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"Come to a sleepover. Bring your mom's Pretty Woman video and a coin."
March 14, 2006 11:07 PM   Subscribe

I started thinking about what I guess you'd call "Urban Legend Rules of Thumb", The kind of stuff people (especially teenagers) make up and pass on to answer nagging questions like "How can I tell if my boobs are saggy?" and "How big can an age difference in a relationship be before it's creepy?". I'd like to hear some more.

When I was in high school, this kind of stuff was absolutely authoritative and inarguable. You weren't supposed to be able to hold a coin between your thighs when your knees were pressed together, and you had to have had three (3) sexual partners. These were the rules about what was normal and ok, neatly packaged. I'm sure there are a million more. Where do they come from? Do they change over time, or from place to place? Tell me one, and tell me where and when you learned it.

The answers to the dilemmas above are:

You should not be able to hold a coin under a boob (but this one is contradictory, it was also said that you could tell if you were ready for a bra with this test - and what's with all the coins? and what kind of coin?).

You should not date someone younger than half your age plus seven. Therefore an 18 year old may not date anyone younger than 16, or a 30 year old anyone younger than 22.
posted by crabintheocean to Grab Bag (51 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
Oh, and the coin rules I learned in London in the late 80's or early 90's, but my wife told me the age difference one.
posted by crabintheocean at 11:14 PM on March 14, 2006


I learned a variant on the coin-trick from Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret: if you can hold a pencil under your boob you're ready for a bra. The fine line between the two probably belies your demographic--for teens it means locker room legitimacy; for slightly older Cosmo readers it's a sign of premature aging.
posted by soviet sleepover at 11:28 PM on March 14, 2006


This one was actually corroborated by Psychology Today, to a point...if your index finger is higher than your ring finger, you're straight. If your ring finger is higher, than you're gay.
posted by apple scruff at 11:37 PM on March 14, 2006


Wow, my left hand is definitely straight, but my right is totally gay. An old girlfriend claimed that 75% of left-handers are gay, but she probably read that on an Ani DiFranco listserv circa 1997.
posted by soviet sleepover at 11:42 PM on March 14, 2006


Pencil under the butt cheek or breast for obesity testing.
There were five places on the legs for coins in the rule I heard (and my mother told me this about 30 years ago).
3 second rule for dropping food on the ground(not enough time for the germs to jump on).
I vaguely remember the half + seven partner rule was mentioned in Little Women (LM Alcott) so that rules been around for ages.
I had very sceptical brothers so luckily wasn't really infected with this.
posted by b33j at 11:55 PM on March 14, 2006


We had:

Penis size is the distance from the middle of your palm to the top of your index finger.

Penis size is related to shoe size (somehow, don't quite remember).

You're a good kisser if you can tie a cherry stem in a knot inside your mouth.

You can't get preganant if it's the firs time.

You can't get pregnant if the man pulls out.

You can't get pregnant if you still have a hymen.

A woman is ready to have sex if the man can put his fist inside her. (ew.)

Some of these can be quite dangerous. From what I have directly heard, in Africa and India, for instance, there are tons about how you can get AIDS and how you can get rid of it. (By sleeping with someone who hasn't had sex yet, by sleeping with a white woman.) I'm sure these myths persist in some parts of the developed world as well.

As for explanations, I think it's just guesses at what could be proper correlations with whatever data is readily at hand (coins, bodies, rulers, cherry stems). Kids and teens are natural scientific thinkers with bad datasets. They are regularly mistaken because people aren't old enough to know what kinds of things commonly figure in causal relations as opposed to mere correlations. This holds both for the people doing the "experiments" and the people just passing on the experiments.
posted by ontic at 12:14 AM on March 15, 2006


According to this, I'm gay -- but I have a very large penis.... neither of which are true.
posted by rossination at 12:18 AM on March 15, 2006


Many young men are concerned about how they stack up physically with their peers. Weightroom wisdom: One should be able to bench their own weight and squat twice that amount.
posted by hooves at 12:37 AM on March 15, 2006


The only one I can think of is, ask a guy to look at his fingernails.

If he holds his hand palm toward him and bends his fingers to look at them, he's straight, but if he holds it palm-outward and extends his fingers, he's gay.

Oh and girls with a gap between their front teeth were "goers".
posted by AmbroseChapel at 1:01 AM on March 15, 2006


In Thailand, girls with wide foreheads are absolutely scientifically known to have wide vaginas.

The half your age + 7 rule is The Law, except in Hollywood, where someone may be exempt if they have $10million in the bank for every year exemption they claim.

You can't get preganant if you do it standing up (sperm runs out?) or if the woman has a postage stamp over her navel during intercourse (foetus can't breathe, see?). You can get pregnant by swallowing semen (food goes into the blood, right?).

A Turkish friend told me that "men aren't gay if they don't push back" during anal intercourse.

If you can see any light between a girl's thighs when she's standing with her feet together, she's not a virgin.

It's true about girls with gaps in their teeth.
posted by Pericles at 1:29 AM on March 15, 2006


People whose eyes always show three whites (i.e. to the left, right and below the iris) are psychopaths.
posted by bunglin jones at 2:51 AM on March 15, 2006


bunglin, I believe there's a Japanese word for that: sanpaku. Probably an urban legend, though.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:01 AM on March 15, 2006


I think ontic and I were at the same school. Otherwise the penis one is definitely widespread.
posted by sjvilla79 at 3:09 AM on March 15, 2006


We had:

Every person swallows 7.8 (or whatever odd number) of spiders in their sleep a year.

If your hand is bigger than your face, you have cancer (although, that was just to ge someone to hold their hand up to their face so you could hit it quickly, thus have them smack themselves in the nose).
posted by piratebowling at 3:37 AM on March 15, 2006


Your foot is the nearly the exact length from your elbow to your wrist. That one seems to be true though...
posted by Orange Goblin at 3:50 AM on March 15, 2006


Every man's nipples are exactly 8 inches apart.

For real.
posted by gi_wrighty at 4:18 AM on March 15, 2006


Every man's nipples are exactly 8 inches apart.

For real.


Not.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:38 AM on March 15, 2006


The gay finger test is just wrong. I'm straight but the ring finger is taller. But I am a piano player so maybe that throws it off. ;-)
posted by konolia at 4:39 AM on March 15, 2006


Didn't Malcolm X talk about the sanctity of the "half your age + 7" rule in his autobiography?
posted by kmel at 5:10 AM on March 15, 2006


if your index finger is higher than your ring finger, you're straight. If your ring finger is higher, than you're gay.

Didn't this used to be a test to see if someone was a witch?
posted by mikepop at 5:23 AM on March 15, 2006


Your foot is the nearly the exact length from your elbow to your wrist. That one seems to be true though...

Not in my case... my arm's a good two inches longer. But then, I have small feet. Maybe I'm just a freak.

I'd always been told that, when standing with your arms straight out, the distance from fingertips to fingertips and across the torso was the same as your height.
posted by Kellydamnit at 5:38 AM on March 15, 2006


I'd always been told that, when standing with your arms straight out, the distance from fingertips to fingertips and across the torso was the same as your height.

Your armspan divided by your height is your Monkey Ratio (ie greater than 1 is high monkeyness).
posted by gi_wrighty at 5:40 AM on March 15, 2006


If he holds his hand palm toward him and bends his fingers to look at them, he's straight, but if he holds it palm-outward and extends his fingers, he's gay.

My school had a joke version of this: Tell a guy his nails are dirty. If he curls his fingers in, he's gay. If he holds them straight out, he's bi. If he says, "So?" and doesn't look at them, he's straight.
posted by justkevin at 5:54 AM on March 15, 2006


A lot of these I wouldn't call "Urban Legend Rules of Thumb". More like old wives' tales - or kids' rules. In my experience, they were big in high school and college, but then mostly got outgrown (although occasionally some less-than-critical thinkers still haul them out as fact). And (like those listed here) a lot were sex-related; identifying virgins, gays, etc. The only one I remember; semen is a cure for acne.

On a semi-related note, Robert Paul Smith wrote about a similar kind of knowledge in his book, "Where Did You Go? Out. What Did You Do? Nothing." But they were ones learned "as a kid" (i.e. around 10 years old). A few examples:
- If you cut a worm in half, the next day you'll have two worms.
- Step on a crack, break your mother's back.
- If you cut the webbing between your thumb and forefinger, you die.
- If you play with yourself too much your brain gets soft.
posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 6:07 AM on March 15, 2006


If you swallow chewing gum, it takes 7 years to digest.
posted by JanetLand at 6:19 AM on March 15, 2006


A variant on the fingernail one:

Tell a guy he has something on his shoe (stepped in gum, etc). If he bends his leg up in front of him and grabs his foot to check, he's straight. If he bends it straight back and peers over his shoulder, he's gay.
posted by mikeh at 6:50 AM on March 15, 2006


Actually, a variant of the finger thing is true. My professor is actually the one who did the research. They found that people who chose same sex partners did have a different finger ratio than did those with opposite sex partners. I think its the left hand only. Anyhow, its actually got something to do with the amount of prenatal testosterone they were exposed to, which is supposed to have an effect on the brain as well. The guy's name is Breedlove (ironic, eh?) if you wanted to google further, I'm sure there is stuff out there....
posted by gilsonal at 6:52 AM on March 15, 2006


This one was actually corroborated by Psychology Today

To be clear: Psychology Today is not a scientific journal. Their corroboration is about as meaningful as Good Housekeeping's would be.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 7:22 AM on March 15, 2006


It took me years to be convinced the worm one wasn't true. I believed it until I was fourteen and got laughed out of my highschool biology class for asking the teacher about it.

Oh, and if you go swimming within 30 minutes of eating you will definitely get cramps and die. No foolin'.
posted by hot soup girl at 7:29 AM on March 15, 2006


I've never heard that finger length has anything to do with being gay, but the studies I've read seem to point to an opposite conclusion. This BBC article about a study in the journal Biological Psychology says that finger length [is a] 'key to aggression' and another study from Liverpool University says that a shorter ring finger means you've got a higher chance of a heart attack.

Further research shows that the finger length ration (known as the "2D:4D digit ratio") is an indication of hypermasculinization, which can manifest in a number of ways including:
  • More fertile
  • Higher lifetime reproductive success
  • More aggressive and assertive
  • Greater proclivity toward homosexuality/bisexuality
  • Higher musical and sports aptitude
Considerinng all this, and the fact that my ring finger is longer that my index, I should be a aggressive, assertive father of four with a career in music, a boyfriend on the side and no chance of a hear attack.
posted by DragonBoy at 7:51 AM on March 15, 2006 [1 favorite]


Woops... Missed the 'h'

Further research shows...
posted by DragonBoy at 8:00 AM on March 15, 2006


I remembered another one. If you are 5' tall, you should weigh 105lbs. You may weigh an extra 5lbs for every extra inch in height.
posted by crabintheocean at 8:32 AM on March 15, 2006


I'd always been told that, when standing with your arms straight out, the distance from fingertips to fingertips and across the torso was the same as your height.

This one's true. I've seen it at the Bodyworlds exhibition when it was in London a couple of years ago - they had.. slices.. one head to toe, one arm to arm. Orientated the same way, they were indeed the same length.
posted by Lotto at 8:55 AM on March 15, 2006


Your armiage may vary.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 8:58 AM on March 15, 2006


I'd always been told that, when standing with your arms straight out, the distance from fingertips to fingertips and across the torso was the same as your height.

This one's true.


Well, it varies. I tried this with some friends in high school, who called it your "ape factor." I have short limbs and a long torso, so my wingspan is 4 inches shorter than my height. My friends, who were all brothers and sisters, all had a wingspan that was 4 inches longer than their height.
posted by lampoil at 9:03 AM on March 15, 2006


Lotto: "I'd always been told that, when standing with your arms straight out, the distance from fingertips to fingertips and across the torso was the same as your height.

This was the 'ideal' proportion for the Greeks, and was spelt out by Vitruvius and rendered (much) later by Da Vinci (among many others) in the guy-with-for-arms in a circle and square illustration they use for fucking eveything from architecture to medicine.
posted by signal at 9:16 AM on March 15, 2006


((age/2)+7): The earliest reference to the "half age + 7" rule I found in a guide for matchmaking and marriage circa Victorian England. (I wish I could cite the source.)
The suggestion was that a man would be happiest with a bride that has half many years as seven more than half of his own. The logic breaks down immediately when you realize that the husband and wife continue to age after marriage, which would make them incompatable in two years or less.

I have noticed, personally, that women who are significantly younger than me find me more attractive, but I can't stand their company if they're too much younger than me. Strangely, ((32/2)+7) seems to be my lower limit, although I've met people older than that who are still too immature for long-term relationships.

5 seconds: Didn't Mythbusters or Penn & Teller's Bull's Hit mention this superstition? I believe it was determined that the transfer of bacteria is instantaneous, something to do with the bacteria themselves not moving, but the dust and detrius they ride on getting knocked onto the food at the moment of impact.

George Carlin said "I've got a five-second rule in my house: if you drop food, leave it there for five seconds. You need to expose yourself to germs to build up an immunity."
posted by Mozai at 9:26 AM on March 15, 2006


Bacteria, gunk &etc stick to your food (or anything) the moment it hits the ground. They don't have to wiggle, squelch, or otherwise move themselves over. If you drop food on dirt, it doesn't take 5 seconds for the dirt to stick to your food. Now just imagine dirt, but smaller.

I think this rule was made up so that you didn't have to throw out that candy you just got, and accidentally dropped on the ground.
Like Mozai pointed out:
George Carlin said "I've got a five-second rule in my house: if you drop food, leave it there for five seconds. You need to expose yourself to germs to build up an immunity."

It's good for you.
posted by defcom1 at 9:53 AM on March 15, 2006


"Dirt don't hurt" is the abbreviated candy rhyme. Or, if you like it in a metric— You'll eat a peck of dirt before you die.
posted by klangklangston at 10:07 AM on March 15, 2006


Depends on the type of worm. regenerate. Each segment of a segmented tapeworm can become separate and independent creatures.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 10:08 AM on March 15, 2006


Something my dad told me while shopping for my first suit. I think I tried to validate it once when I was young and disproportioned:

Twice around your wrist = once around your neck
twice around your neck = once around your waist
(this was apparently an old tailor's trick)

The foot = elbow to wrist works for me only if my elbow is straight, if it's bent in, then elbow to wrist is my handspan. Anyone else similar?

Also, penis sizes:
if you fold your hand (like cupping a fly in it), then extend it, from the lowest point your middle finger goes when cupped to when extended -- that's how long your junk is (easier to do than explain).
if you make a right angle with your thumb and index finger, your member will be the hypotenuse.

...one last thing, kind of an aside... my friend grew up thinking that cows were called "horses" and horses were called "range elk". messed him up bad in kindergarten.
posted by toomanyplugs at 10:10 AM on March 15, 2006


While I don't doubt that the 3 second rule is bad, I seem to remember that Mythbuster's experiment was deeply flawed. There was no no second drop. There should have been a control petri dish where nothing had been done do it except add the agar agar. I suspect that one would have had just as much growth as the other plates after a few days.
posted by aspo at 10:15 AM on March 15, 2006


Here's Snopes on dropped food.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 10:35 AM on March 15, 2006


When calculating mortgage repayments (on a house or flat in the UK) your monthly payment will be £6 for every £1000 of the total price.

So (£250,000 / 1000) x 6 = £1,500 per month.

It works best with the APR at about 5%. Since they are currently in the 4.2-4.8% range it is a little too high.

Obviously doesn't work on an interest only mortgage!
posted by mr_silver at 10:59 AM on March 15, 2006


Actually now that I remember the Mythbuster's show better I seem to recall (how's that for disclaimers) the real problem was a lack of a 0 second test case, just a 5 second and 30 second case.

Take a piece of meat. Don't ever drop it, and then do the same swap/agar/petri plate/growth box thingy that Mythbusters did. I will bet large sums of money you get lots of nasty bacteria growth. That's why you don't store meat in hot humid areas.
posted by aspo at 11:29 AM on March 15, 2006


PinkStainlessTail writes "To be clear: Psychology Today is not a scientific journal."

Well, duh. But the scientific journal they cited...was. PT is more of a digest than a journal; I don't think they do any of their own testing.
posted by apple scruff at 12:07 PM on March 15, 2006


Instead of pulling the stem off your apple you twist it off as you chant the alphabet. The letter you are saying as it breaks off is the first initial of the person you will marry. To find the last initial you stab at the apple with the stem until the stem breaks through the skin. With each stab, you say a letter of the alphabet.

And don't forget MASH - that was totally authoritative. I'm still waiting to marry my brother and drive a shopping cart. It will happen.
posted by arcticwoman at 1:30 PM on March 15, 2006


Don't tell me you all didn't believe these schoolyard legends. ;)

1) Miss Mary Mac (all dressed in black) had silver buttons all down her back. She asked her mother for fifty cents to see the elephants jump over the fence. They jumped so high they touched the sky and didn't come back till the 4th of July.

2) Miss Tina had a steamboat, the steamboat had a bell, the steamboat went to heaven, Miss Tina went to -- Hello operator, please give me number nine, and if you disconnect me, i'll kick you from -- Behind the 'fridgerator, there was a piece of glass, and if you disconnect me, I'll kick you in the -- Ask me no more questions, I'll tell you no more lies, the boys are in the bathroom, zipping up their -- Flies are in the city, bees are in the park, boys and girls are kissing in the d-a-r-k d-a-r-k d-a-r-k dark dark dark.
posted by salvia at 4:28 PM on March 15, 2006


If you hurt inside your navel, you will die.

If you eat mango and then drink milk, you will die.

If you pass between someone's legs, you won't grow any longer (unless you 'unpass' backwards)

If you pass under a rainbow, you change sex.
posted by qvantamon at 6:02 PM on March 15, 2006


Peel an apple in one long piece and toss it over your shoulder. It'll form the letter of the person you'll marry.
posted by stray at 9:55 PM on March 15, 2006


Slap both your friend's hands. Which one hurts more?

Drag a finger down each finger of that hand. Which one tickles more?

Pinch each joint of that finger. Which one hurts more?

Have your friend think of a letter, A to D. Now poke at pinch and stare at the joint until a letter appears under the skin in blood. That'll be the letter your friend is thinking of.
posted by stray at 9:57 PM on March 15, 2006


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