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Misconceptions

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Acronyms (abbreviations pronounced as words, as opposed to initialisms, abbreviations pronounced as individual letters) were quite rare before the 20th century; the word "acronym" itself only dates from 1943. All stories about the origin of words (including "tip", "posh", "golf", and various four-letter words) that claim that a word is derived from an acronym several centuries old are false.

View more facts about: Misconceptions | English Words

According to legend, St. Patrick drove all of the snakes out of Ireland. Actually, there were never any snakes in Ireland in the first place. (source)

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Captain Kidd was hanged for murder, not piracy. He hit one of his seamen over the head with a bucket and killed him. The piracy charge was never proved.

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Cleopatra was not Egyptian; she was of Macedonian descent.

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The kilt is not Scottish in origin. It was a form of male attire in ancient times and originated in the Mediterranean area. Both Roman and Assyrian soldiers wore them.

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Fortune cookies are American, not Chinese. They were invented by George Jung, a Chinese immigrant to the United States, in 1918. (source)

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In Mary Shelley's 1818 novel, Frankenstein was the name of the medical student who created the monster, not the name of the monster itself, which was not named.

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"Willy-nilly" means "whether you want it or not"; it does not refer to being in a confused state. (source)

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The word "devolve" is not the opposite of "evolve." Responsibility for something might devolve on you, but, for example, situations do not "devolve" into anarchy. (source)

The first aeroplane to fly non-stop across the Atlantic Ocean
The first aeroplane to fly nonstop across the Atlantic Ocean.

Charles Lindbergh was not the first person to fly across the Atlantic nonstop; he was just the first to do it alone. The first nonstop flight across the Atlantic occurred on June 14–15, 1919, when Captain John Alcock and Lieutenant Arthur Whitten-Brown co-piloted a Vickers-Vimy twin-engine plane from Newfoundland to Galway, Ireland. (source)

View more facts about: Misconceptions | Flight

Mobile homes are not named for their portability. They are named after Mobile, Alabama.

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Despite how it may be depicted in drawings, lightning does not travel in zig-zags. Its path may curve, twist, or branch, but it never makes abrupt, sharp turns found in zig-zags. (source)

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In movies and television, people who are fatally shot or who otherwise die suddenly are depicted as falling backwards. However, someone who suddenly dies while standing, for whatever cause, almost always falls forward. Even if a person were struck by a bullet from the front, the bullet's momentum would usually be insufficient to overcome the tendency of a dying person to fall forwards. (source)

View more facts about: Human Body | Misconceptions

It is not true that there are no tides in inland bodies of water such as the Great Lakes. The same forces that produce ocean tides produce tides in all bodies of water, but in smaller bodies of water the tides are so slight that any changes are obscured by differences in water level resulting from other factors such as precipitation, discharge from rivers, atmospheric pressure and winds. For example, the tide at Lake Michigan rises and falls only a few inches. (source)

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