Folks before the internet turned everyone into smug, all-knowing, instant experts, we had to rely on the ‘Encyclopaedia of Old Wives Tales’; superstitious stories of uncommon sense handed down through generations of well-meaning, but grossly misinformed, blockheads.
For example, those of us of a certain age will recall being told that swallowed chewing gum would stick to our stomach linings and we’d bung up harder than a belly button full of old plasticine (which, along with playdough, was another tasty snack stricken from my diet).
Kids, chewing gum (and playdough) will eventually pass through your system, with about the same ease as a well-gnawed chunk of rubber thong, which is basically what chewing gum is.
Then there was the time I halved my watermelon eating time by simply scoffing down the seeds instead of spitting them out. Judging from the way people reacted, you’d have thought I’d just hoovered up radioactive waste.
Nobody thought to mention that eating seeds might result in a pointy bit perforating my bowel. No, they had to make up some far-fetched story that coloured my young life for months. Each morning I’d wake up expecting to see a watermelon tendril curling out of one of my nostrils (well, out of my nostril if I was ‘lucky’).
And parents, telling your springy haired son that eating bread crusts will make his hair even curlier is NOT the way to get him to eat bread crusts. Because what he’ll immediately do is add crust to the rapidly expanding list of stuff he will never eat again, like liver, kidney, brawn, brains, tripe, tongue and watermelon seeds.
Eventually the internet (and hair straighteners!) arrived, and Professor Google dropkicked most Old Wives Tales into the dustbin of history, along with fairies, elves, unicorns and non-spinning politicians.
Knock on wood.