Frank Mulligan: Some observations from debunker

Frank Mulligan

I got an e-mail the other day promoting a new book by Dr. Andrew Adesman, a New York pediatrician, titled “babyfacts,” that debunks myths that have grown up around child care.

As examples, he notes that the following “myths” are still widely held:

- Reading in the dark can cause later vision or eye problems.

Calling this assertion into question would have rocked my family’s world growing up. Both my mother and grandmother were fierce adherents of the “reading-in-the-dark-eye-malady” theory.

- It is not safe for children to go swimming immediately after eating.

I was raised under this misconception, as well. You had to wait 30 minutes or risk a cramp that would send you directly to Davey Jones’ locker as surely as swallowing chewing gum would lead to an irreparably damaged digestive tract.

· If a child sits too close to the television, it can damage his vision.

This was once again believed to be scientific fact around my household. If you were to follow up a night of sitting too close to the TV by reading in your bedroom by the light in the hall, Mom would be gripped with fear and the lamentations would fly.

There are many others listed by Dr. Adesman, and he has a series of myth-busting quizzes on his Web site at www.babyfacts.com.

In any case, over the years I’ve observed other widely held myths or dictums that I believe could use some debunking. So, in the entirely unlikely event that they’ll be of use to anyone at anytime, here they are.

- A watched pot never boils.

Yes, it does. You just have to wait.

- A stitch in time saves nine.

Nine seems like way too many. I just don’t buy it.

- Finding a penny brings good luck.

Only if it’s sitting on top of a $50.

- If you kill a spider, it will rain.

A better indicator of the likelihood of precipitation would be to check with the National Weather Service.

- Red sky at night, sailor’s delight. Red sky in the morning, sailor take warning.

I think if the sky is actually red at any time of the day, you’re looking at a serious problem, even if you’re not a sailor.

- An itchy nose means you’ll kiss a fool.

He or she certainly would be a fool to share a kiss since you’re apparently coming down with some sort of skin condition that could quite possibly be contagious.

- You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.

I think if you waited long enough and really, really tried, you could make the horse drink, though I admit I’ve never tried it.

- It’s the early bird that catches the worm.

Yeah, but the worm was up early, too. What’d it get him?

Frank Mulligan is an editor in GateHouse Media Service’s Raynham office and can be reached at fmulliga@cnc.com.