The early teen years are a time when charming misinformation is passed on from kid to kid with the solemn, easy assurance of time-tested wisdom. “Schnauzer” is a dirty word in German. The F-word is an acronym meaning “For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge” (in fact, that became a Van Halen album title towards the end of the Sammy Hagar era). And KISS, the name of the rock supergroup, stands for “Knights In Satan’s Service”.
Eventually we learn better. Schnauzer, in fact, comes from Schnauze, meaning “snout”. Although the actual root of the f-bomb is uncertain, enough cognates abound in the Germanic languages that it most likely comes to us from a common Indo-European stem through Anglo-Saxon. And, according to Wikipedia, guitarist and founding member Paul Stanley first suggested the name “Kiss” when original drummer Peter Criss mentioned that he’d been in a band named Lips; at one point, founding bassist Gene Simmons claimed it stood for the old rule about sales pitches: “Keep It Simple, Stupid!”
And yet, though we tell ourselves (and each other) that there’s nothing so stupid or counterfactual people won’t believe it if you repeat it often enough, in the main we fail to erect mental checkpoints where new data can wait for validation before they’re added to our lists of “everybody knows that” truths. I’m sure most of us have listened or read as some blowhard confidently preceded some assertion of patent folly with the words, “Science has proven that ….” Usually, this means one of three things:
- “Some recent study/experiment, using dubious methods and/or inappropriate measures, claims that …;” or
- “Although this theory can’t be tested under our current technical limitations, some scientists take it for granted that …;” or
- “Famous Scientist says that ….” (Because, of course, Scientists never get stuff wrong, or speak on subjects about which they know bubkes.)