Common misconceptions

Do you use Wikipedia? I find that people either love it or hate it (or just don’t trust it). I rarely go there for the final word on anything, but I do love it as a starting point for topics I don’t know much about (Actually, I checked it just moments ago to find out who Lena Dunham’s mom is– Laurie Simmons, FYI). Most of the time the information on the site seems to be fairly accurate, but I especially love the footnotes! The footnotes are a great way to instantly find a short bibliography of sources.

Another thing I love about Wikipedia is the strange articles that you can find there– like this one about popular misconceptions. (Did you know that Napoleon was actually not that short?) Here are a few other articles that I especially love:

Ampelmännchen, aside from being a great German word that translates to little light man, is also an interesting article about these pedestrian walk signals from East Germany that survived reunification in 1990.

Have you heard of the Borough of S.N.P.J. in Lawrence County, PA? It stands for Slovenska Narodna Podporna Jednota  and is a recreation hall that applied to be a municipality in 1977 to get around liquor laws.

Calculator spelling has a name– beghilos!  Everyone spelled out 5318008 and 0.7734 in elementary school, right?

Need a better word for doodads or whatchamacallits? There’s a whole list of placeholder names here. (Gewgaw, gizmo, gubbins, hoofer doofer…)

The Waffle House Index is a real thing, guys. I actually had to check the footnotes on this one to make sure someone didn’t just make it up, but in this case truth really is stranger than fiction. FEMA actually does consider the strength of a hurricane by whether Waffle Houses nearby are open or closed.

Do you have a favorite Wikipedia article? Do you use it to find reliable information or just steer clear altogether?



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7 responses to “Common misconceptions

  1. Tara

    I came across this page once:
    which is how I learned about turophobia — an intense fear of cheese.

  2. Amanda

    I liked finding out what pseudoscience I believe in here:

  3. Interesting post! I read Wikipedia articles the same way I read all written content: critically. I don’t fully trust anything I’ve read until I’ve considered its sources (I adore footnotes too). So, I read Wikipedia, but it’s just a starting place for my research. What’s sad is when it ends up being plagiarized by others who really should be the experts in the field (such as Jane Goodall in Seeds of Hope, which I wrote about on my blog in March 2013). I also came across an e-book edition of Jane Austen’s Persuasion that lifted the entire Wikipedia page about the book and charged readers 99 cents for it (which I discussed in June 2014). It’s very frustrating!

  4. Joelle

    I can waste all afternoon on these things! I like Wikipedia for medical conditions and genetic diseases.

  5. Love this post! I’m a writer, so a lot of times I check out summaries of other books on Wikipedia to make sure I’m not copying. I also like Wikipedia pages that list things. For the book I’m currently working on, Branded, the pages about famous people who were Freemasons has been particularly helpful. I must say that my favorite pages are those dealing with old cathedrals and basilicas though. I’ve been using the Wikipedia page about the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore a lot for quick reference lately.

  6. There is a whole cottage industry of books that are High Quality Content by WIKIPEDIA articles! And they’re sold by our mainstream vendors. I have less of an issue today with article content than I do with their concept of crowd-sourcing facts or the truth – see the controversy about editing the “Haymarket Bombing” –
    Facts are not subject to a popular vote, though historical interpretation is obviously a subjective effort. As the late Senator Daniel Moynihan said: “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.”

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