What to believe (again)

November 29, 2006

In an earlier post, I speculated about the circulation of spurious ‘facts’ and I proposed a principle that one should believe nothing you read on the Internet. I was prompted to revisit this thanks to a circulated email list purporting to explain the origin of various phrases and giving a few ‘astounding facts’.

Following my own rules (see September 11th post), I presumed everything stated was false, but in order to satisfy the sender that I was not simply rejecting it out of hand I decided to research a few of the statements.

Actually I could have saved myself the trouble as one of the assertions was that it is impossible to lick your own elbow, and at the bottom of the email was the statement that 75% of people reading this email will try to lick their own elbow. Really? How was that tested? Clearly an email of ‘facts’ that contains such obvious rubbish has to be laughed off immediately.

However, in my quest to confirm my suspicions about other claims in the email, I did discover a wonderful source of information about the origin of phrases. The Phrase Finder is a wonderful site for the student of phrases. Yes I know it is on the Internet and therefore subject to the Rules, but what I like is the cautious consideration of possible origins of phrases, the inclusion of historical examples, and the clear rejection of the popular but mistaken origins that are often given.

I am pleased particularly to see their rejection of acronym based origins for such words as pom, posh and golf all of which have always struck me as ridiculous.

An added bonus on the site is a list of French and Latin phrases that have been incorporated into English. Altogether a great Internet source.

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One Response to “What to believe (again)”

  1. BEK Says:

    I tried to lick my elbow…


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