7 Facts You Shouldn’t Cite – Because They’re Wrong

I hope you're sitting down, because you know all those clever bar facts you've got tucked up your sleeve, ready to rapid fire at the first glimpse of small talk? Well...they're all wrong.

Hey, you know those intriguing, surprising facts that you keep bringing up? You know, the ones that you hope will make yourself appear intriguing and wise – a veritable smorgasbord of fascinating trivia, an everyman's Alex Trebek, a live action Pop-up Video, if you will? You should stop, because 66 percent of them are flat out wrong. Seriously, I know a guy, who is a very reliable source and he says you're wrong too.

Here are few specific ones you should stop spouting:

1. Sneeze = Orgasm

Remember that time we were at the bar, and that girl sneezed and you sidled up to her and you were all:

“Hey, did you know that a sneeze is one tenth of an orgasm?

And she is all:


And you're all:

“Oh yeah. And I can help you out with the remaining nine tenths.”

And she totally didn't go home with you.

Do you know why? It's because you were wrong. First off, let's think about what you're saying. When you said that, did you mean that if you sneeze ten times, you will have an orgasm (like when I buy seven cups of coffee, the eighth is free)? Because if that were true, I think people would notice without you bringing it up in your cheesy pickup lines (and probably wouldn't complain so much whenever they got a cold).

Or did you mean that the pleasurable feeling you get from a sneeze is equal to one tenth of an orgasm? Because that's possibly even more dubious, given that pleasure isn't really something quantifiable. And if it is, I want to know which public university is spending government grants scanning the brains of sneezers just so you can use that god-awful pickup line because I'd like to put a lobster in the dean's bed.

And if it were quantifiable, I don't think the denomination would be in fractions of orgasms. When I eat a tasty burrito, I don't say, “Man, this is like, ‘three-eighths of an orgasm' good.” When I spend half an hour popping bubble wrap at my desk, I don't say, “Each one of these is like one hundredth of an orgasm's worth of fun.” Comparing sneezes to orgasms is as prudent as saying that a grape is one tenth of an apple, which only really makes sense if you are speaking strictly in terms of size or if you are discussing the Grāpple. Few would agree that sneezes and orgasms are on the same plane. And if you do, I'd have to guess that you are having some very lousy sex or some very enjoyable sneezes.

Chances are, this myth got started by someone like Dr. Ruth Westheimer, that old woman who looks so sweet on television until you unmute it, only to discover that she is talking about some seriously freaky stuff. Here's something she said:

“An orgasm is just a reflex like a sneeze.”

Okay, I buy that, and I can see how that could be warped in a game of trivia throughout the ages. I shudder to think of the wacky myths that some of her other quotes have evolved into, particularly: “Sex is good, but not as good as fresh sweet corn.”

Given that this woman has a doctorate and willingly crossed her wires on sex and food, I suppose I can let it slide that you thought a sneeze was sexy. Instead, why not talk about yawn-induced orgasms?

old cashew

2. Five Second Rule

I don't care if you were wrong or right but when we were on that double date at Olive Garden and you picked that breadstick up off the carpet and resumed chomping on it – claiming that food that's been on the ground for less than five seconds is “still good” – was way unclassy.

First of all, those breadsticks, like your soup and salad, come with unlimited free refills, but more importantly, the five second rule is totally bunk. I was just joking when I was talking about gratuitous laboratory studies before, but even so, I think I'm going to redact that lobster in the bed, because a study from Clemson University from 2007 actually helps debunk this myth.

Per the study (cited by a May 2007 NY Times article), “slices of bologna and bread left for five seconds” on a contaminated surface “took up from 150 to 8,000 bacteria.” There wasn't anything in the study about breadsticks as opposed to bread, but I'm pretty sure the findings would hold up similarly. Plus, five second, three second, ten second or however many second rules aside, the fact that your breadstick was dripping in delicious melted butter product, it's likely that a piece of dirt immediately adhered to the sticky goodness on contact. And that piece of dirt could've been lying on the floor for one million seconds for all you know.

According to the original five second rule scientist, a senior at Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences, your barbaric table manners actually stemmed from a Mongol. She stated (according to a September 2003 ACESNEWS piece):

“The 5-second rule dates back to the time of Genghis Khan, who first determined how long it was safe for food to remain on a floor when dropped there. Khan had slightly lower standards, however; he specified 12 hours, more or less.”

So, maybe that breadstick would've been safe for the man who busted through the Great Wall of China (not sure on the details, but I'm pretty sure he did it Kool-Aid man style), but for the guy who buys the Kleenex with a little drop of aloe in it to avoid chafing his little nosey, I think you're better off asking the waiter for another basket of breadsticks.

3. Big Hands, Big Feet, Big Man

I do have some good news for you, though: you can stop buying shoes that are two sizes too big for you in order to impress that cute cashier at DSW. Aside from the fact that those LA Gear shoes with the lights on the back that you keep buying aren't exactly the footwear of Casanovas all the world over, the correlation between the size of your feet and the length of the rest of your equipment is tenuous at best.

A 2002 study at University College London showed that “men with big feet do not necessarily have a large manhood,” according to an October 2002 BBC News article. The news piece reported that, after “gently stretching” (!) and measuring over a hundred gentlemen, they found that the average British man had 13 centimeters (5.1 inches) of pride, regardless of shoe size.

These findings are also supported by numerous, er, anecdotal reports (so that's what they are talking about when they all go to the bathroom), much to the chagrin of the subject of such gossip. But as long as these women are as familiar with their bits as they are with yours, they shouldn't be concerned: Dr. David Delvin at netdoctor.co.uk writes that the average space a man has to fill is 3 inches deep and will extend accordingly in order to “accommodate itself to any length.”

So for God's sake, please get some shoes that fit you. If I hear about how you lost a shoe because it got stuck in a puddle of mud and slipped off your foot one more time, I'm going to nail horseshoes to your soles.

Flushing toilet

4. Counter-clockwise: Australian for “The Way Our Toilets Flush.”

I bet you thought you sounded smart when you invoked the term “Coriolis Effect” when explaining to all those kids that toilets and sinks in the southern hemisphere rotate in the opposite direction as they do in the northern hemisphere while draining. But just because you use a term from a textbook glossary doesn't mean you are a scientist, or even correct, for that matter.

By thinking that's true, you are displaying not only a fundamental misunderstanding about the Coriolis Effect (i.e. the effect of the Earth's rotation on moving objects), but also a sheer inattention to detail and due diligence. Have you ever actually watched the water drain from your own toilet? Or your sink? Go try it now, but make sure you aren't chewing gum – I don't want you to choke as you gasp in shock at the discovery that the units in your very own home drain can drain in different directions.

First, let me explain what makes your sink and toilet drain the way they do. Unless your water is going straight down the drain (wastrel!), it'll probably be hitting the sink either to the left or right side of the drain. This determines the direction the resultant vortex will be spinning. This is only one of the factors that can affect the direction. If you don't believe me, try stirring a draining sink slightly against the grain and witness how the Earth's rotation fails to set it straight. Your toilet, on the other hand, releases water into the bowl via tiny jets around the rim. Take a close look. You were probably too drunk to remember last time you were this close, but this time you'll notice that those little jets are angled such that they swirl a certain way down the bowl in order to better whisk away all the salad and breadsticks you vomited up earlier. This is what determines the direction your toilet flushes – the manufacturers at Kohler, not the invisible hand of nature.

So what's the deal with the Coriolis Effect? Doesn't the Coriolis force affect hurricanes, after all? Yes, it does. But the thing to remember is that the thing causing the cyclonic rotation and the hurricane itself are on just a tad larger scale than your toilet. A website hosted by Penn State University explains it pretty well:

“Indeed, the term cyclonic not only means that the fluid (air or water) rotates in the same direction as the underlying Earth, but also that the rotation of the fluid is due to the rotation of the Earth. Thus, the air flowing around a hurricane spins counter-clockwise in the northern hemisphere, and clockwise in the southern hemisphere (as does the Earth, itself).”

The website further explains that since the Earth only rotates once a day and the sink rotates several times per second, the Coriolis force is “so small, that it plays no role in determining the direction of rotation of a draining sink anymore than it does the direction of a spinning CD.”

Photo by Master Phillip
Photo by Master Phillip

5. May Cause Drowsiness

That sleepy feeling you get just after Thanksgiving dinner has nothing to do with naturally occurring drugs in the bird. Those heavy eyelids are more likely induced by the less-than-riveting subject matter that seems to dominate conversations with extended family. Maybe you thought you were bringing a bit of life to the party by piping up with the fun fact that tryptophan in turkey makes you sleepy, but in reality you were just perpetuating one of the many myths that is destroying America.

While it's a fact that turkey contains high levels of tryptophan, an amino acid which aids in serotonin (which does indeed make you drowsy) the notion that its presence in turkey is what makes you sleepy is pure trypto-fantasy. According to a November 2005 article from the American Institute of Physics Inside Science news service, “tryptophan's effects can only be felt when ingested on an empty stomach, so a big turkey dinner isn't the best delivery mechanism for a sleep-inducing dosage.”

“But…but…” you stutter, “I totally, do feel sleepy after a big turkey dinner. Explain that!”


You may want to consider some of the other things that are hanging out on the plate with your turkey: bread rolls, mashed potatoes, stuffing, yams with the little marshmallows on top. In short, carbs, carbs, carbs. Carbs are notorious sleep agents – that's why wrestlers avoid them on tournament days. My biology teacher in high school used to visit the opposing team's locker room and hand out candy bars in a seeming display of ecumenical generosity. But in reality, he was punching their tickets to Sleepytown. Steve Preston of WrestlingPerformance.com writes:

“If you have a long day of wrestling ahead of you, stay away from carbohydrates. Carbohydrates have a sleep effect on the body. That's why after eating carbs you find yourself yawning, and relaxed. You don't want to get sleepy when you have two or three matches to go.”

Couple those carbs with the digestion-slowing fats in turkey, an after dinner beer or two and those big comfy recliners in front of Uncle Gary's television, and it's no small wonder that you are snoozing before kickoff.

Article quote - the stuff is chicken

6. Kentucky Fried Creatures

I also wanted to report that your reluctance to accompany me to Kentucky Fried Chicken the other day was completely unfounded. You were all, “Dude, you know why they changed the name to KFC in 1991? It's ‘cuz their so-called chickens are so genetically engineered that the government won't even let them call it chicken anymore.” I was skeptical back then – and pretty annoyed, since you forced me to take us to Chick-Fil-A instead, which ended up being closed because it was Sunday, so we had to end up going to Arby's, which made everyone sad – but now I know you were totally wrong.

First of all, if you go to the NYS Department of State Corporation and Business Entity Database, you'll see that there are still scores of entities named “Kentucky Fried Chicken.” Not only that, if you venture into a KFC (you don't even have to order anything, if you're scared) you'll notice that the menu is laden with items purporting to be chicken. The only item up there frontin' is the “unChicken” KFC Vegetarian Sandwich which stems from an entirely different reason to be disgusted.

So why the switch to KFC? It turns out that there is a dirty word in that name, but it's not “Chicken.” Rather, the abbreviation was more of an attempt to take the spotlight off the “Fried” factor in order to pander to the “I'd rather not die of a heart attack” market. Also in the 90's, KFC launched a campaign to convince the public that “fried chicken can be a part of a healthy balanced diet” which, I suppose could be true, depending on how small that “part” is. On a related (and wacky) note, a Slate article from November 2003 further noted that KFC suggested that their chicken (yes, they used the word “chicken”) could be made “even more healthy by removing the skin.”

Bottom-line: the stuff is chicken, and if it weren't, I wouldn't put it past them to lie about it more gracefully. Obviously, their PR department has enough time (and money) on their hands to cook up ways to spin their food as healthy, so it's kind of unbelievable that they couldn't find a better to way to mask the fact that their chicken wasn't technically chicken than abbreviating the name.

7. You've Been Running Through My Mind All Day – Once Every Seven Seconds, in Fact.

I realize that this article has mentioned sex three times within seven bullet points, but the factoid that men think about sex every seven seconds is both unproven and way too specific to be true. The difficulty lies in actually measuring what and how often a man thinks. Women have been trying this for centuries, always asking, “What are you thinking about?” to no avail. So why would scientists have any more luck?

The closest anyone has ever come was The Kinsey Institute, which cited a 1994 study which stated that 54 percent of men “think about sex everyday or several times a day,” but that doesn't mention frequency in terms of seconds. I imagine a study attempting to keep track of how often a man thinks about sex would be akin to playing The Game – hardly a controlled environment.

Plus, statements beginning with “all men” or “all women” should typically be left to standup comedians and bigots. They fail to take into account differences in lifestyle, philosophy, socioeconomic lifestyle, age, religion, and everything else. For example, a hormonal college kid sitting behind a distractingly buxom co-ed during a droning lecture on peptide bonds may be more prone to fantasy than, say, a man being chased across the savanna by a lion.

While there may be evolutionary explanations for why women are a bit choosier about sex while men are comparatively obsessive and indiscriminate (though some polls disagree), the seven seconds figure is clearly fabricated.

None of this stuff was hard to debunk. I encourage you to type Snopes.com into your browser every now and then, especially when your dad e-mails you something with a subject that begins with FWD. You were smart enough to find the article you are reading now, so why not take some time to punch those hearsay tidbits into Google before you help to continue to spread them throughout eternity.

Jack Busch

Jack Busch lives in the Pittsburgh area where he writes and edits for fun and money.