Newer Than They Think

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So you've run across a trope or story element that seems unspeakably old. It simply drips with antiquity and grandeur, so you assume that it must have been around since the first caveman. But then you research it a little more, and discover... that it was invented by a Los Angeles advertising executive in 1989?

Congratulations: You've learned that some things are Newer Than They Think — a relatively recent invention that people tend to assume has much deeper roots in history and popular culture than it actually does—or the roots are considerably further from the end result than you realize. It usually arises from the myth being presented as part of an older myth and tied into it; or the assumption that because the mythology is old, it hasn't been changed. Sometimes the trope really is as old as they think, but it's only become popular within recent historical memory.

It may also tie into Our Monsters Are Different, as many "standard rules" seem like they should come from folklore and legends, but really come from more recent media. The development of fantasy RPGs has been a major mover in both tropes, as RPG creators have freely raided, adapted and bastardized from folklore and literature in order to fill their manuals, scenario books and bestiaries.

Some neologisms can be mistaken for being very old as well.

Compare Lost in Imitation (well-known elements of a story are a lot more recent than the story itself), The Newest Ones in the Book. Convincingly well-done Retraux is a common factor in this trope.

Contrast Older Than They Think.

Examples of Newer Than They Think include:

Animals[edit | hide | hide all]

  • Camels weren't introduced to Ancient Egypt until fairly late in the New Kingdom, and then only as a source of milk, meat, and hair, not as beasts of burden or riding animals.
    • Camels didn't make it to the Maghreb until about 300... AD. Try to tell that to all those strategy games that give camel units to Carthage during the Punic Wars!
  • Plains Indians are always shown in movies riding horses. However, the native North American horse had gone extinct long before Europeans arrived and was never domesticated. The horses the natives acquired later came from European horses that had escaped, were stolen in raids, or purchased from Europeans.
  • Horses weren't present in the Middle East either until the second millennium BC, when they were introduced by invading peoples from the Eurasian steppes to the north. Both the Mesopotamian and Egyptian civilizations developed without horses (although they had donkeys).
  • Although the dog has been domesticated for tens of thousands of years, a recent study determined that only 14 out of 85 tested breeds are thought to be "ancient breeds" or what we call Older Than Feudalism. (There are over 300 known dog breeds, so more extensive testing might reveal additional ancient breeds.) The idea of registered, pedigreed, "purebred" dogs is an innovation of the 19th century; most breeds did not become closed breeding pools until the 1800s. Many breeds did not even exist until recently; for example, German Shepherds were first recognized as a breed in 1899.
    • Many dog breeds are even newer than that, the bulldog we're familiar with wasn't developed until after the turn of the century, the modern poodle has origins that go back centuries but the modern poodle is a 20th century development (with the current look), the oldest modern labrador retriever was born in 1899 and the subtypes weren't established until the 1930s.
    • The breeds in question: Afghan Hound, Akita Inu, Alaskan Malamute, Basenji, Chow Chow, Lhasa Apso, Pekingese, Saluki, Samoyed, Shar Pei, Shiba Inu, Shih Tzu, Siberian Husky, and Tibetan Terrier. All of these have genetic structures that resemble wolves to a marked degree.
    • Three breeds that have ancient histories, the Norwegian Elkhound, Pharaoh Hound and Ibizan Hound, did not turn out to have ancient DNA structure. Not surprising, since these three breeds were close to extinction and were "recreated" by breeding the few remaning individuals with other breeds, thus diluting their DNA. Other breeds that have long histories, such as Greyhounds, were extensively crossbred in the 1800s and have lost their original DNA structure.
    • However, at this point it cannot be said that any dog breed is more or less closely related to wolves than any other. All of the tested breeds seem to derive from the same small number of domestication events.
      • Dingos may actually be the one of oldest "breeds" of dogs, although they were not tested in this study.
        • New Guinea's singing dog probably predates even the dingo.
  • Because marsupials use a reproductive strategy that is popularly regarded as "primitive", kangaroos are often assumed to be an ancient genus on par with "living fossils". In fact, the larger, grazing varieties of 'roo only arose about five million years ago, evolving from the wallabies which preceded them more recently than our own lineage split off from that of chimpanzees.
    • It's the same with monotremes - while the platypus is indeed a living fossil and the oldest living mammal family, echidnas only evolved in the Oligocene, after most of the more advanced groups of mammals, like primates.
  • That rabbit that is found everywhere in Europe and a pest in Australia was originally an endemism of the Iberian Peninsula. The Romans, who introduced it in other places for hunting purposes, didn't even have a specific word for "rabbit", using terms like "Small Hare" or "Digging Hare" instead. The first domestic rabbits appeared only in the Middle Ages.
  • Rats were not always living in nearly every part of the world, and were not always looked down upon. The most familiar species, the Norway rat, came from northern China into Europe near the end of the Black death. It was the Indochinese black rat that came first, in the 1st century.


Dress and Costume[edit | hide]

  • The classic "suit of armor"—metal plate over the entire body—didn't reach the form depicted in most famous works of art until around 1400, way way too late for it to have been worn by Saint George or King Arthur. Chain mail, however, is very old; the Romans used it, under the name lorica hamata, and the Celts before them again, so it's likely that King Arthur (who was probably Romano-British if he was anything at all) would have worn it, as well as the Crusaders having done so.
  • The obligation for Sikhs to wear a turban (dastar) only dates from 1699. (Sikhism itself was founded c. 1500)
    • The strict regulations on headgear and facial hair in the US military that essentially barred Sikhs from service were only imposed in the 1980s. Before that, many Sikh males volunteered for or were drafted into the military.
      • The regulations were not, however, intended to exclude Sikhs or other ethnic/religious groups from military service. It turns out, in a world where biological or chemical warfare attacks are a possibility, that facial hair makes it very difficult to obtain an efficient seal on gas masks.
  • The tradition of the "white" wedding dress originated in 1840, when Queen Victoria of Britain wore a white satin gown to her wedding. Before then, a rich bride would wear a gown that could be blue (like the Virgin Mary), red (the most popular choice before Queen Victoria), purple, or any other color, and was embroidered and brocaded with white and silver threading. A poorer bride might choose her best Sunday dress if she couldn't manage that. Although Vicky wasn't the first royal to wear white (as it was considered a very conservative and prudish color before then, as well as the color of mourning) she made it immensely popular, and women around the country styled it to be the color that emphasized girlish purity and innocence. At the time, a white dress could not be cleaned if it were stained. Wearing a white dress was like saying "I can afford a dress that will be completely ruined if someone touched me with so much as an dirty hand". Until more commercial methods of cleaning and laundering became available, white was the upper-class choice. After then, everyone could dress like a princess or a duchess by wearing white.
    • In Sweden the traditional color for a wedding dress was black. That didn't change until the 1920s.
    • White was the primary color of wedding gowns in the early 1800s, although probably owing to the fact that evening gowns of that era were also primarily white. Silver was sometimes used, especially after the wedding of Princess Caroline of Wales in 1816.
      • In fact a younger woman's best clothes, if she were comfortably off, would almost always be white in this period, and probably made of fine cotton.
  • Mink was colored only brown (and possibly black) until the mid 20th century, when breeding brought out mutation colors, like white and silver. If you see a woman wearing white mink in fiction before the late '40s, either the costumer Did Not Do the Research, or they didn't have the time or budget to find ermine, which is what would have been worn.
  • Pink and blue weren't always considered to be "girl" and "boy" colors - it used to be the other way around until the 1940s. (One source, not comprehensive, said that blue was for the Virgin Mary and pink was for Mars, the God of War and the Red Planet.) Until the 1920s there was no association between pink and any gender. In fact, back then there was little differentiation between the genders themselves in childhood.
  • The clans of Scotland all being identified with a particular tartan is an idea that only stems back to the beginning of the 19th century; and originated in Victorian England, not Scotland. It's use in Scotland is an example of back-adoption.
    • For that matter, Scotsmen didn't wear kilts until the 16th century, well after the time of Braveheart.
      • William Wallace's men wore saffron, not plaid. Now that would have been a movie!
    • The Scottish kilt developed over a period of about 200 years, from a simple cloak made from a single length of wool cloth which started out wrapped, then belted, then gathered, then finally pleated about the waist. There is also evidence that this style of dress did not, in fact, originate in Scotland; but was adopted from Norse invaders (who formed the primary genetic origin for the Highland Scots).
    • Tartan plaids developed in the early to mid 16th century; and did not become common until the late 18th century. Prior to this, plaids were symbols of wealth (the ability to afford the widest range of dyes, particularly blue dyes, and more complex and labour-intensive patterns); and the most common colours for cloaks and kilts were saffron and brown.
      • Even as the tartan patterns were developed, most people who wore them couldn't afford to keep them pristine, and the dies were usually rather unstable and faded badly. You didn't look at the specific colors to work out what it was, you looked at the width and pattern of the stripes, and the relative brightness and color values secondarily.
    • The modern association of kilts exclusively with Scotland also make them Older Than They Think.
    • Or rather, kilts standing for the whole of Scotland is Newer than they Think. Before the battle of Culloden, 'Highland Dress' was associated with, yes, Highlanders—the Catholic, Gaelic-speaking, tribal(ish) part of Scotland—who were despised by the English-speaking, Presbyterian, city-dwelling, breech-wearing low Scots. Hence the fact that the force beating the Highlanders at Culloden had far more men from this community than Englishmen. Only 50 years after the real Highland culture had been almost comprehensively trampled was it resurrected in a sentimentalised form and identified with by the whole country.
      • Even the "resurrection" of Highland culture did not originate in Scotland; but rather as a fad in Victorian England, as part of a larger obsession with the idealized image of the "Noble Savage" (which the Highland Scots epitomized in their view).
  • The first black belts for Judo were awarded in the 1880s. The colored belt system of rank found in most modern martial arts was founded during the 20th century. This was due to a large number of injuries that was occurring during sparring. The different colored belts meant that you could tell who was at what level of skill in a single glance.
  • The gi uniform and its variants which are associated with martial arts was not created until the early 20th century for use in Judo.
  • Panties as we know them were only invented a bit over a century ago.
    • And speaking of underwear: surprisingly, the thong wasn't invented until 1981, despite strippers having worn the similar G-string since time immemorial.
    • Long drawers were first commonly worn in the 1850s; before this women wore nothing under their shifts (a long unfitted garment rather like a full-length nightie). (they had existed since circa 1800 but were considered rather racy, as, unlike the more conventional 'shift' they would have shown through the fine fabric of the gowns of the period; however, a long version was adopted for little girls, so that they could wear a slightly shorter skirt.) The new-fangled crinoline hoop had an embarrassing tendency to lift up in high winds, and so the wearer would be at least spared the embarrassment of revealing her legs. These drawers would have been open at the crotch (because it's extremely hard to pull them down to pee when you're wearing a hoop and corset) until about 1875, when the hoop was firmly out of fashion.
      • Men's underpants appeared at roughly the same era; before this, they would have had their shirts made long and loose, and wrapped the 'tails' round under their crotch- a shirt was essentially underwear, and all men would have worn something over it- in fact, a gentleman would only show the collar and cuffs, covering it with a cravat and a sleeved waistcoat (vest). Only in extreme cold weather would he have worn woolen drawers under his breeches. The first generation of men's underwear (first half of the 19th century) were long and woolen, too.
  • As for the Vikings' horned/winged helmets, they were made up in the 19th century. See also below.
  • Women's clothes did not have attached pockets until the late 18th century. Early women's "pockets" were separate garments tied to the waist beneath the skirt, accessed via a slit in the skirt. The narrow skirts of the Regency drove these bulky pockets out of fashion. (Men's coats and waistcoats developed sewn-in pockets centuries earlier.)
    • This change also brought about another standard piece of feminine attire- the handbag, originally called a 'reticule' (sometimes spelled 'ridicule' for some reason). Prior to this, women had had no need of special bags- their pockets were surprisingly large (6" by 12", flat, but usually in pairs, seems to be quite standard- the heroine of Pamela practically fits a whole change of clothes into hers in an emergency), and if a female needed to carry anything bigger- well, a common woman could use a basket, and a lady would use her servant.
  • The classic cowboy hat commonly associated with the old west didn't become prevalent in America until afterward. The cowboy hat's design originated in Texas, influenced by the "Boss of the Plains" and Mexican-style hats which had a wide brim. In the 2010 version of True Grit, only one character in the entire movie is seen with a cowboy hat, and he is from Texas.
  • The bikini. Although the two-piece bathing suit has been around since the late 1940s, for several decades it was regarded mainly as Fetish Fuel (since it is, after all, really nothing more than a bra and panties to be worn in the water) and was almost never sported by women who wished to be taken seriously, especially if they were athletes. (Surprisingly, it wasn't even until the 1990s that the bikini became standard in the Miss America pageant, and even then there was controversy over its inclusion.) Only within our own generation has the bikini become so ubiquitous than an Action Girl can wear one without fear of any but the horniest males leering at her.
  • The zipper was invented by Gideon Sundback in December 1913. This means Victorian men could never have had their flies down but only open, since they only could have buttons before then. The fly itself is a modern development too: it was only introduced in Europe by the Turks in the 18th century, and for decades it was considered immoral in the West because it allowed men to have intercourse without undressing, and thus was considered to encourage rape.

Food and Drink[edit | hide]

  • Frangelico, a hazelnut liqueur marketed as being the invention of a medieval hermit, cannot definitively be said to have been first produced earlier than 1980.
  • Many "traditional" British foods actually only date back to World War II, when rationing meant that people had to improvise new ways of cooking with only basic ingredients. Among the most enduring of these foods are carrot cake (with carrots replacing the expensive, rationed dried fruit and adding bulk in a dearth of flour), and apple crumble (a cheap substitute for apple pies).
    • Likewise, the "ploughman's lunch", supposedly the traditional midday meal of the hardy rustic English labourer, was invented in 1960 by the Milk Marketing Board in order to sell cheese.
    • Recipes for traditional British puddings involving sugar or its byproducts (treacle, molasses) are likely no older than the 18th century, when imports from the West Indies made it available to those other than the very wealthy.
  • Similarly, okonomiyaki, a crepe-like Japanese fast/comfort food, is often incorrectly thought by Western anime fans to be an example of "classic" Japanese cuisine dating back centuries. In fact, it was invented in Hiroshima in the months after the atomic bomb, made up of a combination of local ingredients and relief supplies brought in by the occupying Allies thrown together and cooked quickly to provide a cheap, filling meal. Even today, the "definitive" commercially-created okonomiyaki sauce includes ingredients so alien to Japanese cuisine (like dates) that Otafuku, the manufacturer, has had to create a museum display to explain what they are to the average Japanese.
  • General Tso's Chicken was invented in the 1970s by a New York-based chef named Peng Chang-kuei. Even better, the recipe everyone knows as General Tso's Chicken is actually a later modification of Peng's original made by other chefs over the next five or ten years.
  • Lager was first made during the 1800s, and didn't displace ale as the most common beer style until the 20th century. (India pale ale has a similar history.) This is primarily because the variety of yeast used to create lager is the result of an accidental mutation, and simply didn't exist before then.
  • The reputation of crappy American beer is a very recent one. Until World War 1 U.S. beer was typically very good, not surprising considering most major brewers were of German or Dutch origins. Wartime grain rationing and the Prohibition movement resulted in the Wartime Prohibition Act, limiting beverage alcohol to no more than 2.75% alcohol content. After WWI ended and Prohibition began, many brewers went out of business. Those that survived could only produce "near beer", with an alcohol content capped at one-half of one percent. Franklin Roosevelt signed an amendment to the Volstead Act legalizing 3.2% beer, which became the common American beer strength. And then World War 2 came around, and rationing of grains caused many breweries to switch to half rice formulas which remained after the war.
    • Budweiser only became the "King of Beers" in the late 1950s, when a prolonged strike at the major Milwaukee breweries (including Pabst and Schlitz) enabled St. Louis-based Anheuser-Busch to gain crucial market share, which it has held ever since. Budweiser itself originated as a Prohibition-era "near beer".
    • The second-largest-selling U.S. brand, Miller Lite, didn't exist until 1973.
    • Until the late 1960s, only premium beers were marketed nationally. The biggest seller in most markets was typically a local brand. This changed with the development of continuous-flow brewing (replacing the old "batch" method), which enabled the nationals to produce light beer cheaply enough to offset the shipping costs.
  • Likewise, up until World War Two, Americans consumed more pork than beef.
    • Pork prices were heavily subsidized by industrial use of lard. When vegetable oils became popular due to wartime rationing, pig farmers were forced to switch to leaner "bacon" breeds of pig. This is also why modern "cooked until well-done" pork has the consistency of shoe leather; there isn't enough fat to keep the meat moist.
    • As well, chicken was less common than pork or beef until World War Two shortages in the US.
    • In Iceland, chicken wasn't considered fit for human consumption until the 1960s.
    • Actually, chicken was a luxury in most of the Western world until the introduction of intensive farming in the mid-20th century. The birds were kept for their eggs (in fact chickens seem to have been kept for centuries before anyone is known to have cooked and eaten one), and would only be slaughtered if they stopped laying- even a fairly wealthy farming family would eat chicken maybe once or twice a year (actually, typically they would eat one at Christmas and pay another to their land-lord as an agreed part of the rent).
  • Gummi bears weren't widely available in America until the 1960s. (They were invented in Germany in the 1920s.)
    • Gummi worms, however, are very recent, having only been invented in 1981.
  • Many fruits and vegetables have only existed in their modern forms for a few centuries.
    • The banana as we know it today was first grown in 1836; earlier bananas were tougher and starchier (essentially plantains), full of seeds and unappetizing when eaten raw. The "Cavendish" banana, which comprises most bananas eaten in North America today (elsewhere, they're called "tourist bananas"), only dates to the 1950s, when the then-prevalent Gros Michel banana became nearly extinct due to Panama disease, and may give way to "Goldfinger" bananas in the near future if the same blight ends up devastating Cavendish crops, as has begun as of the early 21st century.
    • The modern-day strawberry was cross-bred in the early 18th century from varieties that would be unrecognizable to grocery shoppers today.
    • Carrots were white, pink, red, purple, and yellow historically; orange carrots were deliberately bred in the Netherlands only in the 17th century, as orange is the Dutch national color (like red, white, and blue for America and France).
  • Chocolate chip cookies were not invented until 1933, and that was an accident. Ruth Wakefield, a cook at the Toll House Inn in Whitman, Massachusetts, was trying to make chocolate cookies, but ran out of powdered chocolate. The chef put small bits of chocolate in, hoping it would have the same effect, but the chocolate remained in chip form, creating the first chocolate chip cookies. Their source is why chocolate chip cookies are sometimes called Toll House cookies.
    • Speaking of chocolate, solid chocolate was formulated in 1847; before that, it was only available as a drink.
  • Chicken Tikka Masala, widely thought of as the quintessential Indian dish and often assumed to be traditional, was invented in a curry restaurant somewhere in Britain around 1970. It was specifically tailored to English tastes, being milder and creamier than most other food from the Indian subcontinent.
  • Fortune cookies, far from being a Chinese tradition, are based loosely on Japanese omikuji senbei (rice crackers with fortunes inside), and are thought to have been introduced at the San Francisco Exposition's Japanese Tea Garden (which still sells them today) around 1890.
    • Beyond that, they were never made or sold in China until the 1990's.
  • Tiramisu, a very popular Italian dessert, was first made around 1982, although some place it around the 1960s-70s. Still, it's a lot newer than most people think.
    • Some traditions put it as far older than that, though, with some claiming it was created during the founding of Siena, or when Cosmo III visited.
  • While it is true that whale meat has been consumed in Japan for centuries, it was generally regarded as a low-class, minority food, the preserve of coastal peasants. It only became prevalent across the country during WWII, when the government were forced to turn to whaling as a general food supply. And it was only much later, after many years of post-war shortages, that the people acquired a taste for it and made it popular.
    • However, whale meat is expensive and not sold as much, hence it's not really popular as a food in Japan anymore.
  • Bailey's Irish Cream. Ancient booze of the Celts, begorrah... invented in 1974 to get rid of a cream surplus.
  • Mongolian Barbecue isn't even Mongolian. It was created in Taiwan in the 1970s and is more a stir fry than a barbecue anyway.
  • The Greek dishes most widely known to tourists (e.g. Mousaka, Tzatziki and Souvlaki) are actually not exactly traditionally Greek—and also not exactly not traditionally Greek, either. You see, these dishes were not widely-known in what is now Greece until the early 20th century. However, they were widely prepared by ethnic Greeks living in Asia Minor, which was widely known to be a culinary melting pot, with a unique multiethnic cuisine formed out of it. This cuisine was brought to Greece by these ethnic Greeks in the "population exchanges" with Turkey [1] in the 1920s. These dishes—which are the culinary equivalents of mutts, possibly with partial Greek ancestry—were mostly popularised by Nikolaos Tselementes, a renowned Greek chef of the same period.
  • Although wines have been produced in the Champagne region of France since Roman times, the sparkling version only became popular in the 1700s, due to British influence. The bubbles were initially considered a wine fault (due to the lower temperatures relative to the Burgundy region, where their styles of grapes and production methods came from). Dom Perignon (yes, he's a real person) spent most of his life actually trying to get rid of the famous bubbles.
  • Similarly, while wine has been cultivated in the upper Ebro basin in Spain since Roman times the production and exportation industry of the infamous Rioja wine brand as we know it was developed by French planters fleeing a plague that decimated the vineyards of Bourdeaux in the mid-19th century. The bulk of Spanish wine production had always been further to the south, in places like Jerez, Valdepeñas or Malaga.
  • Banoffee pie, an English dessert, wasn't invented until 1972.
  • Vana Tallinn (Estonian for "Old Tallinn") is a liqueur that is frequently believed to be a traditional or even ancient Estonian product - but it has only been produced since the 1960's.
  • A great deal of traditional East European food is based on potatoes — a New World vegetable.

Literature[edit | hide]

  • Stream-of-consciousness in writing was first used in 1888 in Edouard Dujardin's Les Lauriers sont coupes (although Anna Karenina (1873–77) contains some proto-examples).
  • The Aesops in Aesop's Fables were not made explicit and clear when the stories were first written, let alone when they were first told.
  • The prose poem Desiderata has been widely attributed to being found in an old church and dated 1692, but was actually written by Max Ehrmann in 1927. The 20th-century English it's written in kind of gives it away.
    • National Lampoon's Deteriorata is obviously a parody, but is specifically a parody of a recording by Les Crane that reached # 8 on the Billboard chart in 1971.
  • Lower-case letters were first developed in the 8th century, as a kind of shorthand used by bureaucrats who worked for Charlemagne. Documents and literary works older than this were written IN ALLCAPS ONLY.
    • He created what we now know as minuscules, but ancient Latin had two different cursive forms prior to that, which the same intended effect.


Music[edit | hide]

  • "The Star-Spangled Banner" did not officially become the US national anthem until 1931. It might not have become the national anthem at all but for a letter-writing campaign launched by Robert Ripley, of Ripley's Believe it or Not! fame. (However, it was being sung at baseball games as early as 1918, and it was used as a Standard Snippet even before then.) The unofficial national anthem to that point was what is now the vice president's song "Hail Columbia".
    • The piece of music to which it is set, though, is Older Than They Think, being the tune to a drinking song, already comparatively obscure in Key's time, "To Anachreon in Heaven".
  • Although there are a very few Christmas carols still sung today that come from the (later) Middle Ages, the overwhelming majority of most people's repertoires is modern. Even the genuinely old carols are invariably old melodies with modern lyrics: the melody of "Good King Wenceslas" is from the 13th century (and was originally a spring carol), but the words are from the 19th.
    • Most are much newer than even the 19th century. "White Christmas" was written in 1940. "Do You Hear What I Hear?" was written in 1962. "The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)" was written in 1944 by Mel Torme. "The Little Drummer Boy" was written in 1941 and first recorded in 1957. "Ring, Christmas Bells" was written in 1947 (based on the Ukrainian "Carol of the Bells", which itself only dates from 1916). "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" was created in 1939 as part of a marketing campaign for Montgomery Ward, and was first recorded in song ten years later by Gene Autry.
    • This XKCD provides the timeline of many "traditional" Christmas songs.
  • Also, secular Western music itself. Most music passed off as "medieval" is much younger. Some of the oldest tunes we know about can't be dated earlier than the 12th or 13th centuries; even Child Ballads usually can't be definitively traced back before the 16th or 17th centuries.
    • The verse/chorus structure of modern musical lyrics is also a relative latecomer; it developed in Moorish Spain.
  • Irish "traditional" song about the Potato Famine "The Fields of Athenry" seems ancient, but was only written in the 1970s by Pete St. John.
    • Related: The traditional highland lament "Ashokan Farewell", featured heavily on the soundtrack of Ken Burns' documentary on the American Civil War, was written by Jay Ungar all the way back in the 1980s, in the highlands of New York.
    • Similarly, The Scotsman dates back to, at most, the 1980s, although the joke it's based off of is older.
    • "The Witch of the West-Mer-Lands" dates to 1968.
  • Nearly everyone who hears Herman's Hermits' "Mrs. Brown, You've Got a Lovely Daughter" assumes it to be a cover of an old British music hall tune. In fact, it was written in 1963, a mere two years before the Hermits recorded it. ("I'm Henry the VIII, I Am", on the other hand, was actually a cover of an old British music hall tune.)
  • While set to an old melody, the lyrics to "Havah Nagilah" were written in 1918.
  • Similarly, "Katyusha", widely regarded as the quintessential Russian folk song, was actually written in 1938.
  • The song "Edelweiss" from The Sound of Music was written, in English, for that musical. It was later translated into German, and seems so natural in that language, many people have actually claimed to have heard it before the musical was written, and complimented Rodgers and Hammerstein on the faithfulness of their "adaptation". In fact, according to The Other Wiki, some folks even assume it to be the national anthem of Austria! In style it's close enough to Austria's actual anthem ("Land der Berge, Land am Strome") that it's a forgivable misconception.
    • Furthermore, the "Edelweiss" popular at the time the movie was set in was a Nazi marching song.
  • The Beatmania IIDX songs "A," "AA," and "Kid A", despite sounding classical, were composed specifically for IIDX. "Piano Concerto No. 1 'Anti-Ares'," also from IIDX, takes this trope further, with a full eight-minute version that can be found on the IIDX RED soundtrack, and a biography about its fictitious composer, Virkato Wakhmaninov, who allegedly lived from 1893 to 1974. The last paragraph of his biography mentions that Virkato performed the song on a "great keyboard and disc" (did this setup really exist in the early 20th century?) and that he spoke about an "arrangement for a keyboard of seven keys." Virkato is, in reality, an alias of Jun Wakita, one of Konami's in-house composers, and he composed this song in 2004.
    • The pseudonym should have been a hint of the song's true age; it's a pun on the name of Russian composer Sergei Rachmaninoff.
      • And "Piano Concerto No. 1 'Anti-Ares'" is itself a pastiche of Rachmaninov's piano concertos.
  • The famous Adagio in G minor by Tommaso Albinoni (1674-1745) is practically an original composition by 20th-century "arranger" Remo Giazotto.
  • The "Ave Maria" attributed to Baroque Italian composer Guilio Caccini (1551-1618) was actually written by Russian lutenist Vladimir Vavilov in 1972.
    • This is not the same "Ave Maria" as the one you're probably thinking of right now, which was either the one created by Gounod in the 19th century using a 17th century melody by Bach or the one by Schubert which was used in Fantasia.
      • And neither of THOSE were written as "Ave Maria" either. Gounod's was originally an instrumental ("Medidtation"), and Schubert's was a song called "Ellens Gesang III" (which started with the words "Ave Maria" but was a different text entirely). Incidently, Vavilov's original was attributed to "Anonymous" and it was a student of his who perpetuated the hoax that it was by Caccini. Just one of the many musical hoaxes throughout the centuries.
  • Barrett's Privateers sounds like an old sea shanty, but it was actually written by Stan Rogers in the 1970s.
  • The song "New York, New York" popularized by Frank Sinatra (the one that starts "Start spreadin' the news ...") was written for the 1977 Martin Scorsese musical New York, New York; since the film was based in the Tin Pan Alley era, the song sounded like a tune from that era. Sinatra recorded his version in 1979.
  • "Who Do You Think You are Kidding, Mister Hitler" was not composed during the War, but was written especially for the 1960s/70s TV Series Dad's Army by wartime entertainers Flanagan and Allen, who provided most of the incidental music for the series.
  • The Hokey Pokey, a.k.a. the Hokey Cokey, sounds like something that dates back at least a century—but it only originated in the 1940s.
  • "Since I Don't Have You" sounds like it could be a classic Depression-era Tin Pan Alley ballad, and many people assume that it is, but it was written by the members of The Skyliners, who recorded the original hit version in 1958.
  • Bluegrass music is a prime example of this trope. Although it has roots in traditional Southern string band music, it only developed as a separate genre in the 1940s. To put it another way, bluegrass is only about a decade older than rock and roll. Many bluegrass standards are even younger than that. "Rocky Top" was written in 1967!
  • "Greensleeves" cannot have been written by Henry VIII as urban myth commonly supposes, as it was written in a style which didn't arrive in England until after Henry VIII's death. Though the words and music do appear to have originated separately, it is unlikely Henry VIII had a hand in either. Though in this case, it's only slightly newer than they think: Henry VIII died in 1547, and the song had already been written by 1580 at the latest. By the time of William Shakespeare, it was already considered an old standard.
  • Greek song "Misirlou", popularly known from the Dick Dale guitar version, sounds ancient but is really from 1927.
    • Specifically, 1927 is the first public performance of note. It is probable that it was an earlier composition. It is equally probably that it was not much earlier.
  • Pachelbel's "Canon and Gigue in D major" was written prior to 1700. But it was first published in the 1920s, first recorded in 1940, and did not become popular until the late 1970s.
  • "Tomorrow Belongs to Me" from Cabaret has been mistaken for an actual (presumably translated) Nazi anthem, even by white power music groups, but it was written specifically for the musical.
  • "Highland Cathedral", which you'd be forgiven for thinking was a traditional Scottish song, was written in the 80s by two German musicians for a Highland games held in Germany.
    • Ditto "Flower of Scotland". Passed down amongst patriotic Scots over the centuries? Nope—written in 1965.
  • Despite its current popularity in folk music, widespread use of the Bodhrán as a musical instrument may be no older than the 1960s.
  • Ever wonder why you don't see people sing "Happy Birthday" in TV or movies that often? It's because until 2016 it was still under copyright in the USA. Although many people seem to think it's centuries old, it was actually written in the late 19th century.
  • The hymn "The Old Rugged Cross" was written in 1912.
  • And "How Great Thou Art" was written in 1953. (It's set to an old Swedish melody, though.)
  • Going back a little further, Amazing Freaking Grace is only from the late 1700s, which is fairly modern for a hymn.
  • The Swedish song "En Kungens Man," which tells the story of a medieval woman who almost gets raped by a knight, was written in 1974 by Björn Afzelius, although many think it's an old folk song.
  • Brian May and Roger Taylor (of Queen) frequently remark about how young fans are unaware that "We Will Rock You" hasn't been around since the dawn of time, or as Taylor puts it, "They think it's always just been there, written in stone." It was written (both words and music, the famous "Stomp...Stomp...Clap...) in 1977 for Queen's album News Of The World and despite being a hit pretty much immediately, it was only released as a B-side to "We Are The Champions" in nearly every country. The only exception was a US radio promo 12" single which paired the two songs on one side in the familiar order of "Rock You" followed by "Champions," which is how they're often still played on rock radio to this day; you will almost never hear one song played without the other on American radio.
    • To clarify, the sequence of "Rock You" and then "Champions" also appears in that order on the album, but both songs were already hits via the single coming out months before.
  • Heavy Metal, at least in its most literal sense. While self-identification in the lyrics has always been a part of punk, rap, and the earliest rock and roll itself, the same was not true of heavy metal. The term "metal" was first coined by the music media in 1970, but it was quite a while before any of the groups to which the genre tag was applied began using it to describe themselves; many even resented the fact that their music was being categorized. Judas Priest, with their 1980 song "Metal Gods," were the first metal group to prominently use the term, and of course Metallica were the first to incorporate it into the name of the band itself. Although for some, Heavy Metal might be Older Than They Think because some assume that the genre didn't exist before the 80s or late 70s.
  • While bagpipes of different kinds have been around since the Middle Ages, the Great Highland Bagpipe (if you don't know the difference, it's what you picture when you think "bagpipe") didn't exist until the late 18th or early 19th century.
  • Many believe that Dropkick Murphys' "Tessie" is a direct cover of the turn-of-the-century fight song of the Boston Red Sox fan club The Royal Rooters. It is, in fact, a brand new song set to the melody of the original fight song and featuring lyrics about the Royal Rooters and their antics. Only sections of the chorus actually appeared in the original song.
  • The steelpan, also known as the steel drum, associated with traditional carribean music first appeared in 1937.
  • Many people tend to think Fountains Of Wayne's "Stacy's Mom" sounds like a song from the '80s or '90s, especially with that guitar hook that seems reminiscent of similar songs from the '80s. It's from 2003.
    • Likewise, you'd be excused from thinking the Silversun Pickups were a '90s alt-rock band thanks to their similar style, but they only formed in 2002, releasing their first album in 2006 and seeing "Lazy Eye" chart in 2007.
  • Lots of people are shocked to learn that "Long Black Veil" isn't a traditional ballad, but was written in 1959 by country songwriters Marijohn Wilkin and Danny Dill. Dill himself called it "an instant folk song."

Mythology and Folklore[edit | hide]

  • The perfect example would be the gremlin (not the car, or the lovable 1980s movie monster). The word first appeared in British airfields during the First World War, and indicated a malicious "thing" (most often in the plural) that would cause aircraft to malfunction. The most consistent explanation for the origin of the word is that a light-hearted reference to Fremlin's Ales in a missive from an airfield commander got mis-typed, i.e. "…no explanation yet for the sudden rise in crashes, although I personally blame the Fremlins." The word (and the as-yet unvisualised creature) spread from there, first appearing in print in 1929. However many people seem to think that gremlins are far, far older that that, due to how "at home" they seem among the more traditional types like goblins and leprechauns (especially after fantasy RPG writers got hold of them).
    • Americans were first introduced to gremlins in a 1943 Roald Dahl book, his first children's book. It almost became a Disney movie.
  • Pinocchio is not a medieval folktale like the other Disney classics; he didn't appear until 1883.
  • Sunlight killing vampires. 1922, Nosferatu. In earlier versions, it was at most annoying or somewhat painful (and remember that sunlight isn't too good for humans either), and the original Dracula could walk around in the daylight without issue (save being unable to shapeshift). It does make for fun special effects shots, though, which is why it seems to have been popularized by movies: we went from the trick dissolve of Nosferatu through melting like wax (Return of the Vampire, a 1944 Bela Lugosi film), crumbling to dust (the Hammer Horror version of Dracula, 1958) and wild FX explosions (a practical FX version in Fright Night and CGI versions in Blade and later films).
    • A good chunk of so-called "traditional vampire lore" dates back to the modern era. Here are a few more: the vampire/vampire bat connection (most Eastern European peasants wouldn't know about this South American mammal), stakes being an instantly lethal weapon (instead of being used to keep the monster pinned down, unable to rise and leave its coffin), and a "mother/father of all vampires" based off a Biblical figure like Lilith or Cain.
      • In some of the original legends in Eastern Europe, vampires were actually strongest at high noon when they cast the smallest possible shadow. My, how things have changed since those days.
      • It doesn't help that Slavic and Balkan folklore have many types of soul-stealing or blood-drinking supernatural creatures that in the course of time got mixed together. And the upir(vampire) is more a representative of a whole class of creatures than one specific being.
    • Nearly everything about how vampires "should" look is an evolution of Bela Lugosi's look in the movie. Vampires were originally often imagined as twisted monsters, mindless ghouls or even semi-material ghosts. Count Orlok from Nosferatu is closer to the original conceptions of how vampires looked and acted. (Note that the plot of Nosferatu was plagiarized from Dracula, and Orlok's appearance works just as well as Lugosi's charming count.) However, this wasn't always the case, in other stories the vampire was still quite human and returned home to live happily with his still human wife, their children being dhampires, which are as varied as vampires on their own accord.
      • There have been charismatic vampires in fiction well before film, usually by conflating the vampire with the incubus/succubus myth: the titular vampire of Carmilla (1872) is quite a pretty young girl, and John Polidori's Lord Ruthven from his short story "The Vampyre" (1819) is a Byronic Hero (and a Take That characterization of Lord Byron).
      • Indeed, if one were to do a vampire movie with scrupulously historical Dark Ages vampires, modern viewers would probably wonder why it keeps calling these zombies "vampires"...
      • Actually the whole concept of 'clasification' is relatively new as it appeared in late XVII century. Folk decriptions of a vampire could differ wildly between villages not to mention between regions or countries.
        • Something like Richard Matheson's I Am Legend? (The book, not the movie.) That book, despite being about vampires, is cited as being the inspiration for Night of the Living Dead—which set up most modern zombie tales.
  • Many "traditional" werewolf tropes date back to the Hollywood era and no earlier.
    • Serious books on traditional European werewolf lore have sometimes included the famous line "Even a man who is good in heart, and says his prayers by night, can become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms, and the autumn moon is bright." This was created from whole cloth for the movie The Wolf Man.
    • It is worth noting that the whole concept of the "human-wolf hybrid" comes directly from the limitations of early SFX in classic Horror films. In traditional folklore the werewolf was either a man changing into a regular wolf, or not changing at all and just behaving like one.
  • The idea of zombies as slow, lumbering creatures that crave human flesh and can only be stopped by destroying the brain comes from Night of the Living Dead in the 60s, and from other movies. Medieval beliefs in revenants, and the original Caribbean conception of zombies, have none of that. Typical zombies of the early period of film, such as found in the film White Zombie, resembled Haitian "slave" zombies. The craving for brains is even more recent, dating from the 1985 film The Return of the Living Dead.
    • That one pretty much stopped there, too. Zombies eating brains is a classic Dead Unicorn Trope.
  • Shinigami are not part of classic Japanese mythology. They date to only the mid-19th century via European images of the Grim Reaper and translations from The Brothers Grimm, especially the tale Godfather Death. With how extreme the variation is between different fictional shinigami, with the only similarity at all between any of them being the whole "death" thing, it's pretty obvious that there isn't any mythology behind them.
  • The Chupacabra really only dates back to 1995, when it was first reported on and named. There was a Mexican "livestock vampire" in the 1970s, but there isn't much connection between them.
  • The character of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer was actually created in 1939 as a holiday marketing gimmick for Montgomery Ward department stores. The song itself was written in 1949.
    • And the other eight are traced straight to A Visit From St. Nicholas.
  • Although the depiction of Santa Claus wearing a red and white outfit began with Thomas Nast's famous 1863 cartoon for Harper's Weekly, other colors were common until a Coca-Cola ad campaign in the 1930s when red became only color associated with him and the other colors were forgotten (green and blue Santa, anyone?).
    • On the other hand, the idea that all of Santa's outfit (or even the entire character) were the product of the Coca-Cola Company has been thoroughly debunked.
    • St. Nicholas himself was a pre-Schism Byzantine priest, so probably would indeed have worn red. The similarity between his costume and modern-day Santa's probably begins and ends there though.
      • Corresponding to that, depictions of Santa were frequently thin and tall until Thomas Nast's cartoon.
      • According to The Other Wiki, in Britain (or England at any rate) prior to the 20th century, Santa traditionally wore green—see Dickens' A Christmas Carol for example.
      • The Ghost represents Father Christmas (Spirit of Christmas), not Saint Nicholas/Santa Claus (gift-giver). Father Christmas and Santa have sort of merged since Dickens' time.
    • St Nicholas' association with Christmas (his original Saint's Day is early in December; he was a patron saint of children, among other things, and some cultures marked the day with various rituals for the kids, usually involving gifts or sweets) seems to have started with New Yorker Clement Moore's poem that starts 'Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house..., published in 1820. The resurrecting/corrupting of his Dutch name to 'Santa Claus' seems to have followed almost immediately as his popularity rocketed, probably fueled by people's new disposable income and a huge change in attitudes to children since the 1780s (in that they were treated as what we now think of as children until puberty, rather than as tiny, stupid adults as soon as they passed the baby stage.) The name 'Santa Claus' and the association with children (rather than Father Christmas' (sometimes Sir Christimas) original function as a Bacchus-like spirit of partying) was invented in America and imported to England in the late 19th century. (They're now completely melded, however.)
  • While Paul Bunyan did originate in stories told among lumberjacks, Babe the Blue Ox was the invention of the Red River Lumber Company, who used stories about Paul and Babe in their advertisements in the early 20th century.
  • If most people were asked to describe a genie, they'd describe an immortal being that lived in a lamp or bottle and granted three wishes. You'd be hard-pressed to find a genie fitting this description in The Arabian Nights. While some were trapped in jars, most were free to do as they wished. Aladdin's lamp only summoned the genie—it didn't actually contain it. The number of wishes was arbitrary. Although they were long-lived, genies weren't immortal, nor impervious to injury, and could be killed by rather mundane methods. (Not that killing one would be easy, but a blow that would be fatal to a human would also likely be fatal to a genie.)
    • Interestingly, two of the most famous "Arabian Nights stories"—the stories of Aladdin and Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves—aren't actually in the Arabian Nights. However, contrary to what some might say, they aren't European forgeries—they are instead other Arab folktales which weren't included in the collection. The confusion comes from the fact that once the Arabian Nights hit Europe, they were an instant hit; however, there were many versions running around, meaning that anyone could pass off any collection of "Oriental" tales as the real deal and not get caught. Sso Europeans started going to the Middle East—Syria, for the most part—collecting stories from old village storytellers; these storytellers were more than happy to oblige, as the Europeans were offering money for a good story.
    • It may even be easy to kill a genie since one of the genies in Arabian Nights claims his son was killed from being hit in the head with a date pit that a merchant was throwing away casually (although it's possible that the genie was lying just so he'd have an excuse to kill the merchant).
    • Genies also did not have the ability to instantly grant any wish. Rather, they had to complete the wish using powerful—but limited—magics, their own strength, and the nearly unending coffers of money they had accrued over their long lives. Wishing to live forever would more likely have the genie sending you after some rare and exotic herb than the instant gratification that you see in all modern versions.
    • Plus, genie (djinni) is the plural form of the term. For a single such being, it's "djinn" if it's a male or "djinnyah" if it's a female. D&D books often use plural forms in this fashion, though in the case of djinni, this usage is rather older.
    • Something very similar has happened to witches in the 20th century, writers making them omnipotent goddesses.
  • The depiction of Valkyries as fat ladies began with Richard Wagner's Die Walkure, since corsets impeded achieving a powerful voice.
    • Carl Emil Doepler's costume designs for the Valkyries in the 1876 Bayreuth production of Wagner's Ring were based on the then most recent archaeological evidence, which was partly influenced by the horned helmets of much later medieval warriors. Cosima Wagner famously loathed the winged helmets, which she said looked less like ancient Germans than "Red Indian chiefs."
      • The "archaeological evidence" were not helmets as one thought, the horns were found separate and actually were intended for drinking.
  • The hippogriff is not a traditional mythological beast the way the somewhat similar griffin is. The word hippogriff first appeared in Ludovico Ariosto's poem Orlando Furioso (written in 1516). Because griffins were believed to prey on horses, the offspring of a horse and griffin was intended as representation of something impossibly unlikely.
  • The modern concept of the psychic dates back to at least Nostradamus, right? Um, no, actually; the word "psychic" and the study of the phenomenon is a late-19th century invention. In fact, associating psychic activity with science is itself a modern invention—even during the Renaissance, things like telekinesis and fortune-telling were attributed to either divine or demonic forces, and not to a heightened mental awareness.
  • Tiamat wasn't a dragon in the original Babylonian mythology; while she apparently did give birth to dragons and sea serpents (among other creatures), her description in a surviving version of the Babylonian creation myth is rather vague (it states that Tiamat represents "the salty water"), and many alleged depictions of her are under contention. This also manages to simultaneously be Older Than They Think, as most people who realize this blame it on Dungeons and Dragons, when it's a misconception with much older roots, and crops up in sources that are very obviously not influenced by the Dungeons And Dragons version.
    • References to Tiamat being a dragon that predate Dungeons and Dragons can be found in Myths of Babylonia and Assyria (1915), Evolution of the Dragon (1919), and Records of the Past, 2nd series (1888). Note that these are all non-fiction books.
  • Bahamut wasn't a dragon in the original mythology. It wasn't even anything close—although exactly what it was varies according to the source you check, none of them are anything similar to "dragon." Unlike Tiamat, above, the blame for this one can be laid solely at the feet of Dungeons and Dragons—they just took a name they thought sounded cool and attached it to their dragon god.
    • In 4E, it is written, "of course, in these more enlightened times, we know Bahamut is not really a dragon," and that 'Platinum Dragon' is merely an honorific title. They don't say what Bahamut, in fact, is.
      • And of course since Bahamut has been depicted as a dragon since the first Final Fantasy game, the association is probably not going away anytime soon.
  • When talking about Egyptian Myths, citing Anubis as the god of the dead would likely get you Gannon Banned with a reminder that Osiris had always had the job. Sorry, but that's not the case; Anubis was the god of death before Osiris, only being replaced in the fifth dynasty after the latter god's cult grew enough to overthrow the former's place (though myths surrounding the takeover have Anubis step aside "out of respect" for Osiris, so there wasn't as much bad blood). Furthermore, another jackal-headed god by the name of Khenti-Amentiu was discovered to be even older than either god. Guess who Egyptologists consider Khenti having the strongest connection to? Osiris isn't the "top dog" that everyone thinks he is.
  • The concept of Queen Mab being the queen of the fairies and the associated legends involving her originated with Shakespeare creating her for a speech in Romeo and Juliet, she has no direct equivalent in Celtic mythology or any ancient European traditions.
  • Liches—in particular, their name. While some legendary creatures—like Koschei the deathless from Slavic folklore—do somewhat resemble liches, the name is an invention of the 20th century; prior, the word simply meant "corpse". The version that exists in the popular imagination is an invention of Dungeons and Dragons, though influenced by earlier fiction.
    • Clark Ashton Smith was the first to use the word lich to designate an undead sorceror in "The Stairs in the Crypt". And Gary Gygax said he was inspired by the short story "The Sword of the Sorcerer" by Gardner Fox (1976) when he created the monster in 1977.
    • "Wight" was probably taken from Tolkien's barrow-wights. The word itself was just another word for body, alive or dead. (Byron's Childe Harold is described as being a "shameless wight" precisely because he is too much of a living body.)
      • It also meant any immaterial creature (demon, spirit, soul, ghost etc.)
  • Most depictions of Frankenstein have little to do with Mary Shelley's original work. In the original book there is no Igor, castle, or angry peasants storming the place. In fact Dr. Frankenstein realizes right after making his monster what a horrible mistake he made (in fact, that's rather the problem). The monster himself, in contrast to most depictions, is quite articulate and of remarkable agility. The story most people think of originates from the 1931 film of the same name.
    • Likewise, the monster was never referred to as Frankenstein in the novel, even though people have started doing so in recent years. Frankenstein was his creator. Also, in the book, the monster isn't mindless killing machine. He displays many human traits, and can even be viewed as sympathetic in some parts, although he certainly does some pretty terrible things as the plot progresses.[2]
    • And he wasn't green with a flat head and neck bolts. He looked more like the version in Young Frankenstein than anything.
      • In the original book he looks a great deal more like he does in Thomas Edison's original short from 1910 or so.
      • Not really. In Edison's film the creature is misshapen and hideous. In the original book the creature is described to be perfectly symmetrical and almost a thing of beauty when it lies on its slab, though its skin is tinted sickly yellow and its lips are black. Only when it starts to move does the Uncanny Valley sink in, causing Frankenstein reject his creation he had until then perceived as masterpiece. There is no description of how the creature was actually created either, though it is mentioned that Frankenstein went for graveyards and charnel houses for his raw material, but the lightning and tesla coil are later movie additions; it has even been suggested that the idea was that the corpses were supposed to have been pulped rather than sown together, and the creature would have been incubated in the biomass through some more esoteric means.
  • The word "undead" is a fairly recent invention, coined in 1897 by Bram Stoker in the novel Dracula. Within the novel, undead and undeath were terms invented by Doctor Van Helsing as a medical description of the vampiric state. The extension of the word into a broader term for creatures that are reanimated but not resurrected is even newer; Dungeons and Dragons created a category of undead monsters sharing the Revive Kills Zombie weakness, and most fantasy games and stories have followed suit.
    • Tolkien uses the term at least once, when Eowyn confronts the Lord of the Nazgul: "Begone if you be not deathless! For living or dark undead, I will smite you if you touch him."
  • The Rapture is largely the invention of American Puritans in the 18th century.
    • However, the basic idea of the Rapture is in the Bible, mostly in the book of Thessalonians.
  • The word "fundamentalism," as a byword for religious fanaticism, dates only to 1920. You wouldn't know this from how frequently it's applied to people living before this era.
  • The stories of a beautiful woman luring boatmen to their doom at Lorelai on the Rhine river, while widely accepted to be ancient folklore, was actually first created by German author Clemens Brentano in 1801.
  • Although the Golem has been an element of Jewish folklore for multiple centuries, one of the most famous elements of the story, that of the Golem rescuing Jews from a blood libel in 16th century Prague, was more or less created in a 1909 novel by a Rabbi Yudl Rosenberg. Rosenberg basically did a Literary Agent Hypothesis in which he claimed he was editing a much older work found in a (nonexistent) library and skillfully mixed in actual sources/traditions with elements of his own invention. While the novel is little known today, it was really influential and pretty much all subsequent tellings of the Golem legend contain facets original to Rosenberg.
    • The Golem being Newer Than They Think ties into the same being true of Frankenstein (see above). There is a popular assertion that Shelly was influenced by the Golem story. However, while both do fit a theme of "alchemists creating an Artificial Human", the more direct/actual connection between the stories is that a film of the Golem story was made shortly before Whale' Frankenstein movies and was a direct stylistic influence.
  • The idea of a saintly and innocent princess in fairy tales was largely the result of 19th century writers trying to make everything nice for the children. Older fairy tales would have their heroines be at least a bit more active.
  • It's traditional for Robin Hood's Merry Men to include a Saracene or Moorish member, right? Actually, this character type was first used in Robin of Sherwood in 1984.
    • While we are at it:
      • Allen-a-Dale? No older than the Victorian era.
      • Friar Tuck? Introduced in Tudor times.
      • Maid Marian? Actually, we have older tales of her than of him, but she wasn't associated with Robin Hood until Tudor times. May Day festivities often had plays, and at the point they would feature either her or Robin Hood—until someone went for a crossover. There are also French songs and plays about a knight named Robin and a shepherdess named Marion, but there's no evidence that they influenced the English tradition.
      • Little John has been around since the oldest known Robin Hood story (:Robin Hood And The Monk," from 1450 - in it, he beats Robin at archery, and robin physically attacks him), but first used a quarter staff in the 18th century.
      • Read that last entry again. Once, Robin was John's inferior as an archer, but trounced him with his fists.
      • Robin Hood's affiliation with Richard The Lionheart (and therefore opposition to John) come 200 years after the earliest tales of him, in which the king who eventually pardons him is named "Edward," (three kings in succession from 1272 to 1377) and he is often placed either in the constitutional crisis of the 13th century (which saw much of the Parliamentarian side outlawed; more than a few of them took up highway robbery in Sherwood Forest) or the peasant uprisings of the next century (the anticlericalism of the early legends, later becoming a war against "the rich" in general, certainly come from this period).
      • Small fry. There is no historical source at all that even once shows Robin "giving to the poor". The closest he comes is to loan money to a knight who has fallen on hard times. References to his generosity begin cropping up in the 17th century, but aren't central for decades after that.
  • Modern depictions of Medusa or other gorgons usually show them as lamia-like beings, with a snake's tail instead of legs, as well as the traditional snakes for hair. The snake tail is not part of the original myth; it was added by the 1981 movie Clash of the Titans.
  • Unicorns, in ancient European and Middle Eastern mythology, were not always horses. They were steeds, which is usually a horse, but can be any animal as long as you can mount and ride it. Often they were more deer-like.

Proverbs and Superstitions[edit | hide]

  • "The greatest thing since sliced bread" implies that sliced bread is an old, old concept. Pre-sliced loaves have been around only since 1928: See the astounding announcement from Modern Mechanics!
  • The myth that England will not fall until the ravens leave the Tower of London came from the 1800s at the latest, since the earliest reference to ravens being there at all isn't until 1885. It didn't become popular until WWII (when, apparently, the ravens did leave).
    • Prior to the ravens, the king's fate was supposedly linked with the lions kept at the menagerie at the Tower—Richard II fell fatally ill after one died.
    • There is also the idea that Gibraltar will stay British while there are Barbary macaques there. In reality nobody gave a damn about the monkeys until WW 2 (to the point nobody knows for sure *when* did the first monkey arrive there to begin with), when the population had coincidentally dwindled to 7 and was about to die off, requiring the introduction of several new animals from North Africa. Nowadays, the Barbary macaque is near extinct in North Africa but a pest in the Rock. Maybe it's time to return the favor.
  • The idea that Friday the 13th is an unlucky day is an invention of the 19th century, although the separate ideas that Friday and the number 13 were unlucky are older than that.
    • According to a special about them on the History channel, when the Knights Templar in France were rounded up as heretics on Friday, October 13, 1307, the infamous superstition began as a result.
    • In many Spanish-speaking countries, the superstition is actually Tuesday the 13th, with the popular explanation that Tuesday (martes) is named after the Roman god of war, violence and bloodshed. The Jason movies are sometimes retitled accordingly (until the recent reboot, that is).
      • The same is true for Greece, with the popular explanation being that Constantinople (modern day Instanbul) fell on a Tuesday (29 May 1453). 13 was traditionally seen as a bad number, since 12 was a holy/harmonic number in ancient Greece while another account attributes this to Judas being the 13th apostle (after Matthias replaced him).
  • "The Curse of the Bambino", referring to the 1920 trade of Babe Ruth from the Boston Red Sox to the New York Yankees having a detrimental effect to the former team, was first referenced in 1990.
  • Robert F. Kennedy attributed the curse (which is one if you think about it) "May you live in interesting times" to the ancient Chinese. There is no record of such a saying in China.
  • The proverb of the camel's nose is an invention of the mid-19th century Victorians, not Arabs.

Settings[edit | hide]

  • The Irish pub owes its existence to early 19th-century licensing laws. Although inns existed in cities and large towns, most social drinking took place as "hostings" in a person's home, with music, dance, song and storytelling. This is borne out by the fact that the Irish language lacks a proper terms for pub beyond teach oil ("house of drink") or tabhairne (tavern).
    • English doesn't really have a proper term for a pub, either; "pub" is short for "public house". (And historically, the term was used to mean "inn" or possibly "guesthouse." The term Shakespeare used for "a place where you go and buy drinks" was "tavern," which isn't used nowadays except as a cutesy element in the names of places like "Tavern on the Green.")
  • Some TV shows set in the mid-20th century (like Quantum Leap) have had a problem recognizing that the World Trade Center towers were only built in the 1970s.
  • The Campanile in St. Mark's Square in Venice dates from 1912. The city fathers didn't have much choice in the matter—the original, dating from 1514, collapsed in 1902.
    • Older paintings do show the original Campanile to be identical to the present reconstruction, though. So at least fictional depictions of the pre-20th century square are correct about the campanile.
  • Las Vegas was founded in 1905. It didn't have legal gambling before 1931, and didn't become a major resort until after World War II.
  • Chicago was only incorporated in 1833, by which time places like New York and Philadelphia were already two centuries old.
  • How many bridges were there on the Thames tideway when Sir Christopher Wren (1632-1723) was alive and busy rebuilding London after the Great Fire of 1666 (and the river was tidal as far inland as Staines)? Just four: London Bridge (originally Roman) Kingston Bridge (originally Saxon, 21 miles upstream) Chertsey Bridge (12 miles further upstream, late medieval) and Staines Bridge (4 miles further upstream, Roman again). Apart from those, the only way across was by boat or by taking one's chances trying to ford at low tide. Then, in 1729, Putney Bridge was opened, followed by Westminster Bridge (1750), Walton Bridge (1750), Hampton Court Bridge (1753), Kew Bridge (1759), Blackfriars Bridge (1769), Battersea Bridge (1771), Richmond Bridge (1777), Vauxhall Bridge (1816), Waterloo Bridge (1817), Southwark Bridge (1819), Hammersmith Bridge (1827), Hungerford (railway) Bridge (1845), Richmond Railway Bridge (1846), Barnes Railway Bridge (1849), Staines Railway Bridge (1856), Chelsea Bridge (1857), Grosvenor (railway) Bridge, Battersea (1858), Lambeth Bridge (1862), Battersea Railway Bridge (1863), Kingston Railway Bridge (1863), Blackfriars Railway Bridge (1864), Cannon Street Railway Bridge (1866), Kew Railway Bridge (1869), Albert Bridge (1873), Wandsworth Bridge (1873), Fulham Railway Bridge (1889), Teddington Lock Footbridge (1889), Tower Bridge (1894), Richmond Lock Footbridge (1894), Chiswick Bridge (1933), Twickenham Bridge (1933), the M3 motorway bridge (1971), Queen Elizabeth II Bridge, Dartford (1991) and the Millennium (foot) Bridge (2002). Note that these are the years when a bridge first came into use on these sites - the current London Bridge dates back to 1973.
    • Neither of the current Hungerford Footbridges are the original, though the remains of the original (alongside the still-in-use railway bridge) can be seen from the northernmost one.
    • There were no bridges across the Liffey in Dublin until 1816 even though it was one of the largest cities in Europe at the time (bigger than Lisbon, Berlin and Rome and not far off Vienna.)
  • Los Angeles, despite being the second largest city in the United States after New York City, was actually a small town until recently. If it wasn't for the combination of the Great San Francisco Earthquake of 1906 and the Hollywood boom, then you can bet the Bay would remain California’s largest population center, and another city would be number two.
    • The Irrigation of lands which where formerly desert helped. (Without irrigation, Orange County would never have been able to grow oranges) as did the fact that LA's sitting on the largest oilfield in the United States outside Texas.
    • Most likely San Diego, which is currently California's #2 and as the oldest European settlement in California (1769) is Older Than They Think.
  • Neither Germany nor Italy were unified nations until the 1870s. Before then, they consisted of various smaller countries that happened to share a common language, but were often different culturally, and would often war against each other. "Germany" and "Italy" where used in the same way as "Arabia" is sometimes used to refer to the Arab region today. You'd say something like "The recent events in Bavaria will have a huge impact on the rest of the Germanies. Prussia and Austria will likely get involved" etc.
    • This was, however, slightly stronger for Italy (despite the modern united Italy pre-dating the modern united Germany by enough years to make it the 1860s), what with Germany having spent several centuries ostensibly united into a Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation, and, even before that, the Kingdom of Germany as one of the constituent kingdoms of the Holy Roman Empire; Italy was another constituent kingdom, but is easier to make a counterpoint to the counterpoint to the two nations being Newer Than They Think, what with only North Italy being, in name, part of said kingdom.
  • The construction of Neuschwanstein Castle began in 1869. To be fair, the medieval appearance was very intentional.
  • Both popular culture and Popular History often lead present-day Americans to believe that the idea of families living in the suburbs took off rapidly after World War II, with all white Americans suburbanized by about 1960. In fact, suburbanization proceeded at different speeds depending on the location. Downtown Detroit, for example, remained largely white well into the 1960s. In fact, the majority of whites didn't even make it to the suburbs until the late 1980s!
  • People tend to assume that the existence of the Vatican City State as the world's smallest country (with its largest church as guidebooks like to point out) goes back centuries. It makes sense, since Rome's ancient and so's the Vatican. Actually though, the Lateran Treaty establishing the Vatican as an independent state was signed by Mussolini in 1929. However, the Vatican was part of a (bigger) Papal State lasting from the 8th century to its capture by the Kingdom of Italy in 1870.
  • The Aztecs arrived in central Mexico and founded Tenochtitlan in 1325, then won their independence from Azcapotzalco and joined the Triple Alliance in 1430 - that is, less than a century before Cortés showed up. The Mayincatec trope is clearly to be blamed for the popular idea of an ancient, millenary Actec Empire at the time of its fall.


Sport[edit | hide]

  • Most popular sports were invented in the late 19th century, and their rules have little connection to their supposed predecessors, which were usually more disorganised and violent.
    • Similarly, the (false) claim that baseball was invented in 1839 by Abner Doubleday "only" dates back to 1907, to the point where everybody except the people making the claim (who also were the ones deciding what was going to be published) knew it was bunk.
  • In rugby union, the World Cup was first held in 1987, a try was only worth four points until 1992, and the first Heineken Cup was played in 1995-96.
  • The Korean sport of taekwondo is often assumed, like kung fu, to be unimaginably old, probably dating to early medieval times at the latest. It can be quite a shock to learn that not only is taekwondo ultimately Japanese in origin, but that the first tournament was held in 1955 (yes, that's 1955 A.D.) - and that some of its earliest champions are probably still alive!
    • Taekwondo isn't alone: Judo was formed in 1882, and Aikido was developed in the 1920s and 30s, although both are considered ancient.
  • The Olympic Games tradition of having people carry a lit torch from Athens to the site of the current games is not from antiquity; it was invented by Hitler's PR people for the 1936 Berlin games.
    • To clarify: this was the first time the torch was lit in Athens, and as an official Olympic ceremony. In 1904, William Randolph Hearst sponsored a New York-to-St. Louis torch relay to promote his newspapers. This, however, was an independent Hearst promotion that the IOC had nothing to do with.
  • Georgia Tech is considered an "old-school" member of the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) even though they didn't join the league (founded 1953) until 1979.
    • Similarly, Michigan State, which didn't join the Big Ten (established 1896) until 1950, seems to be treated as if it were always there.
      • The tenth school was originally the University of Chicago. However, a post-World War II funding crunch led Chicago to drop out of Division I sports to focus almost entirely on academics. MSU, which was expanding both its academic and athletic program at the time, went on a campaign to replace Chicago; they eventually got Chicago's blessing on account of their close academic cooperation (many Chicago graduates went on to teach at Michigan State).
    • Similar to that: Many football fans think the big Texas schools (Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech and Baylor) have always been a part of the Big 12 conference. Technically true, but there's only been a "Big 12" since 1994, when the Texas schools came in from the defunct Southwestern Conference (SWC) to expand the actually-as-old-as-they-think Big 8.
  • Yellow cards and red cards were first used for football (soccer) penalties in the 1970 World Cup.
    • No cards at all were used before then. The cards were introduced because of incidents such as the one at the 1966 World Cup in the game England vs. Argentina, where the Argentinian Antonio Rattin refused to leave the field when he was sent off claiming that he did not understand what the German referee was saying and holding up the game for eight minutes (he eventually was led off by policemen). The idea for cards came when a referee saw traffic lights and thought, "yellow is "danger," red is "stop playing."
    • Similarly, the black-and-white "truncated icosahedron" (black pentagons, white hexagons) soccer ball made of synthetics dates from the 1970 World Cup.
    • The players' names were printed on the back of their shirts for the first time in the 1994 World Cup.
    • Replica shirts didn't go on sale until 1973 (Leeds United being the first)
    • Crystal Palace didn't have an eagle symbol until 1971.
    • The famous Brazil strip (canary yellow shirt, blue shorts, white socks) wasn't worn until 1953
  • The NFL has a few:
    • Similar to the Association Football example above, the practice of putting players' names on the backs of jerseys originated with the AFL in the 60s, and wasn't adopted by the NFL until the two leagues merged. Look at pictures from the first couple of Super Bowls, and you'll find that the AFL teams have names on the jerseys while the NFL teams don't.
    • Some teams with "classic" uniforms have only been using those uniforms relatively recently. The Green Bay Packers (famous for their Green and Gold color scheme) started playing in the 1920s, for example, but didn't even wear green until the 50s.
  • The three point rule in Basketball. It has been used by various leagues since the 30s but didn't get adopted by the National Basketball Association until the 1979-80 season.


Technology[edit | hide]

  • CPR and mouth-to-mouth have only been around in any recognizable form since the late 1940s, and didn't become standard medical techniques for another decade. (Witness an episode of Quantum Leap where a crowd stands dumbfounded as Sam performs mouth-to-mouth on a nearly drowned boy, circa 1954. In Back to The Future Part II, Marty tells a crowd in 1955 that he knows CPR and gets the reply "What's CPR?". An episode of Eureka has Alison perform CPR in 1945 on a wounded soldier while everyone around her assumes she is kissing him.) Contrast the actually made-in-The Sixties Star Trek: The Original Series' Mighty Whitey episode, which features whatever-they-did-before-CPR.
    • Similarly, the Heimlich maneuver was first described circa 1974. It was likewise used anachronistically by Sam in an episode of Quantum Leap, on Dr. Heimlich himself.
  • The first practical chastity belt wasn't invented until the late 1500s. And they were never very common even then.
  • Adhesive tape. Though technically invented in 1928, up until the 1960s it was common to see packages tied with string, as featured in "My Favourite Things" from The Sound of Music, and the logo used by UPS through the mid-2000s featured a twine-tied parcel.
  • Iron Maidens (torture device resembling a coffin full of spikes) were not invented until the late 18th Century, and have most likely never been used on anyone ever.
  • The hot air balloon was invented in 1783.
    • Actually a Brazilian Priest, Bartolomeu de Gusmao, demonstrated the theory in 1709, but it never got much further than the proof-of-concept because he died before he'd completed his designs for a scaled up version.
    • In 1783 the Montgolfier brothers performed the first manned balloon flight. The idea of hot air balloon is much older than that.
  • The piano was invented in 1709 and didn't become popular till the mid 19th century; people preferred the softer sound of the Harpsichord.
    • The reason it was invented lies in its full name: The pianoforte. Whereas the harpsichord was the same volume no matter the pressure one struck its keys, the new instrument could be varied in its sound volume, which contributed to its popularity rise.
      • The new keyboard instrument had considerable competition in the harp, and for a while it looked like keyboard instruments were going to be eclipsed entirely. It dosen't hurt that a shapely young woman looks better playing a harp than a piano.
  • Matches lit by striking were invented in 1827.
    • Which may also make it Older Than They Think, depending on what They Think.
      • Though if they are dating matches as "older than lighters," matches are indeed newer than they think, by at least a few years.
  • The first Ferrari road car was built in 1947, when Enzo Ferrari was nearly fifty and the motor car was over fifty.
    • Similarly the first Lamborghini arrived in 1962. Mazda cars also date from the early 'sixties. And lets not forget the Lexus brand was launched in 1989.
  • Television is both this and Older Than They Think—the so-called "Baird" (Nipkow) system, although the first system used, was recognised even at the time as having no long-term viability. Television as we know it today was the combined effort of several people over at least four decades, but the final piece of the jigsaw is said (by Britain's Royal Television Society amongst others) to have been invented by RCA's Vladimir Zworykin in the mid-1930s.
    • Baird cottoned on pretty quickly afterwards though, and managed to get colour television working in 1944, which had 600 line definition and triple-interlacing, more than 3 decades ahead of its actual implementation.
  • The naval battleship that we're all familiar with (armoured steel hull and deck, gun turrets with heavy guns) first appeared in 1906 with the launch of the HMS Dreadnought (although vessels like the 1899 Royal Sovereign class had all three features, just less well done). The term "battleship" came into use about ten years before that.
    • In WWII, battleships were largely shown to be obsolete against carriers, which means that they were masters of the sea for all of one war (and even then, they were vulnerable against subs).
      • Not entirely correct. HMS Dreadnaught was the first battleship that had a main battery of uniform caliber. Previous designs would have different turrets with different calibers of guns to vary firing rates. The first battleship-type warship (steel armor with a turret) was USS Monitor (1862), and the term itself can be found (as an abbreviation) in documents from the Revolutionary War. (Multideck Age of Sail warships were known as Ships of The Line or Line of Battle Ships. The latter was often shortened to Battle Ships in orders or dispatches.
  • Many popular depictions show a stone wheel being invented by a caveman and immediately used for transportion. In the location where the wheel was invented (the Middle East), people had moved out of caves by 13,000 BC and were living in fixed settlements by 12,000 BC. Yet, the wheel was not invented until no earlier than 6,000 BC and would only be used for griding grain for another two or three millenia.


Terms and Phrases[edit | hide]

  • The American Pledge of Allegiance was written in 1892, did not contain any references to "the United States of America" until 1923, nor did it mention God prior to 1954, when it was added to differentiate America from the atheistic commies.
    • And ironically enough, the "God" bit was added by a man named Red (Red Skelton).
    • Not only that, but the writer of the original pledge was a socialist named Francis Bellamy, and despite being a Baptist minister he wrote a version without "under God."
    • The tradition of placing one's hand over the heart while reciting the pledge came about during World War II. The original standard practice was to hold your hand over your heart only for the line "I pledge allegiance," and then to point at the flag with four fingers, arm outstretched, palm down, for the remainder of the pledge. Crop out the flag in a picture of one of your political adversaries showing his patriotism, and you've got a front page picture that looks very much like Charles Lindbergh doing a Nazi salute (This actually happened).
      • The hand gesture in question is called the Roman Salute, because it is assumed to have originated in the ancient Roman Republic (however, the earliest recorded use of it is from the 18th century, so this may qualify as Newer Than They Think in itself). Either way, it was around as a generic gesture of respect a long time before the Nazis—and at least a few decades before the founding of the United States, for that matter. Then, after the Nazi use of the gesture became famous, everyone else stopped using it (to avoid Unfortunate Implications). So that's why it's considered a "Nazi salute" today, in much the same way that the swastika is considered a "Nazi symbol" even though it has been around for thousands of years. And Now You Know.
        • Its associations with saluting may come from the fact it's used as a gesture of blessing in the Catholic Church (and possibly the Orthodox Church, too). And they probably did get it from Rome (by way of Byzantium, in the second case)?we know the Romans used the gesture, just not how.
  • "Flying saucer" wasn't coined as a term until 1947, when an Air Force pilot named Kenneth Arnold spotted a formation of UFO's and coined the term in an interview. Interestingly, the term was used to describe the objects' movement - "[like a] saucer skipping over water" - rather than shape (he described the shape as crescent-like). That's right, the image of the circular flying saucer is really a result of Memetic Mutation.
  • The words "schadenfreude" and "Angst" have only become part of the English lexicon around 1895, before then they were purely German words writers sometimes borrowed.
  • The affirmative "OK" dates to the early 19th century, and is of uncertain etymology.
    • And the variant "A-OK" was popularized by a NASA public affairs officer during the Mercury program.
  • The term "Ivy League" wasn't used until the 1930s; its origin is uncertain. It initially described the division of college athletics that eight coincidentally highly exclusive colleges found themselves in. Only much later did it become a blanket term for those schools as a collective.
  • The greeting "hello" is an Americanism, dating to 1840. It did not become popular until the invention of the telephone.
    • "Hullo", on the other hand, is derived from German "hallo" and has been around in English much, much longer. Not that anyone really says it anymore. Or, if anyone was to say it, they'd be accused of "mispronouncing" the word—or, worse yet, speaking "improperly". (Harry Lime still uses it in The Third Man.)
      • Although in some colloquial British dialects, it's still prounounced as "hullo", with only the spelling changing.
    • It only really began to be used as a greeting when the phone was invented. Before that, it was more commonly an expression of mild surprise. (as "Hey!" still is)
      • "Hello" often is still used as an expression of mild surprise, e.g. "Hello, what is this?" See So I Married an Axe Murderer for profuse use of this sense of the word.
      • Of course, Alexander Graham Bell wanted everyone to answer the telephone with "Ahoy-hoy". Which goes under Older Than They Think for fans of The Simpsons.
  • The illusionist's meaning of "prestige" did not exist before the 1995 novel The Prestige. Even in the novel, the first two parts were referred to as "set up" and "performance"; the more ostentatious "pledge" and "turn" were coined by Nolan for the film.
  • The NATO phonetic alphabet (the one that begins "alpha, bravo" ) was standardized in 1956. Thus any depicted use in World War Two settings is a case of Did Not Do the Research. The Other Wiki has comparative tables of the various national systems is use before 1956.
  • Both the notion that women and children should be saved first and that The Captain must sink with his ship unless everybody else is safe stem from (quite horrible) naval incidents in the 19th century. And only the second one did ever have some actual back-up in maritime law, while the first one was more of a social convention.
  • While Russia's rulers have been sending people for exile or punishment in Siberia for centuries, the term gulag began as the acronymized name of the office that organised Stalin's labour camps (Glavnoye Upravlyeniye Ispravityel'no-Trudovih Lagyeryey i koloniy = The Chief Administration of Corrective Labor Camps and Colonies). This was established in 1930.
  • Pyrokinesis is a term basically invented by Stephen King in Firestarter. The concept itself is very old, however. Ironically, since the proper terms for various psychokinetic powers don't always appear in dictionaries, some people think they've invented the term, also making it Older Than They Think.
  • Acronyms (new words formed from the initials of a phrase, such as radar or laser) are probably no older than World War 1 -- certainly there has never been any confirmed instance of an acronym older than this. This is not helped by the fact that "acronym" is often abused as a synonym of "initialism", or that some so-called "acronyms" (such as the Greek for "fish" being composed of the initials of the Greek for "Jesus Christ, Son of God, Saviour") are actually acrostics (the phrase was devised so that its initials formed an already-existing word). Indeed, "radar" is a double case—originally a WW 2 acronym for "RAdio Detection And Ranging" (deliberately palindromic to reflect how radar works), it has since become an acrostic for "Royal Association for DisAbility Rights" (who, amongst other things, operate Britain's National Key Scheme for public toilets). Various folk etymologies, especially for swear words like For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge and Ship High In Transit, are 100% wrong but still amusing. The first recorded use of the word "acronym" itself was in 1943.
  • The term "Home Counties" to describe the English counties around London (Buckinghamshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Berkshire, Middlesex, Kent, Surrey, Sussex) wasn't used until the late 19th century. It probably derives from the Home Circuit of the itinerant Assize Court.
  • You definitely seen this one circulating around the webs:

The Earth is degenerating these days.
Bribery and corruption abound.
Children no longer mind their parents,
every man wants to write a book,
and it is evident that the end of the world is fast approaching.

Then comes the line that this saying is from an Assyrian tablet dated 2,800 BC. Guess what? Assyria hadn't even existed at that time! The earliest mention of this saying is from 1924 book by an American priest (proof link). And most probably he just made the whole thing up.
    • Well, some sources claim the source an Egyptian writing. The source, however, while speaking of corruption, doesn't quite match.
  • The word "halitosis" was in fact made up by the manufacturers of Listerine mouthwash in 1921 so that they could have a disease responsible for bad breath which their disinfectant formula could be marketed as the disinfectant for.
    • Not only the word, but practically the very concept. While people obviously always understood the idea of funny-smelling breath, it wasn't seen as a big deal until Listerine came along and invented an all-new social paranoia. A similar example of evil genius was pulled off by the deodorant industry, who basically invented BO. It's hard to decide whether the people responsible should have been exiled or given medals.
      • And they tried it again with doucheing and "the third armpit" (as it is called in languages where the word "arm" does not occur in the term for armpit).
    • Similarly, a Gilette campaign invented the idea that women should have hairless legs and armpits.
  • The term "Byzantine Empire" was actually popularised in the nineteenth century and was only first used in 1557, a full century after Constantinople had been conquered by the Ottomans. In its time it was known as the "Empire of the Greeks" to outsiders, and went under a number of names to its inhabitants (including "Roman Empire", "Empire of the Romans", and "Romania").
    • Likewise, the word "Aztec" was popularized by Alexander von Humboldt in the 19th century to differentiate between the pre-conquest "Mexicans" and the inhabitants of the then newly independent country. Today, some people prefer the use of the native name Mexica (from where Mexican is derived) instead.
  • The slang term "My bad" was coined around the year 1970. The first citation in print was in a basketball guide in 1986 (in case you're wondering why, it was often used by Sudanese center Manute Bol), and then gained popularity in The Nineties with Hip Hop
    • Though it is awfully similar to "mea culpa."
  • The e-mail hoax Life in the 1500s claims many common expressions date to the sixteenth century, including "raining cats and dogs", "dirt poor", "bring home the bacon", "chew the fat", "trench mouth", "graveyard shift", and "dead ringer." These expressions actually originated more recently, with "raining cats and dogs" dating to 1708, "dirt poor" to 1937, "bring home the bacon" to 1909, "chew the fat" to 1885, "trench mouth" to sometime in World War One, "graveyard shift" to 1907, and "dead ringer" to 1891.
  • The practice of referring to the lost skyscrapers of the World Trade Center as the "North Tower" and "South Tower" only became commonplace in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. While they stood, the Twin Towers were generally known as Tower 1 and Tower 2.
  • Here's a Newer-Than-They-Think Catch Phrase. A common Memetic Mutation regarding Statler and Waldorf is their trademark laugh, rendered as "dohohohohohoh". If you watch footage of Statler and Waldorf under their original performers, the laugh was a very different "heheheheheh". The laugh we're familiar with first surfaced in The Muppet Christmas Carol in 1992, after Jim Henson and Richard Hunt had died.

Games[edit | hide]

  • Mahjong (a.k.a. Mah-Jong, Mahjongg etc.) is commonly supposed to be centuries if not millennia old, and even to have been invented by Confucius Kongzi, but no evidence of it predating the 1880s can be found. The solitaire game Shanghai (often miscalled "Mahjong" (eg. "Mahjong Titans" in Microsoft Windows Vista and later) because it's played with the same tiles), which likewise has spurious antiquity claimed for it, was invented by Activision in the 1970s.
  • While earlier variants appeared in France as early as the late 19th century, the first example of the game now known as Sudoku was invented in Indiana in 1979.


Other[edit | hide]

  • The famous "Keep Calm and Carry On" propaganda poster, though printed during World War II, was never actually used[3] and was completely unknown until an old copy was rediscovered in a bookstore in 2000.
  • Rodin's Thinker sculpture was made in 1902.
  • The phrase "In God We Trust" first appeared on U.S. paper currency in 1957. It was mandatorily included on all US coins two years prior to this.
    • It first appeared on 2-cent coins way back in 1864, as a Take That to the South, implying that the North was favored by God. The tradition persisted after the end of the American Civil War, though, with the motto appearing on 3 more coins in 1866.
      • The aforementioned Take That is, more specifically, referring to the Confederate motto, Deo Vindice ("God is our vindicator/champion", or more loosely, "God is on our side.")
    • However, "In God is our trust," is a line in verse 4 of the Star Spangled Banner, dating back to the War of 1812.
  • The idea that houses built on Indian Burial Grounds will be haunted first appeared in the novel The Amityville Horror (1977).
    • Well, the Navajo have always thought building where someone died or was buried is a bad idea, and before contact the only burial grounds they could build on would be Indian ones...
  • The standard Pirate accent dates back to the 1950 movie Treasure Island, when Robert Newton used his natural Cornish accent to play Long John Silver. The association of English rural accents with seafaring arguably goes back to Lord Nelson, whose contemporaries noted his heavy Norfolk accent, and Cornwall has been known for producing large quantities of pirates since the Middle Ages, but Treasure Island brought the accent into pop culture, as well as popularising the phrase "ARRRRHHHH!". For reference, "Arrrh" was the southern English equivalent of the Northern "Aye" until universal education started.
  • Treasure Island also popularized the concept of buried treasure; only one real pirate, William ("Captain") Kidd, is recorded as actually doing so, and it's debatable whether or not he was actually a pirate at all. Captain Morgan (yes, he was a real person) was also said to have buried treasure and is generally accepted to be the trope originator, though this is also known to be patently false. Firstly, Morgan was a privateer rather than a pirate, and the treasure he supposedly "buried" wasn't looted as so much as it was embezzled from his employer, the British Crown.
  • The "tradition" of the diamond engagement ring is sometimes thought to have been the result of a 1940s de Beers ad campaign, but this is not the case. The tradition actually began decades earlier, in the immediate post-World War I era; an expensive ring was intended as insurance that the man actually meant to marry the woman, and wasn't proposing just to get sex (Serious Business at a time when single women had literally no access to birth control and unmarried mothers were thought of as worse than street whores). De Beers merely piggybacked onto a trend that was almost universal by the time their first ads ran. They did however create the idea that an engagement ring should cost two months' salary.
    • As well, most of the ideas surrounding the ring were at the very least played up and at the worst invented whole-cloth by De Beers' advertisers over the succeeding decades. See the idea that the size of the rock matters, the idea that selling or trading in an old engagement ring is bad luck, etc. Most Egregious is De Beers completely making up the "rule of thumb" that a ring should cost the man two months' salary (in an effort to make it impossible to have one standard-sized ring that was "good enough").
      • Not to mention the idea that you should be buried with your diamond jewelry, in order to destroy the second hand diamond market and prop up the artificial scarcity. Not kidding, here.
      • Before that time a common engagement gift—not necessarily a ring—was acrostic jewellery: where the initials of the set gems spelled out words or names. REGARDS rings (Ruby, Emerald, Garnet, Amethyst, Ruby, Diamond, Sapphire) are acrostic jewellery, for example, although many rarer and unusual stones are required to fill other letters. Actual wedding bands, however, have reportedly been around since the Medieval period.
      • De Beers' real achievement was "a diamond is forever". This advertising campaign effectively destroyed (OK, vastly reduced) the supply of second-hand diamonds, which helped them keep their prices high.
    • Wedding bands have existed for centuries, but of course weren't as common back when the masses could barely afford shoes and food, never mind gold rings. Rather than being symbols of eternal blah-blah-blah, they also symbolised exchange of wealth in return for marriage. One English account gives "with this ring I thee wed" followed by the words 'This gold and silver I give thee', at which point the groom was supposed to hand a leather purse filled with gold and silver coins to the bride. The unromantic Germans record the phrase "I give you this ring as a sign of the marriage which has been promised between us, provided your father gives with you a marriage portion of 1,000 Reichsthalers." In the 1920s, only 15% of marriages were two-ring affairs, men's wedding bands being slow to catch on.
    • In Russia, since the 15th century, iron wedding bands were often used for one of the sides. And in Judaism (Orthodox, at least), a rabbi will not agree to oversee a wedding with a gemmed band present—since it symbolizes the exchange of wealth, there should be no possibility of the value being unclear. As a variation of this trope, the use of rings to symbolize the exchange actually came from Rome—hence the groom's specifying that the wedding is according to the law of Moses.
    • Historically simple rings (i.e. wedding bands) in the early middle ages and were given as a symbol to seal an engagement among Germanic peoples. The bride accepted the ring to signify that she had been properly 'bought' and engaged.
  • Some sociologists claim that the theory of evolution was used to justify the slave trade; in reality, Darwin published On the Origin of Species in 1859, after most of the western world had already abandoned slavery. (The concept of biological evolution actually dates back to the 18th century, but it wasn't until On the Origin of Species was published that a scientifically plausible model of evolution was presented.) This argument is made even sillier by the fact that Darwin himself was strongly abolitionist, as noted in his autobiography, having many aggressive arguments with the captain of the Beagle over his support of slavery.
    • The Captain of the Beagle, ironically, was a Fundamentalist-type Christian who later attacked Darwin over his theory and became a champion of anti-Darwinian Christians. I don't know if he had by then given up his pro-slavery views or not though.
    • They're probably thinking of the Polygenesis theory. (Which Darwin also opposed)
    • Similarly, people have attempted to blame "Darwinism" for Communism, despite the fact that The Communist Manifesto was published in 1848, eleven years before Darwin went public. Darwin has also been blamed for eugenics (including the Nazis') despite notions of "pure/tainted/inferior" or "royal/aristocratic/common" bloodlines and the associated "selective breeding" for humans being nearly as old as animal husbandry, which is thousands of years old, not to mention that Darwin himself declared the whole idea of eugenics to be "evil" and damaging to "the noblest part of our nature" in his book The Descent of Man.
      • That being said, Darwin had a number of Poisonous Friends who helped to associate his name with the practice, resulting in the name of Social Darwinism, a concept the man himself abhorred.
  • The European "witchcraze" took place in the early-modern period, particularly during the Reformation, not (as it is so commonly assumed), during the Dark Ages (although there were occasional witch trials during that time).
    • The witchcraft was not considered criminal offense in the state-wide law until the early 16th century and during actual medieval times witch trials occurred rarely (witchcraft itself was not an offense but harm dome by 'magical' means definitely was) and usually were nothing more than simple lynches.
    • Part of that is the fact that too many people think the Dark Ages ended in roughly 1800. (Nowadays historians deny that there ever was a time such as the Dark Ages, but traditionally they ran from the fall of Rome in AD 476 to the crowning of Charlemagne in AD 800.)
    • And the 'Dark Ages' themselves is a term linked closely to anglophone historiography. In many languages the corresponding term is 'the age of barbarian kingdoms' or 'the age of migrations'.
    • In many places in the actual Dark Ages, believing in the power of witches was heresy in itself, i.e. a person who accused another of witchcraft (especially if there was no proof the other person believed him/herself to be a witch) would be the one in trouble.
  • While there are several three-faced or triune goddesses in more than one mythology, the idea that they'd split into aspects of Maiden, Mother and Crone is no older than the writings of 20th century writer Robert Graves. (And he based his highly specific description of the image of the Maiden on the young writer Lucy Ridout, on whom he had a crush.)
  • January 1 didn't become New Year's Day in most of Europe until the 16th century, and not until 1700 in Russia, 1721 in Tuscany and 1752 in England, Wales, Ireland and the British Empire (Scotland changed over in 1600). It used to be celebrated from March 25 to April 1.
  • Travel writer Bill Bryson noted that Australia's trans-continental Indian Pacific train has an air of 'cultivated venerability' since it was actually begun in 1970. Some classic British and American routes had been discontinued by then.
    • Darwin, the capital city of the Northern Territory, was only connected to the rest of the country by rail in 2003.
  • Compulsory wearing of seat belts in cars? 1970 in Victoria, Australia. 1972 in New Zealand. 1983 in the UK, and another year before the first of the United States (New York) took it up. (Back to The Future made a Values Dissonance joke about this.) It's still not illegal in New Hampshire...
    • In Italy, they are compulsory only since 1st Jan 1993...
    • Philippines is very bad with seat belts, not passing a law mandating the use of seatbelts until 1999, and to this day, most people there still don't care for them. And this is in a country whose traffic is basically Bullet Hell in traffic form compared to American traffic.
  • Switzerland gave women the vote in federal elections... in 1973! Liechtenstein waited until 1984. Switzerland, while being host to many official agencies of the United Nations, was itself not a full member until late 2002.
    • One Swiss canton didn't allow women to vote in local elections until 1991.
    • Kuwait extended suffrage to women in 2005.
    • Despite being a fairly early adopter of women's suffrage, Canada shamefully withheld the vote from large numbers of its aboriginal population until the mid '60s.
  • Minutes and seconds as we know them were first used near the end of the tenth century. (The names are a clue: minute fraction of an hour, and second minute fraction; "thirds" and "fourths" were once used in calculations, although not measured for obvious reasons.) Before that, the only culture not to use fractions of an hour was the Babylonians, who would divide days by sixtieths, into units of twenty-four minutes, twenty-four seconds, six fifteenths of a second, etc. Seconds could not be measured until the sixteenth century, and nothing resembling our concept of counting time by seconds shows up until late in the seventeenth.
  • The notion of sitting quietly in your seat during classical music dates from the mid-19th century. The Other Wiki says that sneezes and coughs should be held until a loud section of music is reached (!), but talking and eating during performance was once commonplace.
    • Haydn's "Surprise" and "Joke" Symphonies were written, because of his annoyance at this, to startle or confuse his audiences.
    • Don't forget that what we call "classical" music was, in its time, current popular music. Thus, opera audiences were often more boisterous than in the modern day, yelling at characters on stage, or singing along to favorite choruses. A particularly novel new piece of music that broke expected conventions might well be booed and hissed in the middle of the performance. And a magnetic solo virtuoso like a Paginini or a Liszt would have the ladies swooning in their seats like an early 60s Beatles concert.
      • Possibly (though what was going on in music halls and salons had more to do with the general pop scene of the 20th century- there wasn't really a direct equivalent out there before recorded music became possible and affordable)... however, the word 'classical' as it's now popularly used- anything where you shelve the record by who wrote the music rather than who performed it, basically- is not how it would have been used in 1850 or thereabouts. The 'Classical' era, strictly speaking, began around the end of the 17th century and finished in the early 19th. Puccini, Elgar, Schumann etc., technically didn't write 'classical' music, even when they wrote for orchestras.
    • The 'tradition' of silence during a concert originated by mistake with- like so much else- a request by Richard Wagner (mid-19th century) for the audience not to applaud between some key dramatic points of one of his operas; and even he was alarmed when it was interpreted as in instruction to be silent throughout.
    • Wagner also invented the practice of darkening the auditorium for his operas- now almost universal practice in conventional Western theaters. Before this, the opera and theatre were yet another social occasion- the room would be well-lit because the audience would be in their most spectacular clothes and were there to be seen. The opera was more of a cabaret affair, with only the diehard musos in the audience giving it their full attention. This is partly why early operas have chacters repeat their important lyrics over and over again!
    • In theatre, not only was it was usual for audience members to talk (and heckle) freely during performances, they could also move freely around the auditorium, into backstage areas, the wings and even onto the stage itself. It was only in the latter half of the 18th century that David Garrick, in his capacity as manager of Drury Lane Theatre, began making the first moves to curtail this.
  • The stereotypical "shouting military guy" persona is based almost entirely on George C. Scott's performance in the 1970 film Patton.
    • To add an additional layer of irony, the actual General G.S. Patton hated giving speeches, having a weak, high pitched, grandmotherly voice.
      • And spent tons of time practicing his posture and facial expressions to try and make up for this and seem impressive when speaking.
  • In American politics, the consistent use of red to represent the Republican Party and blue for the Democratic Party (and the corresponding terms "Red State" and "Blue State") only goes back to the 2000 election. While the use of different colors for the two sides in a an electoral contest dates back to at least the time of color television, previously the major networks and newspapers had alternated colors for the parties in each election cycle and different networks and publications would each use their own colors. However, in 2000 red for Republicans and blue for Democrats happened to be common, and the protracted count, recount, and court battle cemented the associations in the public consciousness. This is particularly-inexcusable because this happened within the lifetimes of everyone old enough to vote.
    • Specifically, blue was used for the incumbent party, red for the challenging party.
    • As one newspaper article pointed out, this is something of a historical reversal, given the association of Red with the political left.
    • Political commentators these days exploit different connotations that suit the new colour scheme: red with "redneck" and "red-blooded male" stereotypes of conservatives and their supporters.
    • This association causes some confusion with correspondents in Commonwealth countries, where "Tory blue" is the conservative colour.
  • The first movie sequels to have the same name as the first with a number added was French Connection II (1975). Adding "Part II", "Part 3" is much older (e.g. Shakespeare's Henry IV, Part Two or Little Women, Part Second; FC2 was the first to add just a number.
    • The "Kraut Western" Winnetou I (1963) was followed by Winnetou II (1964) and Winnetou III (1965), but all three movies were based on Karl May novels of the same names.
  • The name of the film of the play The Madness of George III was changed to The Madness of King George, so that an international audience could have some idea that it's a Gorgeous Period Dress movie. The star, Nigel Hawthorne, liked to joke that it was changed so Americans wouldn't think it was a sequel.
  • The Spanish Inquisition was only founded in 1478 and it was actually one of the last European inquisitions to be created.
    • I didn't expect that.
    • In fact, Spain adopted the Inquisition and the "convert or go" policy after suffering two centuries of Pamphlet Backdraft from other European countries because of its kind treatment of Jews and Muslims ("kind" meaning "let them live in separate ghettoes" here). It continued to be treated the same way after the expulsion because real Christians were supposed to slay them, not let them go to other country; Luther used the purported mixed-blood with infidels of Spaniards and Italians (recruited extensively by his enemy, Emperor Charles V) as a ralling cry in Germany, for example. It only was in the second half of the 17th century at the earliest, when Jewish communities began to grow in size and power in England and the Netherlands, that the expulsion of the Jews from Spain (but not the Muslims, by the way) began to be counted as an example of Imperial Spain's barbarity, and eventually became the uber-example it is considered today.
    • As for the Spanish Inquisition itself, it is said to have sentenced to death some two thousands of people. Rather a small amount, considering its reputation and several centuries of activity.
    • The Inquisition generally was actually closer to modern standards of jurisprudence than most civil courts of the time, having rules of evidence, an appeals process, and codified restrictions on the type and severity of punishments that could be imposed.
    • The severity of the Spanish Inquisition was greatly exaggerated by Protestant propaganda—ironically, from the same countries who accused Spain of being "soft" just a century before.
    • And—they did not think witchcraft an "excepted crime"; ordinary standards of evidence were required. As a consequence, the only large witchcraze in Spain was the Basque witch hunt, and the friars who cooperated were punished for it by the Inquisition.
  • Similarly, the concept of racial discrimination did not really exist before the Age of Exploration, and it did not become ubiquitous in European society until the late 18th century. Before then, the major injustice was classism, not racism, so non-European royalty were treated with respect.
    • Or rather, racial discrimination in Europe is newer than they think. Racial discrimination in Africa and Asia is a lot older.
      • This is using "racial discrimination" ahistorically. Various forms of ethnic strife have existed in all populated continents for most of known history, but conflating those to the modern idea of "race" (invented along with "Europe") is inaccurate.
  • The NHL has a group of 6 teams (Montreal, Toronto, Boston, Detroit, Chicago, New York Rangers) called the "original six". However, only the Montreal Canadiens and the Toronto Maple Leafs (although they were called St. Pats at the time) existed in 1917, when the NHL was founded. Those two teams, along with the Ottawa Senators and the Quebec Bulldogs, were the charter members of the NHL. The Senators are not considered an old team, however, as they died in 1934, and the name was only reused in 1992. Boston entered in 1924; the three others joined in 1926. After that expansion, however, there was a total 11 teams in the league. The great depression thinned the herd, and by 1942, only the "original six" were left.
  • The name 'Kevin' is pretty old by itself, but it only became remotely popular outside Ireland in the mid- 20th century and later (as recently as 1933 it was outside the top 1000 names in the US). So Captain Darling's first name is possibly the most anachronistic thing in Blackadder Goes Forth.
    • On a related note, Erin is often considered a classic Irish name and is therefore often used by Irish immigrants to honor their heritage. In fact, it is rarely used as a name in Ireland as it is a poetic name for the country itself. It'd be akin to naming your daughter America- it's been done but not very often.
    • And Colleen never appears in the top 100 names in Ireland itself. Not too surprising, since it means 'girl, wench' and has only been a first name, outside Ireland, since the 1920s.
  • No sooner than Courtly Love had been invented than people began to lamented its decay from the Good Old Ways of King Arthur's time.
  • Despite the mythology and conspiracy theories that claim it to be nearly a thousand years old, if not more, Freemasonry as we know it only dates back to the early 1700s.
    • To be clear, freemasons existed much longer, but prior to the 1700s, the organization really was just a trade union for, y'know, actual masons. To be fair, the term "mason" did use to indicate a master craftsman, structural engineer and architect - someone who could not only handle a chisel, but also design and oversee construction of magnificent stone buildings that wouldn't fall down, even after centuries had passed. Add a few sacred measurements and a little Newtonian celestial mechanics and isn't hard to see how they would end up attracting intelligensia and talking about "the Architect of the Universe".
      • "Freemasons" didn't exist "much longer". The proper term commonly abbreviated "freemason" is "Free and Accepted Mason", which specifically refers to precisely the change from being a craft guild of stonemasons and architects to being a (not-all-that)-Secret Society open to men who didn't work in building trades.
  • The names of the hermetic decans and their rulers that appear in GURPS Cabal are very complete and professional looking. A bit of internet searching suggests they were made up just for the game.
    • The names of the decans are lifted from the grimoire Testament of Solomon, where they were the names of various demons. Their association with astrological decans, on the other hand, appears to be invented entirely by Cabal's author.
  • The name Art Deco for the 1920s and 1930s design movement was popularised in the 1960s. In the 1930s people usually called it the Moderne style.
    • The name Gothic for the 12th-to-15th century style of architecture and art was coined ca. 1550 by Giorgio Vasari as a pejorative name - he considered the "maniera de' Goti" barbaric. At the time Gothic cathedrals etc. were built, the style was called "opus francigenum" (French work/style) or "pointy-arched style".
  • The Canadian flag dates from 1965. Yes, flags change often, and there have been more recent changes; it's just that it usually takes a big political upheaval like in South Africa or Russia for this to happen. And the Canadian flag is so familiar it's a surprise to learn how recent it is compared to others (for example the Australian flag is a 1901 design, give or take minor details).
    • The Canadian flag is able to borrow much of its apparent "tradition" from the fact that it is primarily based on the flag of the Royal Military College of Canada (in Kingston). As well, the Maple Leaf is a rather old symbol in Canada, used by French Canadiens as well as used in the English Canadian poem "The Maple Leaf Forever" (both versions). Put two familiar ideas together, you get a new flag that seems much older and more traditional!
    • This disconnect is so well-known that an Urban Legend sprang up that the Canadian currency of the '80s had American flags on the Parliament buildings in its art; those are actually the Canadian Red Ensign flag, which was Canada's recognized flag before the Maple Leaf flag became official.
    • Also, the Cornish flag (Saint Piran's Flag) is not recorded as a symbol of Cornwall before 1838.
    • The American flag had 48 stars up to 1959; the 50th star wasn't added until 1960.
    • The Union Flag (Jack) of the United Kingdom lacked its red saltire until Ireland and Britain were joined in 1801.
  • The Russian nesting doll, the matryoshka, was invented in 1890. (The painting styles were based on much older paintings.)
  • I and J became separate letters in the 16th century.
    • So did U and V around the same time.
    • And as late as the turn of the 19th to 20th century, I and J were still to some extent treated as variants of one letter. This is the reason why there's no J Street in Washington, DC.
      • For that matter, W only dates back a few centuries, as well. It was originally represented by using two Vs (which were also Us at the time) in a row, hence its name.
      • W became a separate letter of the Swedish alphabet in 2006.
  • While its constituent schools were founded between 1636 and 1865, the Ivy League was not formally constituted until 1945; in fact, the description of certain schools as "ivy colleges" dates back only to the 1930s.
  • Although tumbleweed is seen as emblematic of the Wild West, it's actually a Eurasian plant (genus Salsola) and wasn't recorded in the U.S. until 1877—long after the setting of many westerns.
  • The "seven colours of the rainbow" as we know them derive from Isaac Newton's experiments in optics in the 1670s, where he first observed the spectrum of sunlight split by a prism. Finding that his numerological theories worked better with a seven colour spectrum, he convinced himself that the area between blue and purple was an entirely separate colour, which he named "indigo" after the blue dye.
    • Actually, because indigo is so indistinguishable from blue and purple, it is possible that Newton's "blue" referred to cyan and his "indigo" referred to our blue, which would make more sense. It would also make indigo not being perceived as a real color Newer Than They Think.
    • Colours in the rainbow are arbitrary - red-yellow wasn't recognized as "orange" until the 1500s (which is why people with orange hair are called "redheads"), and the Japanese put the colour "kimidori" between yellow and green.
  • The AD dating system was not devised until AD 532, and not widely used until the 9th century AD. Before that, Christians often dated from the supposed date of the Creation (5492 BC), the supposed birth of Abraham (2016 BC), and many other epochs.
    • If they dated years that way at all: many just used terms like "the 18th year in the reign of King Whatshisface". (This convention was used in dating British legislation until quite late in the reign of Queen Victoria.)
      • In some regions of Europe historians continued to use AUC or other Roman chronologies [4] well into the 14th and even 15th centuries. It's ironic that this practice died precisely during The Renaissance.
      • It is also sometimes stated the Ancient Greeks counted the years by the Olympic Games. In reality, this system was only used since the 4th Century BC, and then only by historians. Any official documents used years named after officials, with each state, naturally, having its own calendar.
      • Fun fact: The earliest event which we can date with any certainty is the Battle of Halys (May 28, 585 BC), which was called off due to a solar eclipse (which is how we know it was on May 28).
  • The name "Oscar," although dating back to an ancient Irish name meaning "friend of deer", was almost unknown until Napoleon Bonaparte's grandson Charles XIV's son became King Oscar I of Sweden in 1844.
    • There also was an Old English Oscar, usually interpreted as equivalent to the German name Ansgar - both meaning "god-spear" - and part of a whole group of Germanic names beginning "Os-", notably Osmond, Oswald, and Oswin. Saint Ansgar or Oscar (801-865), first archbishop of Hamburg and Bremen, was known as the "apostle of the North". The name Oscar was popularized in the late 18th century by James MacPherson's literary forgery Ossian, which was where Frenche General Bernadotte, later King Charles XIV of Sweden, got the idea to name his son Oscar.
  • The popularized act of kissing the ring of a Mafia Don does not seem to have any basis in reality prior to 1972 movie The Godfather. It is said that it was barely practiced in real life even after that, except amongst posers. Kissing a bishop's ring or the Pope's Fisherman's Ring is a Catholic tradition called baciamano is (was) common among Catholics.
  • In the musical The Music Man, Harold Hill refers to "Captain Billy's Whiz Bang", which was a joke magazine that didn't exist until World War I. However, the show is set in 1912.
  • Many younger Doctor Who fans are surprised to discover that the Doctor Who Christmas Episode is only a 21st-century revival phenomenon. (There was one before in 1965, but at that time British TV didn't usually do "event" television at Christmas and broadcast whatever shows were normally scheduled with a Christmassy twist.)
  • The classic "sawing a woman in half" magic trick performed in the Victorian or Edwardian era, or even earlier? Nope. It was invented in 1921 by one Percy J. Selbit, and when he debuted it at the Finsbury Park Empire theatre in London, it had a strong element of Grand Guignol, with buckets of fake blood and a very drawn out and realistic spine-sawing effect. It was then figured out, copied and given a more family-friendly presentation by other magicians on the other side of the Atlantic that same year.
  • The Titanic was not called "unsinkable" until after it sank, when the description employed Sarcasm Mode.
  • Children were not exactly encouraged to "read, read, read" until sometime after the advent of television. Of course, before the television (or even the radio) was invented, reading was the primary source of entertainment. Parents generally viewed "excessive reading" to be a much bigger issue then "not reading enough". While "excessive reading" is still a concern for some parents today, it takes a backseat to the issues of "too much television" or "too much video games".
  • The attitude of crying as being "shameful" or "a sign of weakness" actually only became common within the past few centuries. Before that, grieving openly was actually quite common—and, in fact, was more accepted than it is today. While there is a general attitude today that crying is actually healthy for you, people are still expected to be restrained in expressing their emotions. For examples, people who wail loudly in public today may be thought of as having severe emotional problems - but, a few centuries ago, that was actually very common.
  1. In which by mutual agreement, Greece deported most of its ethnic Turkish and other Muslim population to Turkey and Turkey deported most of its ethnic Greek population to Greece.
  2. the real monster is, arguably, the "good" doctor's horrible parenting skills, as they are what drive the creature to desperation and murder
  3. because it was intended to be used if Britain came under Nazi occupation
  4. For example, the "Spanish Era" in the Iberian Peninsula, which began in 38 BC when the region was declared pacified by Augustus