Tuesday, June 28

The Debunker: Was "No Irish Need Apply" a Myth?

by Ken Jennings

Since 2014, June has been Immigrant Heritage Month in the United States, a time for Americans to remember our status as a nation of newcomers. So celebrate Immigrant Heritage Month along with us, until President Trump cancels it! After all, if you're here and you're not fully Native American, we guarantee that either you or an ancestor qualifies! As an extra bonus, we have Ken Jennings of Jeopardy! fame (and English/Welsh/Scotch-Irish stock) to school us about all the things we thought we knew about our ocean-crossing forebears.

The Debunker: Was "No Irish Need Apply" a Myth?

"I'm a decent boy just landed from the town of Ballyfad,
I want a situation, yes, and I want it very bad.
I have seen employment advertised. 'It's just the thing,' says I,
'But the dirty spalpeen ended with NO IRISH NEED APPLY.'"

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Tuesday, June 21

The Debunker: Is Cinco de Mayo Mexico's "Fourth of July"?

by Ken Jennings

Since 2014, June has been Immigrant Heritage Month in the United States, a time for Americans to remember our status as a nation of newcomers. So celebrate Immigrant Heritage Month along with us, until President Trump cancels it! After all, if you're here and you're not fully Native American, we guarantee that either you or an ancestor qualifies! As an extra bonus, we have Ken Jennings of Jeopardy! fame (and English/Welsh/Scotch-Irish stock) to school us about all the things we thought we knew about our ocean-crossing forebears.

The Debunker: Is Cinco de Mayo Mexico's "Fourth of July"?

Boy oh boy do we white people look forward to the fifth of May! That's when we can wear sombreros and drink frozen Margaritas and feel like we're saluting diversity! After all, Cinco de Mayo is a pretty important holiday in Mexico. It's like their independence day, or something.

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Tuesday, June 14

The Debunker: Did German Almost Become the National Language?

by Ken Jennings

Since 2014, June has been Immigrant Heritage Month in the United States, a time for Americans to remember our status as a nation of newcomers. So celebrate Immigrant Heritage Month along with us, until President Trump cancels it! After all, if you're here and you're not fully Native American, we guarantee that either you or an ancestor qualifies! As an extra bonus, we have Ken Jennings of Jeopardy! fame (and English/Welsh/Scotch-Irish stock) to school us about all the things we thought we knew about our ocean-crossing forebears.

The Debunker: Did German Almost Become the National Language?

There's a legend that's been circulating since at least the 1840s on both sides of the Atlantic, from travel literature to school lectures to Ann Landers columns. According to these authorities, in 1794, Congress came within one vote of making German the official language of the United States. When I heard first heard this story growing up, it seemed strange but not impossible. In the mists of early federal experimentation, we almost had all kinds of weird stuff. Ben Franklin once wrote that the turkey should be our national bird. John Adams wanted to call the president "Your Highness." The American rulebook was still being written back then—why not stick it to the English by bailing on their language? After all, fully nine percent of early Americans were already native German speakers, making them the nation's biggest linguistic minority.

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Tuesday, June 07

The Debunker: Did Immigrants' Names Get Changed at Ellis Island?

by Ken Jennings

Since 2014, June has been Immigrant Heritage Month in the United States, a time for Americans to remember our status as a nation of newcomers. So celebrate Immigrant Heritage Month along with us, until President Trump cancels it! After all, if you're here and you're not fully Native American, we guarantee that either you or an ancestor qualifies! As an extra bonus, we have Ken Jennings of Jeopardy! fame (and English/Welsh/Scotch-Irish stock) to school us about all the things we thought we knew about our ocean-crossing forebears.

The Debunker: Did Immigrants' Names Get Changed at Ellis Island?

American family lore is full of tales of surnames being changed for the New World: Guttmans becoming Goodmans, DiMartinos becoming Martins, Szelbracikowskis becoming Shelbricks. In many accounts, this change is the fault of a clueless or capricious clerk at Ellis Island, like the harried immigration officer who accidentally renames Vito Andolini "Corleone" in The Godfather, Part II when he mistakes the name of Vito's Sicilian village for his surname. Consider the poor immigrants, having given up so many worldly possessions to make it to these shores, who now discovers that they won't even be allowed to keep their last name. Sad!

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Tuesday, June 23

The Debunker: Did Deep Throat Tell Woodward and Bernstein to "Follow the Money"?

by Ken Jennings

The most beloved show in television history about daytime drinking, Mad Men, just wrapped up its eight-year run, with Don Draper and his ad-pitching peers marching boldly into the 1970s. For past Mad Men seasons, Ken Jennings of Jeopardy! fame has helped us debunk some persistent myths from the 1950s and the 1960s so we've asked him to keep on truckin' and do us a solid by debunking some "Me Decade" misinformation as well. It turns out that a lot of what we think we know about the seventies is pretty "far out."

The Debunker: Did Deep Throat Tell Woodward and Bernstein to "Follow the Money"?

Aside from Richard Nixon's immortal declaration "I am not a crook," it's probably the most famous quote of the Watergate era. Picture the scene: Bob Woodward in a darkened parking garage, a broken reporter, all his Watergate leads having turned out to be dead ends. There stands his ace in the hole, a highly placed administration source he calls "Deep Throat." "Follow the money!" urges Deep Throat. Woodward and Bernstein begin tracing donations to Nixon's 1972 re-election campaign, and break the story wide open. The three-word phrase has become a watchword of other investigations, both real and fictional, ever since.

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Tuesday, June 16

The Debunker: Who Screams During the Instrumental Break in "Love Rollercoaster"?

by Ken Jennings

The most beloved show in television history about daytime drinking, Mad Men, just wrapped up its eight-year run, with Don Draper and his ad-pitching peers marching boldly into the 1970s. For past Mad Men seasons, Ken Jennings of Jeopardy! fame has helped us debunk some persistent myths from the 1950s and the 1960s so we've asked him to keep on truckin' and do us a solid by debunking some "Me Decade" misinformation as well. It turns out that a lot of what we think we know about the seventies is pretty "far out."

The Debunker: Who Screams During the Instrumental Break in "Love Rollercoaster"?

"Rollercoaster! Of love!" It's one of the most famous choruses of the early disco era, and one of the signature hits of the Ohio Players, the Dayton-based funk band recently voted as founding members of the R&B Music Hall of Fame. The song was released on their 1975 album Honey and quickly became a million seller.

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Tuesday, June 09

The Debunker: Was Pong the First Video Game?

by Ken Jennings

The most beloved show in television history about daytime drinking, Mad Men, just wrapped up its eight-year run, with Don Draper and his ad-pitching peers marching boldly into the 1970s. For past Mad Men seasons, Ken Jennings of Jeopardy! fame has helped us debunk some persistent myths from the 1950s and the 1960s so we've asked him to keep on truckin' and do us a solid by debunking some "Me Decade" misinformation as well. It turns out that a lot of what we think we know about the seventies is pretty "far out."

The Debunker: Was Pong the First Video Game?

In 1972, an Atari engineer named Allan Alcorn soldered a black-and-white Hitachi TV and some simple circuits into a wooden cabinet and placed the device in a local tavern in Sunnyvale, California. On the TV, patrons who put in a quarter could play an exceedingly simple tennis-like electronic game that Atari called Pong. The game was such a hit that technical problems hit almost immediately: within days, the coin mechanism was overflowing with coins. By the end of the decade, Atari wound up shipping 19,000 Pong games to arcades worldwide, and sold 150,000 home versions during Christmas 1975 alone. The video game industry was born.

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Tuesday, June 02

The Debunker: Did the Jonestown Cultists Drink the Kool-Aid?

by Ken Jennings

The most beloved show in television history about daytime drinking, Mad Men, just wrapped up its eight-year run, with Don Draper and his ad-pitching peers marching boldly into the 1970s. For past Mad Men seasons, Ken Jennings of Jeopardy! fame has helped us debunk some persistent myths from the 1950s and the 1960s so we've asked him to keep on truckin' and do us a solid by debunking some "Me Decade" misinformation as well. It turns out that a lot of what we think we know about the seventies is pretty "far out."

The Debunker: Did the Jonestown Cultists Drink the Kool-Aid?

Comedian Louis C.K. does a joke about how much crazier and more vivid the 1970s were than anything we have today. "Today people are like, 'The president's kind of disappointing," he said. "Really? Our president wept like an insane person and then got on a helicopter and flew away!" But when I look back at the hallucinatory, holy-crap-did-that-really-happen Seventies, I don't think about Watergate. I think about Jonestown.

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Tuesday, June 24

The Debunker: Are Wedding Dresses White to Symbolize Virginity?

by Ken Jennings

“Oh, my Luve’s like a red, red, rose / That’s newly sprung in June,” wrote Robert Burns, and while it’s always sad when a poet doesn’t know how to spell an easy word like “love,” it’s undeniably true that June is the most romantic month of the year. To this day, it’s the most popular month for Americans to get married, just ahead of August and May. We’ve asked Ken Jennings, the famous Jeopardy! champion and relationship guru, to puncture four matrimonial myths that have stuck around for years, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health. If you’re not ready to have all your marital misconceptions shattered, speak now or forever hold your peace.

The Debunker: Are Wedding Dresses White to Symbolize Virginity?

It was rarely a nice day for a white wedding at the turn of the 19th century, so it’s a good thing Billy Idol wasn’t trying to make a go of it as a singer then. Bridal gowns up back then were typically practical affairs: black, brown, or gray dresses that could be reused throughout married life. But then, on February 10, 1840, everything changed.

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Tuesday, June 17

The Debunker: Can Catholic Priests Be Married?

by Ken Jennings

“Oh, my Luve’s like a red, red, rose / That’s newly sprung in June,” wrote Robert Burns, and while it’s always sad when a poet doesn’t know how to spell an easy word like “love,” it’s undeniably true that June is the most romantic month of the year. To this day, it’s the most popular month for Americans to get married, just ahead of August and May. We’ve asked Ken Jennings, the famous Jeopardy! champion and relationship guru, to puncture four matrimonial myths that have stuck around for years, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health. If you’re not ready to have all your marital misconceptions shattered, speak now or forever hold your peace.

The Debunker: Can Catholic Priests Be Married?

Last month, Pope Francis said for the first time that he might consider ending priestly celibacy. “The door is always open,” he told surprised reporters. “It is not a dogma of faith.” It’s true enough that, according to the Bible, many of the early apostles were married (Peter has a mother-in-law in Matthew chapter 8) and many priests were married over a period of a thousand years before the practice was finally banned by the First Lateran Council in 1123.

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