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A weekly show where we debunk common misconceptions. This week, Elliott discusses some misconceptions about some popular stories.

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Elliott: Hi, I'm Elliott, and this is mental_floss on YouTube, today, I'm going to talk about some misconceptions about famous stories.

(mental_floss intro plays)

Misconception #1: In the original version, Cinderella wore glass slippers.  So this is an interesting debate between linguists.  Basically, the story that popularized the version of Cinderella that we know today was written by the French writer Charles Perrault in 1697, but versions of the actual folk tale had been around for longer than that.  In Perrault's tale, he has Cinderella wearing glass slippers, but some claim that she was supposed to be wearing slippers made of squirrel fur, and Perrault wrote it down wrong.  Love me some fur slippers.

It turns out that the French words for fur and glass sound and look very similar, vair and verre.  We don't know if this was a case of him mishearing another version or updating the story when he wrote it.  Snopes will tell you that vair meaning fur wasn't used during Perrault's time, but that is wrong.  The 1694 official French dictionary has a definition for vair that refers to it as an obscure word for fur.  In use but not common?  That's the perfect condition for this kind of mistranslation.

Misconception #2: The Grimm Brothers wrote many of the fairy tales that we know.  Actually, the stories were passed down for ages, for example, the Grimm Brothers didn't write their version of Cinderella until 1812, when they included it in Grimm's Fairytales.  That was over a century after Perrault wrote it, and he borrowed it from other people, too.  Other stories that the Grimms get credit for but didn't actually come up with include Rapunzel, Snow White, and Hansel and Gretel.

Misconception #3: Sherlock Holmes and Watson are middle-aged.  It turns out that Sherlock Holmes didn't always look like Robert Downey Jr. or Benedict Cumberbatch.  In the novel His Last Bow, which takes place in 1914, Holmes is 60 years old, and that would put his birth year at around 1854.  We also know from the first book, A Study in Scarlet, that Holmes and Watson are around the same age and met in 1881, so they were both probably in their late 20s when their adventures started.  Finally, there's hope for me yet.  More adventures.

Speaking of which, Misconception #4: Sherlock Holmes had a love interest.  Unlike some modern retellings of the story, the original books did not contain romance.  In fact, in an 1892 letter to his mentor, Arthur Conan Doyle wrote, "Holmes is as inhuman as a Babbage's Calculating Machine, and just about as likely to fall in love."  The Calculating Machine, by the way, was like an early predecessor of the computer.  This is terrible news to everyone on the Internet, because we all ship Sherlock and Watson.  Seriously.  Check out Tumblr.  It's--it's literally everywhere.

Misconception #5: In Romeo and Juliet, "Wherefore art thou Romeo?" means "Where are you, Romeo?"  'Wherefore' actually means 'for what reason', or basically, 'why'.  People tend to confuse these because 'wherefore' sounds a lot like 'where', but in this situation, Juliet is really asking why are you Romeo, because his family name, Montague, is the reason the two can't be together.

Misconception #6: Frankenstein is a green monster.  In Mary Shelley's 1818 novel, the monster is not described as green, it's actually more yellow, plus, it's partially see-through, makin' all of its arteries and muscles visible, it's disgusting.  He also didn't have a pulse in his neck.  We can thank Boris Karloff's 1931 movie adaptation 'Frankenstein' for the creature we recognize today. 

Also, a bonus misconception that I'm sure you all already know, Frankenstein was the doctor in the story, not the monster.  You knew that.  But just--just you know.  Remember it.

Misconception #7: Dracula can't go outside during the daytime.  Vampires burning up in the sunlight might be part of the legend now, but in the original 1897 novel by Bram Stoker, Dracula did not need to hide in the dark.  There are several times in the novel that he walks around during the daytime.  A few other characteristics of the original Dracula that you might not expect include a big mustache, pointed ears, and white hair everywhere including the palms of his hands.  Some experts even believe that Stoker based Dracula's looks on Walt Whitman, a man who did not look at all like a modern depiction of Dracula.

Misconception #8: Charles Dickens invented the word 'humbug' for A Christmas Carol.  Actually, the term was around for about a century before A Christmas Carol was published.  Although we associate it with Ebenezer Scrooge, a grumpy old man, the word 'humbug' actually started out as hip slang.  Back in the 1750s, it was defined as student slang, meaning 'trick' or 'deception'.  By 1840, calling someone a humbug was being commonly used as a mild insult.  Three years later, Dickens put the term in his novel.

Misconception #9: There's a real King Arthur.  Alternatively, there's no real King Arthur.  The truth is, we don't know.  I'll start by saying that there's no definitive proof that he ever existed.  King Arthur does appear in a 9th century Latin book known as The History of The Britons.  The history compilation claims that the guy fought in 12 battles, but historians aren't sure whether this book is accurate, especially considering it claims that Arthur killed a total of 940 men in one of those battles.  So the debate continues.

And that brings me to Misconception #10: The Trojan War was real.  Again, we can't be sure.  Archaeologists have found evidence that there was indeed a city like Troy that was probably obliterated by the Greeks during a war around 1175 BCE, but that's pretty much all scholars can say.  The war itself probably wasn't anything like the one Homer described in The Iliad, and it could have been more of a process with many wars rather than a single large destructive one. 

Thank you for watching Misconceptions on mental_floss on YouTube, which is made with the help of all of these wonderful people.  If you have a topic for an upcoming Misconceptions episode that you would like to see, please leave it in the comments, and I'll see you next week.  Bye. 

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