Old Wives' Tales
Radio & TV
Toxin du jour
Claim: Urban legends TV show falls for joke about Blackbeard's using a nursery rhyme to recruit fellow pirates.
Origins: The last few years have seen several television programs dedicated to the examination and "debunking" of urban legends and similar types of stories. One entry in this genre was a show entitled Mostly True Stories: Urban Legends Revealed, which aired on cable station The Learning Channel (TLC) in the U.S.
One of the features of this program was its use of quizzes as bridges across commercial breaks — just before each commercial break it presented the audience with an urban legend-related tidbit and challenged viewers to guess whether it was true or not; after the commercial break the (supposedly) correct answer was revealed. We noted with some amusement that most of these quizzes dealt with fairly obscure items covered on our web site; we were even more amused when the
What's so funny? The notion that the nursery rhyme "Sing a Song of Sixpence" was used as a recuiting song for pirates was invented by us as an example of a story so incredibly silly that no one could possibly believe it to be true. We created the
That a television program devoted to testing the veracity of urban legends could take this bit of nonsense at face value is an irony we never contemplated.
We have to agree with the conclusion of the Courier Mail journalist who noted (albeit for the wrong reason) that:
In the modern world, people are confronted with a barrage of information. Trying to come to grips with such a sensory assault can be a problem. Information is one thing, but processing info until it is useful can be quite another. Hence the common distinction between information and trivia. Trivia can be interesting but is generally not particularly useful. Knowing that the rhyme 'Sing a Song of Sixpence' was originally used to recruit pirates for Blackbeard's ship is not often going to help anyone perform their job better, write a better assignment or make a breakthrough contribution to society.Subsequent airings of the TLC episode featured a revised version of this "fact":
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