important for the brain to function. There is the possibility, however, of absorbing too much mercury from some fish, such as tuna, shark and swordfish, so it is wise to limit these in the diet.
What about spicy foods? Do they really cause ulcers? Some sources say they may aggravate ulcer symptoms, but do not actually cause ulcers to form. I believe that. A bowl of spicy chili really bothers my ulcer symptoms.
Now, my Mama always told us to not go outside on cold days when our hair is wet or we will catch cold - so we never did go out with wet hair, still don't, therefore I do not know if that is true. Medical sources will say that wet hair in cold weather and getting chills from that do not cause colds, that viruses cause colds, and we are more apt to catch colds in winter from staying inside where viruses from others hover around us. Well then, maybe washing your hair on cold wet days is not a good idea, because we would be better off outdoors on those days.
"If you cross your eyes, they may get stuck that way!" My Father always told us that, but, we crossed them anyway, just to see if he was right, but, then he said "May", not "Will". Experts on the subject say that crossing your eyes will not make them stick. I wonder how many times they had to cross their eyes to find that out?
"Cracking your knuckles will cause arthritis." Experts say this is false. However, I was one of the best "knuckle crackers" in the neighborhood and I now have arthritis in my hands.
True or false, it is great fun to ponder over the Old Wives' Tales and pass them on to younger generations.