An old wives’ tale is a supposed truth which is actually spurious or a superstition. It can be said sometimes to be a type of urban legend, said to be passed down by older women to a younger generation. Such tales are considered superstition, folklore or unverified claims with exaggerated and/or inaccurate details. Old wives’ tales often center on women’s traditional concerns, such as pregnancy, puberty, social relations, health, herbalism and nutrition.
Old wives’ tales originate in the oral tradition of storytelling. They were generally propagated by illiterate women, telling stories to each other or to children. The stories do not attempt to moralize, but to teach lessons and make difficult concepts like death or coming of age easy for children to understand. These stories are also used to scare children so they don’t do certain things.
These tales have often been collected by literate men and turned into written works. Fairy tales by Basile, Perrault, and the Grimms have their roots in the oral tradition of women. These male writers took the stories from women, with their plucky, clever heroines and heroes, and turned them into morality tales for children.
Examples of old wives’ tales include:
· Masturbation will make you blind and have hairy palms.
· Ice cream leads to nightmares.
· Toes pointed up signify low blood sugar.
· Letting a wound “dry out” is the proper treatment.
· Cracking knuckles gives arthritis.
· High heart rates lead to female fetuses.
· Swimming with full stomach causes cramps and that one should wait an hour after eating before swimming.
· Don’t swallow gum or it will stay in your stomach for seven years.
· Don’t make silly faces or it will make the silly face permanent.
· Chocolate leads to acne.
· Shaving makes the hair grow back thicker.
· Eating crusts (of a sandwich) makes your hair go curly/you grow hair on your chest.
· The appearance of white spots on the fingernails (leukonychia) is due to lying or not eating enough green vegetables/calcium.
· It’s bad luck to open an umbrella indoors.
· Nosebleeds are a sign of sexual arousal.
· If in doubt spit it out.