COLUMN: Not all urban myths are tasty tidbits

The advent of email, Facebook and all the other electronic means of sharing information have been a boon to the urban myth, or legend.

The advent of email, Facebook and all the other electronic means of sharing information have been a boon to the urban myth, or legend. Through the wonder of instant communication, nonsense purported to be fact is consumed on a daily basis.

I remember the story years back about the “little old lady” who supposedly decided to dry her just-bathed poodle in the microwave. Poof went “Poopsie,” according to the “true story.” Though it wouldn’t surprise me if it were true, the actual genesis of the tale was in some wag’s fertile little mind and had no basis for truth at all.

However, gullible as we all are, many of us shared that tale as true.

There are, of course, many other myths out there. I recall long before computers and the Internet the belief that if you put a tooth in a glass of Coke and left it overnight, by morning it would have dissolved completely.

A hoax, but again shared as fact, though few it seems were willing to have a tooth extracted to prove the experiment’s veracity. And who would check every day to determine if there was truth to the story that it takes seven years for a swallowed chunk of chewing gum to pass through your system?

Back in the day, these fictional “facts” were shared by word of mouth, and circulation was slow, ensuring that by the time they were told, it was often relayed as “someone my friend knows …”

In this age, at least you are aware that most tales are of an anonymous source … like the recent sightings of a sasquatch or, as in a recent email, a story complete with gruesome photos of a guy who while supposedly retrieving a golf ball from a Florida water hazard lost his arm to a gator. Photos depicted an eviscerated croc with someone removing an arm from its stomach.

Was it real, or Photoshopped? No idea, but it certainly made the point that if I were a golfer, and happened to shoot a round in that sunny southern state, I’d be writing off rather than retrieving any ball that landed in the bayou.

Another “shocker” that was shared with me some time ago was a video purported to be true of U.S. snipers picking Taliban jihadists off mountaintops a mile away. The film showed people being blown up into the air from the impact of the .50-calibre rounds.

Sorry folks, doesn’t work that way, despite movie producers usually portraying someone being blown across a room from the impact of a bullet.

So it was with some skepticism that I read the first part of an email from “good old Grannie.”

“A few days ago there was a warning on the television not to use a wire brush to clean a grill because the bristles break and get into food.”

I thought, “Oh sure, another bunch of mythic nonsense,” until I read the next sentence of the email which noted that her neighbour’s son-in-law, who is a nearby neighbour of mine, was supposedly in hospital at the time having a barbecue brush wire removed from his throat!

As one who barbecues on an almost daily basis, year round, and who has always cleaned the grills with a wire brush, I immediately inspected my barbie and the brushes that hang on its side.

The grills were clean, the brushes however contained broken bristles.

Urban myth or not, I’ll be scraping instead of scrubbing from now on – the wire brushes consigned to the trash.

markrushton@abbynews.com