View Full Version : Old Wives Tales

09-09-2001, 07:58 AM
As many of you know I have recently become a first time grandmom. :) When I brought my mom to meet her new great grandson the other day one of the first things she said was "be careful of Gabe (the cat) because cats have been known to suck the breath out of infants." Well I have heard that before and assured my mom that it is just an absurd Old Wives Tale and wondered how on earth any somewhat intelligent person could believe such a thing. Anyway, it got me thinking. Does anyone know where such a story could have come from? Also, does anyone have any other Old Wives Tales to contribute? It would be interesting to find out how these things got started.

09-09-2001, 09:21 AM
Pam, I can remember hearing that same thing, always be wary of cats around babies. I'll have to think about the wive tales.

09-09-2001, 02:28 PM
Here's a saying from the Welsh (told to ppl on their deathbeds):
Spy a black cat last
And in hell you'll reside.
Spy a white cat last
And to Heaven you'll fly.

The following was a sign on the wall of the old Yankee Doodle Inn (late of Norwalk, CT):
If a cat washes its face from cheek to ear
Your guardian angel she'll be for a year.
If a cat does its cleaning from ear to cheek
Bad luck you will have for the following week.

09-09-2001, 07:17 PM
Here is a phrase I saw:

"Those who dislike cats will be carried to the cemetery in the rain." ~ Dutch Proverb

09-10-2001, 03:35 AM
Pam: the old wives tale came from a time stretching way back. back when people didn't know much about the world. back when flies were born from fruit. period. it is mostly a religious view from a time when science was ousted by the church.

what the biggest theory is is that what is actually happening is that the cats are smelling the milk on tha baby's breath and are trying to get to the milk. in the mean time accidently sufforcating the baby.

09-10-2001, 08:16 AM
Over here some people believe that you should never let a black cat cross the road in front of you because it brings bad luck. I read somewhere that this tale can be traced to the time of the Phoenicians (spelling??). Apparently they kept cats (for some reason mainly black) on their ships to keep the mice at bay. When the ships approached the land the cats would run off the boats this would alert the people in the villages that the Phoenicians would soon ransack their properties. Funnily enough I think that in the UK black cats bring good luck.

Fair enough back then but how this belief is still existing in the year 2001 makes me quite mad. I think I wrote about this before, when I was younger there were some acquaintances of my parents who refused to come to our house because we had 2 black cats :mad:. I wonder whether this stupid beliefs made me particularly fond of black cats (I still have 2 and I consider myself very lucky to have them).

09-10-2001, 10:50 AM
We have both of those superstitions here - black cats are both good and bad luck! Figure that one out! Didn't know how the bad luck one started though. I always assumed it was because they were the classic witch's familiar.

09-10-2001, 12:12 PM
Hi Pam :) Interesting topic :) It is interesting how these "old wives tales" come about isn't it? I've heard that the cat sucking the baby's breath tale a lot. I heard that it started because kitties like to be warm, so if there was an infant in the house, the cat would find him/her and curl up next to them to keep warm...but sometimes accidently suffocated the baby in the process. What Crow said about smelling the milk on the baby's breath makes sense too. I hadn't heard that one.
Some of the old wives tales that I've heard over the years from my mom include:
If a dragonfly or ladybug lands on you, you will have good luck.
You can make ice faster by starting with warm water.
Red sky at night sailors delight, red sky in morning sailors take warning.
Dew on the grass in the morning means no rain for the day.
you can stand an egg on end on the vernal equinox.
Knocking on wood will prevent something bad from happening.
Swimming right after eating will cause cramps and you'll drown.

Ok, I'll stop for now. Is my family superstitious or what?? LOL LOL :D

09-10-2001, 02:12 PM
The old wives tales about the cat taking the baby's breathe i was also told that it was because the cat was smelling/licking around the baby's mouth because of the milk. Wolflady i know what you mean i have heard(from my family) most of the ones you listed and more! LOL

09-10-2001, 05:48 PM
Thanks for all the input! I am amazed at some of this stuff! Karen, the thing about making ice faster with warm water amazed me! I had never heard of that one before!

Spencer, Gabe was lost today. My daughter was searching the house for him for the longest time rattling his jar of Pounce and calling his name. Well the crib has this nice little drawer on the bottom and he decided to crawl in. It is sort of not entirely closed in on the sides and Gabe was sound asleep on a bunch of receiving blankets! :)

09-10-2001, 06:58 PM
   My grandmother said warm water freezes before cold water. I thought that it may be true only because the warm water could lose more of its volume through evaporation. I am no longer sure.

   Aristotle touched on this phenomena. Sir Francis Bacon studied it. In 1969 a Tanzanian student named Erasto Mpemba rekindled the debate in New Scientist (http://www.newscientist.com/lastword/answers/236home.jsp).

   Can hot water freeze faster than cold water? (http://math.ucr.edu/home/baez/physics/hot_water.html)
   1998 by Monwhea Jeng
   Department of Physics, University of California

   "Not usually, but possibly under certain conditions" (http://www.sciam.com/askexpert/physics/physics21.html) from Scientific American.

[ September 10, 2001: Message edited by: Paul ]

09-10-2001, 07:40 PM
Angie, don't ya just love growing up with old wives tales?? :D :D

Pam...below are some more for ya! :D

Paul, good articles!! This was always my answer to that question whenver anyone asked me why hot water froze faster than cold...
I would say that "it is a scientific fact that hot water freezes faster than cold. This is because hot water is steaming, and the process of evaporation (the steam rising) is a cooling process, thus actually causing hot water to freeze faster than cold". It sounded good, anyway! LOL LOL :D

Some that I forgot include:
You can catch a cold by being chilled.
The all popular one for us kids....Step on a crack and you'll break your mother's back.
Break a mirror and you'll have 7 years bad luck...

Oh, one of my favorites is:
The phrase ‘getting out of the wrong side of the bed’ usually refers to
someone having a bad day, or feeling grumpy or crotchety. This harks
back to the superstition that, by going to bed on one side at night and getting
up out of the other side in the morning, one formed a protective magic circle.
Not to do so was bad luck.

09-10-2001, 07:55 PM
Oh Karen I have fought a losing battle with my mom my whole life on the one about catching a cold by being chilled!! :D

Here's another.....you can't teach an old dog new tricks. WRONG! :)

4 feline house
09-10-2001, 08:24 PM
Most people still believe you will get sick if you get chilled. I am very hot natured, and have been known to wear shorts to my son's winter soccer games (you must understand that around here "winter" is 50 -60 degrees, but still cooler than most people want to wear shorts in!). I also have allergies. It never fails, if it's chilly and my legs and arms are not covered, invariably I'll sneeze and everyone around will say "See, now you're catching cold because you didn't wear a jacket!" Some of these people are even younger than me - in their 30's, and they still believe this! I've just learned to smile briefly and change the subject!

It amazes me how many medical professionals believe this, too! You'd think in their Universal Precautions training they might get a clue. Maybe they think they have to wash their hands to warm them up!

[ September 10, 2001: Message edited by: 4 feline house ]

09-10-2001, 08:43 PM
Originally posted by zippy-kat:
<STRONG>Here's a saying from the Welsh (told to ppl on their deathbeds):
Spy a black cat last
And in hell you'll reside.
Spy a white cat last
And to Heaven you'll fly.

The following was a sign on the wall of the old Yankee Doodle Inn (late of Norwalk, CT):
If a cat washes its face from cheek to ear
Your guardian angel she'll be for a year.
If a cat does its cleaning from ear to cheek
Bad luck you will have for the following week.</STRONG>

hey I live the next town over from Norwalk. We have a fair here called the "Yankee Doodle Fair"

09-10-2001, 08:46 PM
Originally posted by wolflady:
<STRONG>Oh, one of my favorites is:
The phrase ‘getting out of the wrong side of the bed’</STRONG>

This really doesn't have anything to do w/ wive's tales but I found them humorous!

Don't hate yourself in the morning-sleep in til noon!
Crankiness-for me it's just as natural as morning.

And, on a related 'waking theme,' one of my all-time favs:
This morning I woke up to the unmistakable scent of pigs in a blanket. That's the price you pay for letting the relatives stay over.

09-11-2001, 01:23 AM
Gio, thanks for the history lesson about black cats!

i used to never be a superstious person, but i am becomming one.
things i've learned: usually if a black cat crosses my path in a straight line w/o stopping or comes to let me pet it i have good luck for a month straight.
if there is a fortune i like from a fortune cookie, that comes true, don't eat another fortune cookie or the luck will change.
and i know i have one that people say is good luck, but it brings me bad. *shrugs* i forget.

as for water, alot of people do say warmer will freeze faster. i can beleive where it would be possible because of evaporation, but i still don't beleive in it. i'm a firm beleiver in cold. though, i'm sure under certain conditions...