Old Wives Tales and Myths....

Updated on June 27, 2011
C.O. asks from Reston, VA
25 answers

I was at the pool today with my boys when I heard a mother tell her child an old wives tale and I laughed because, in my opinion, she was lying to him....

Anyway - this kid had swallowed his gum instead of spitting it out and she told him that it would now be in his belly for 7 years...

I've heard some good ones...
don't go out in the cold with a wet head - you'll catch your death of cold
don't swallow seeds - especially watermelon seeds - the watermelon will grow in your belly...

so tell me mamas - what other old wives tales and myths have YOU heard?

2 moms found this helpful

What can I do next?

  • Add your own comment
  • Ask your own question
  • Join the Mamapedia community
  • as inappropriate
  • this with your friends

Featured Answers



answers from Missoula on

My grandma insisted that I not raise my arms over my head while pregnant because doing so would cause the cord to wrap around baby's neck and strangle him. I couldn't help but laugh at that one.

Edit My Answer
4 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

My red headed friends mom told her that if she ate uncooked cookie dough it would give her freckles.

Edit My Answer
2 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

Thank you so much for this post. I don't have any to add, because mine all appear to be on here, but thank you for bringing my Granny back to me for a bit. I can hear her voice perfectly today, saying many of the things listed below.

Edit My Answer
1 mom found this helpful

More Answers



answers from San Francisco on

OMG this is off topic but the mention of watermelon seeds made me think of it. I had a student tell me today, "My Mom said watermelons used to have seeds in them and so did oranges and grapes, EEWWWW! LOL Not a wives tail but still pretty funny.

My brother is someone who invents old wives tales. Of course I can't think of one now.....

My Mom used to tell us if a bug hit our arm when we had it hanging out the window of the car while it was going the force would break our arm. She later admitted it wasn't true but it worked in keeping us from putting our arms out the window....

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Mobile on

If you see black birds in your yard it brings death.
A red bird means unexpected company.
If someone sweeps under your feet you will never get married.
Those are just a few of many I was told. lol The last one is for sure not true!

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

I've notice Old Wives Tales fall into 1 of 2 categories the VAST majority of the time.

1) Stuff we tell kids to get them to do stuff we want them to do, or to stop doing things that annoy us.

2) Stuff that USED to be correct but has either been handed down incorrectly or is no longer pertinent in most cases.

Then theres: Pseudoscience & Superstition. I don't lump superstition in with Old Wives Tales, because OWT usually has a good foundation in fact/ science/ or common sense (or irritating things kids do/won't do), while superstition is usually inexplicable. Take the Romani '1 bird in the house; Someone you care for will die. 2 birds in the house, good luck.' That's superstition. True in every single case in my own life, but superstition nonetheless.

<grin> Well... the wet hair in the cold isn't an old wives tale per se (falls into category #2)... it's scientifically sound/ proven that doing so for as short as an hour or two up to long periods of time CAN and does lower your temperature enough to allow an explosive growth of bacteria or viruses that your immune system had previously been fighting off just fine. The head thing is particularly to the point because it's where we lose the most heat AND a major vector for infection (bacteria that is hanging out in your sinuses and throat. It's a MAJOR problem for military operations in chill to cold environments, because spending extended periods of time in cold wet weather (constantly out of doors) triggers epidemic levels of pneumonia and strep. It was PARTICULARLY true in times past, because mycobacterium tuberculosis is a 'time bomb'. The bacteria HIDES in the lymphatic system until the immune system is weakened or it's triggered in some other way. A huge percentage of people used to be walking around with dormant TB.

It's not so true in MODERN times, because people go from warm house, to warm car, to warm building. People these days are rarely wet and out of doors for longer than 10 minutes, and mostly for merely the few seconds it takes to go from warm house/ warm car/ warm building. AND we have immunizations... so pneumonia is one of the very few serious illnesses that we contract. But in years past all of the deadly diseases were still very much out there, and people had to be very careful with their health. These days, who cares about a cold or the flu? (Well, the 50,000 people who die of the cold & flu in the US every year). AND we have hair dryers. Women used to normally have waist length hair as the norm. Ever dried waist length hair? It takes a LONG time. The phrase "I'm washing my hair" used to be a valid 'excuse' because it was a task that took several hours due to washing, detangling (before conditioner), and drying. Brushing your hair in front of a fire to get it completely dry was serious business. Esp before central heating.

But 100 years ago (and for military in winter weather) if you went outside in the cold while being wet, you STAYED cold and wet for hours. In one of my schools (this dates me) we were trained for winter ops. One had to be VERY careful about not getting wet if it could be avoided, because getting wet meant you got hypothermia at best and sick at worst. The colder it is the more dangerous getting wet is. To the point that in snow environments, when you shovel snow, you do so NAKED. It's so your sweat doesn't get your clothes wet. You strip down, shovel out the snow from your entrance tunnel, come back in, rub yourself down, and get dressed again. Brrrr. But the heat from shoveling the snow keeps you warm enough to be safe even though it doesn't FEEL warm, it's a lot safer than sitting in clothes damp from sweat in severe cold.
okay, stick in the mud part over

- Pregnant women shouldn't bathe (although this *can* be correct for certain regions *historically* speaking, again, cat2)

- Drinking water dilutes your stomach acid so you can't digest your food

- Butter on a burn ((again though, this was HISTORICALLY correct... butter used to be kept in the ice cellar, wrapped in wax paper or in clay jars. People wrapped the jar or frozen butter in a cloth and put it on a burn, which is the right thing to do, cool a burn immediately. AKA it was like how we put frozen peas, or an icepack out of our freezers today, wrap to keep from damaging our skin, and apply. Frozen butter -or steaks- were icepacks prior to ice packs. Ice was FAR too valuable to waste, but butter or steaks could be cooked up once they defrosted. Over time, people misunderstood the practice. Similar to boiled cow's urine. Boiled cows urine becomes VERY antibacterial very quickly, and for centuries has been made into a paste for open cuts. Well, in a certain part of africa in ONE particular region, that info got screwed up. Instead of urine, they use feces. Which ups their death rate *tremendously* as cow poo is RIFE with e. coli))

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Kansas City on

my grandma always told us if we stuck our tongues out the devil would sit on them.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Lake Charles on

You have to wait 30 minutes after you eat before you swim or you'll get a stomach cramp.. complete lie!

If a frog pees on your hand it'll give you warts lol.

I grew up with some pretty crazy ones and of course I can't think of them now!

Added: Breaking a mirror is 7 years bad luck.. not.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Detroit on

Cats suck the breath out of babies - I still hear that from some people and I hate it!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Honolulu on

If you make a face, it will stay that way.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from St. Louis on

Eating carrots helps your eyesight - my mom got me with this one for a long time as a kid!

Morning sickness = girl, not sick = boy

Regarding the "don't go outside with wet hair, you will catch a cold" myth - This one really sucked for me as a kid because I have SUPER thick and pretty long hair that takes forever to dry!

I was also duped by the 7 year gum saga and waiting to swim after eating lies! All lies!

ETA: I just remembered another - cracking your knuckles causes arthritis. I remember being terrified of this one because it is a bad habit of mine.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from San Diego on

The one I always heard growing up and what I still tell my children is that "You have to keep your ears clean or you will grow potatoes in them".

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

Getting cold causes colds. Oldest one in the book and blieved globally. That one drives me crazy!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

if you swallow gum your bones will stick together & you won't grow......is that why I am only 5'1, lol

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Redding on

a big one,, breast feeding keeps you from getting pregnant,,HA.
Last week my grand daughter was with me at a store and she was hopping from tile to tile, and said, "dont step on a crack or youll break your crack" misquoting the old poem.. I didnt correct her. But laughed, Then she said, "grama,, where is your crack?". lol... I told her I dont have one. (o:

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Phoenix on

Don't cross your eyes, or they'll stick that way.

One's I've heard from others:

If you eat your crust, you'll have beautiful, curly hair.

Dip a cotton cloth in whisky or bourbon and let a teething baby suck on it to numb the pain.

The Chinese and Asians have the most superstitions of all:

Don't whistle in the house, it will invite evil ghosts.
Treat bruises by rolling cold eggs on the bruise spot.

Gotta run....will add more later..

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Provo on

When I was young I was in a car accident and had brain damage and right side paralysis. I was right handed before my car accident and then adjusted and used my left hard afterwards. I can remember staying the night at my grandma's house and she would never let me use my left hand. I thought I was being very strong but I found out later that the left hand is the devil's hand. LOL I still use my left hand for the fine motor skills and about 75% of the activity of the right side came back. My grandma was full of old wives' tales. My dad, her son, told me that I could not eat hot salsa when I was pregnant because I would miscarry!!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Appleton on

If a woman lifts too much weight her uterus will fall out.

If women are too athletic they will grow beards.

If you hit your spoon on the side of a pan while cooking your baby will be born cross-eyed.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

Don't make that face--it will stick like that!

Don't sit on cold concrete --you'll get "piles"!

Don't tickle a baby --he'll be tongue-tied and/or stutter!

Dimple in chin -- Devil within!

If you leave the house and have to return to get something that you forgot -- don't go in the same door you left from originally (alleged bad luck).

Deaths come in three's.

A bird smacking into the window of your house means a death is sure to happen.

And the older Italians in my family really DID believe in the "evil eye".

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

My mother's family was so superstitious! When I was in elementary school, one teacher did a contest. Who ever could turn in the most superstitions would win free ice cream for a week. And our school had the best ice cream!
I turned in well over 100. Second place had less than 10!
Some not already mentioned:
Rocking an empty rocking chair is bad luck.
Itchy left hand means you are going to get some money--itchy right out means you will loose some money.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Phoenix on

When I'm over at my moms she will say things to my son like "eat such and such, it will give you muscles" or "eat such and such, it will put hair on your chest". I don't know if its a wives tale or not and she never said it to me...I'm an only child and obviously don't need muscles and hair on my chest. But when my son was home the other day he leaned over to me and said "mom, I don't want anymore because I have enough hair on my chest." LOLOLOL!!! He's 8...

1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

My mil was a little old Italian woman who had a ton of advice .... all of it hysterically funny.

Make sure you put a knit cap on your newborn so that his/her ears will not stick out too far from his/her head.

Babies noses are a bit flat. To make sure the grow into a proper point you have to put your thumb on one side, pointer finger on the other and pull forward to the end of the tip. Do it several times a day and your baby will grow up to have a perfect nose.

A tablespoon of caster oil will insure the kids don't get sick.

Don't let babies and small children walk without shoes or they'll get flat feet.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Houston on

that gum thing has a bit of truth to it, it does take longer than most things to digest and shouldnt be swallowed. Like with most old wives tales they are exponentially exaggerated truths.Like with lowering your core temperature, it does make your immune system more vulnerable thats why we get sick more often during the winter months.

Dont sit too close to the t.v. youll mess up your eyesight
Dont make that face itll stay that way.

I love that frog one and the watermelon one.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

I agree with eating the watermelon seeds.

My grandmother used to say if you eat xxx you'll grow hair on your chest. Although there may be a few woman out there with hairy chest, I don't know any.

There is alot of truth in many of the old wives tales that just simply don't hold true in today's society.

Putting whiskey on gums to help ease teething pain. Yes, this does work (my parents used it on me). Of course, we know now the bad effects of giving a baby alchohol. Ever watch old movies when they used whiskey to help with pain during an emergency medical procedure - also used as an anticeptic.

Getting a cold by going out in the cold with a wet head. Yes, long exposure to the cold can make you sick and waliking around with ice crystals in your hair isn't good either. Go back 150 years when people would walk several miles to school, church or the local general store.

Eating carrots helps your eyesight. True, carrots contain lots of vitamin A, which is proven to help with eyesight. Although, I ate lots and lots of carrots and I can't see a thing without my glasses.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

1. We lose the most heat through our heads is a Myth

2. Sugar make children hyperactive - Myth

3. Poinsettias are toxic - Myth

This is a great post C.!

1 mom found this helpful

Next question: True or False

For Updates and Special Promotions
Follow Us

More Questions About