Tuesday, July 30

The Debunker: Did Louis XIV say “L’État, c’est moi”?

by Ken Jennings

The indisputable highlight of July is one day of patriotic fireworks, parades, and red-white-and-blue flags waving in national fervor. I’m speaking, of course, of July 14—Bastille Day, the most important holiday in France. So crank “La Marseillaise” and allow quiz show champ Ken Jennings to help you out with his formidable! knowledge of all things French.

French Myth #4: King Louis XIV said, “L’État, c’est moi.”

Louis XIV ruled France for over 72 years, so long that he was succeeded on the throne not by his son or his grandson, but by his great-grandson. It was the longest reign in the history of any major European throne, and it took place at the height of belief in the “divine right of kings,” to rule as solely and autocratically as they chose. So it comes as no surprise that his famous historical catchphrase would be “L’État, c’est moi”—literally, “I am the State.”

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Tuesday, July 23

The Debunker: Was Joan of Arc from France?

by Ken Jennings

The indisputable highlight of July is one day of patriotic fireworks, parades, and red-white-and-blue flags waving in national fervor. I’m speaking, of course, of July 14—Bastille Day, the most important holiday in France. So crank “La Marseillaise” and allow quiz show champ Ken Jennings to help you out with his formidable! knowledge of all things French.

French Myth #3: Joan of Arc was from France.

Joan of Arc, the peasant girl who helped lead resistance to the English in the Hundred Years’ War, is today the patron saint of France and a bona fide national heroine, depicted in countless statues, stamps, and oil paintings. She and Napoleon were France’s only representative time-travelers in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, if that lets you know what a big deal she is. But depending on where (literally) you draw the line, Joan wasn’t from France at all—the Gallic equivalent of finding out that Abraham Lincoln was a secret Canadian.

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Tuesday, July 16

The Debunker: Did Dom Pérignon Invent Champagne?

by Ken Jennings

The indisputable highlight of July is one day of patriotic fireworks, parades, and red-white-and-blue flags waving in national fervor. I’m speaking, of course, of July 14—Bastille Day, the most important holiday in France. So crank “La Marseillaise” and allow quiz show champ Ken Jennings to help you out with his formidable! knowledge of all things French.

French Myth #2: Sparkling Wine Was Invented by Champagne Monk Dom Pérignon.

If everything you know about champagne comes from rap videos, you probably assume that (1) it’s mostly for spilling on stuff, not for drinking, and (2) it was invented by some French guy named Dom Pérignon. In fact, the eponymous 17th-century Benedictine monk was a leading winemaker of his time, but wine expert Tom Stevenson has recently uncovered evidence that the refermentation of wine by adding sugar and molasses, which we today call the méthode champenoise, was actually invented in 1662, six years before Pierre Pérignon became a monk. Champagne was born in England, of all places!

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Wednesday, July 10

The Debunker: Was Napoleon Short?

by Ken Jennings

The indisputable highlight of July is one day of patriotic celebration, a festival of fireworks, parades, and red-white-and-blue flags waving in national fervor. I’m speaking, of course, of July 14—Bastille Day, the most important holiday in France (apart from March 26, Jerry Lewis’s birthday). But even the Francophiles among you might be surprised at how little you really know about the birthplace of ballet, Brie, baguettes, and body odor. So crank “La Marseillaise” and allow quiz show champ Ken Jennings to help you out with his formidable! knowledge of all things French.

French Myth #1: Napoleon Was Short.

Psychologists, armchair and otherwise, often trot out the “Napoleon complex” to explain why the disproportionately short among us are also disproportionately scrappy. You know, Ted from accounting who yells sometimes in meetings, or that Gary guy who goes extra hard on “D” during pickup basketball games—they’re the modern descendants of Napoleon Bonaparte, overcompensating for his lack of height by conquering Europe. But there’s at least one problem with this theory: Napoleon wasn’t as short as you think. Au contraire - he was actually of average height for his time.

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