News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Community News Network

January 22, 2013

Slate: Is your electric fan trying to kill you?

"Is it really true that if you clip your fingernails while your relatives are flying somewhere," the radio producer asked, "their plane will crash?" I was being interviewed about my new book, "Because I Said So!," which fact-checks 125 classic parental cliches: breakfast is the most important meal of the day, don't sit so close to the TV, don't swim right after you eat. You get the idea. During the commercial break, a producer asked me about this particular bit of wisdom, passed along by her mom.

 I took a long look at her; she seemed to be in dead earnest. "Where does your mom, uh, happen to be from?" I asked as innocently as I could.

"She grew up in Russia."

I told her I'd never heard that one before - maybe it was more of a Slavic thing. I wasn't surprised at all to find out that Mom, in this case, had been raised outside the United States. In writing the book, I'd spent the past two years soliciting parental nags from friends, acquaintances and Internet strangers, and I'd learned very quickly that these bits of folklore tend to be extremely culture-specific. A classic Mexican momism might bear no more resemblance to a Scandinavian one than huevos rancheros do to lutefisk.

In China, for example, it's widely believed that sitting on a seat recently warmed by someone else's behind can give you hemorrhoids. The Brits, on the other hand, attribute hemorrhoids to sitting on cold surfaces. But sitting on that same cold concrete would lead to a different lecture from a Ukrainian mom: She'd be sure it would make you sterile.

Some Peruvians are told that lingering too long in front of the fridge can cause cancer. In the Czech Republic, everyone knows that drinking water after eating fruit leads to painful bloating. Filipino kids can't wear red when it's stormy out, since that would attract lightning. Germans and Austrians live in mortal fear of drafts, which get blamed for everything from pneumonia to blocked arteries, so summertime commuters routinely swelter on 90-degree trains and buses rather than cracking a window through which a cooling - but lethal! - breeze might pass.

In South Korea, however, the concern about ventilation is exactly the opposite. Koreans will only use electric fans if a window is cracked, because leaving a fan on in an enclosed room, it's almost universally believed, can be fatal. The mechanism behind the threat is a little vague: Sometimes it's said to be a lack of oxygen that kills you, sometimes it's a chill. But either way, you won't care. You'll be dead.

I actually grew up as a child in Seoul, South Korea, and fans were no laughing matter. Everyone took the Great Fan Menace for granted and had a hard time believing that other cultures were ignorant of it. An apartment of Americans I knew teased their lone Korean roommate by going to bed one summer night in an enclosed room with six electric fans turned on. He pleaded with them not to throw their lives away and slept in the hallway. When, in the morning, all three had survived the ordeal, the Korean roommate was still not convinced. Obviously, he said, they had been playing a practical joke on him and had cracked a window as soon as he was out of the room.

              

Jennings was a 74-time Jeopardy! winner and is the author of three books, most recently "Because I Said So!: The Truth Behind the Myths, Tales, and Warnings Every Generation Passes Down to Its Kids."

 

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Community News Network
Latest News
TribStar.com Poll
AP Video
Raw: Big Rig Stuck in Illinois Swamp Raw: Air Algerie Crash Site in Mali Dempsey: Putin May Light Fire and Lose Control Raw: Iowa Police Dash Cam Shows Wild Chase Ohio State Marching Band Chief Fired After Probe Kangaroo Goes Missing in Oklahoma Crashed Air Algerie Plane Found in Mali Gaza Residents Mourn Dead Amid Airstrikes Raw: Deadly Tornado Hits Virginia Campground Police: Doctor Who Shot Gunman 'Saved Lives' Raw: Air Algerie Flight 5017 Wreckage Power to Be Restored After Wash. Wildfire In Case of Fire, Oxygen Masks for Pets Israel Mulls Ceasefire Amid Gaza Offensive Mobile App Gives Tour of Battle of Atlanta Sites Anti-violence Advocate Killed, but Not Silenced. Arizona Prison Chief: Execution Wasn't Botched Kerry: No Deal Yet on 7-Day Gaza Truce Raw: Protesters, Soldiers Clash in West Bank Judge Faces Heat Over Offer to Help Migrant Kids
NDN Video
Big Weekend For Atlanta Braves In Cooperstown - @TheBuzzeronFox Chapter Two: Becoming a first-time director What's Got Jack Black Freaking Out at Comic-Con? Doctors Remove 232 Teeth From Teen's Mouth Bradley Cooper Explains His Voice in 'Guardians of the Galaxy' Deja vu: Another NYPD officer choke-holding a suspect 'Fifty Shades of Grey': Watch the Super Sexy First Trailer Now! Reports: Ravens RB Ray Rice Suspended For 1st 2 Games Of The Season Air Algerie plane with 119 on board missing over Mali Diamond Stone, Malik Newman, Josh Jackson and others showcase talent Free Arturo - The World's Saddest Polar Bear A Look Back at Batman On Film Through The Years LeBron James -- Dropped $2k On Cupcake Apology ... Proceeds To Benefit Charity Snoop Dogg Says He Smoked Weed at the White House Raw: Fight Breaks Out in Ukraine Parliament Chris Pratt Interrupts Interview To French Braid Intern's Hair Shirtless Super Mario Balotelli Dances While Ironing - @TheBuzzeronFOX Whoa! Watch "Housewives" Star Do the Unthinkable LeBron apologizes to neighbors with cupcakes Justin Bieber In Calvin Klein Underwear Shoot
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
  • -

     

    March 12, 2010

activity