10 Misconceptions About Pirates

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Hi I'm Elliott and this is mental_floss video. Today I'm gonna talk about some misconceptions about pirates and destroy all of your dreams.


This is a common misconception because there were thousands of problematic pirates between around 1650 and 1720 CE, but pirates have been around for a lot longer than that. In fact, there's evidence that pirates were a huge problem in the Aegean and Mediterranean Sea during the 14th century BCE. The ancient Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians all had to be wary of pirates coming into their ports and disrupting their trade. You know, how pirates do.


Actually, experts believe that 17th century pirates talked just like any other English sailor would, so they probably did not have their own accents and slang words. It was the 1950 Disney movie Treasure Island that invented and popularized pirate speak with "arrrr"s and expressions like "shiver me timbers."


If you think about it, why would they do this? Still, the idea that pirates bury their treasure persevered thanks to works of fiction. Most pirates would not dare to do this. One pirate who did was William Kidd who lived during the 17th century. Authorities found some of his treasure buried on Long Island, New York, which was then used as evidence to convict Kidd. People still look for more of Kidd's buried treasure to this day, but the majority of pirates held onto their riches. 'Cause, like, why wouldn't you?


Actually many pirate crews were pretty progressive for their time. For instance, some experts claim that pirates had some of the original homosexual marriages, known as matelotages. According to the book Sodomy and the Pirate Tradition, this was "linking a buccaneer and another male—most often a youth—in a relationship with clearly homosexual characteristics." Sometimes this would extend to sharing each other's property and being your partner's sole heir. Other common prejudices at the time were ignored too, like many pirate crews included freed and runaway slaves. It's estimated that 60 percent of Blackbeard's crew was black. Women were rarely welcomed by pirates, though.


Actually, the majority of pirates were probably in their 20s, and this is because many people turned to piracy after trying their luck as merchants or sailors, which were jobs for young men. It also probably helped that men in their 20s were less likely to have attachments at home, so they were more willing to become pirates. This checks out—one study estimates that only 4 percent of pirates between 1716 and 1726 were married.


Well-known pirates like Blackbeard got their reputations because they had these large, intimidating ships, so it really depended on the pirate, but many ships were fairly small and there were advantages to that. Smaller ships were faster and it was easier for them to approach shallow waters to do all their pirating business.


Alright, so the evidence for pirates wearing eye patches is sketchy at best, but if they did it probably wasn't because they were missing an eye. When you go from a bright area to a completely dark one, it might take your eyes almost half an hour to completely adjust, so pirates might have chosen to keep one of their eyes adjusted to the dark at all times. That way, when they went from the bright decks of the ship to the dark below areas, they'd be able to use the eye that was normally covered by the patch to see. I would call this a stupid idea, but I'm not a pirate.


Actually, so many pirates were successful because they laid down the law and kept their ships in order. Pirate codes were not uncommon: some banned the crew from gambling and smoking and some had limitations on drinking, so it was no fun, guys. No fun to be a pirate.


First of all, it wasn't the decision of one person, the captain for instance. Many crews were actually democratic and would vote on the fate of a traitor. And having prisoners walk the plank was rare, but that doesn't mean they were nice guys necessarily. If they had a prisoner they needed information out of, torturing the person wasn't out of the question.


Oh no, they do. Modern pirates have been known to hijack ships and hold them for ransom. According to The Economist, an average ship provides a crew of pirates with $2.7 million, meaning they might get $75,000 each. And piracy is a huge problem because they travel around and commit crimes in many countries, meaning it often needs to be dealt with on an international level.

Thank you for watching Misconceptions on mental_floss video. If you guys have a topic for an upcoming Misconceptions video that you'd like to see, leave it in the comments and we'll check it out and maybe we'll do it, it'll be a lot of fun. Bye!

Roadside Bear Statue in Wales is So Lifelike That Safety Officials Want It Removed

Wooden bear statue.

There are no real bears in the British Isles for residents to worry about, but a statue of one in the small Welsh town of Llanwrtyd Wells has become a cause of concern. As The Telegraph reports, the statue is so convincing that it's scaring drivers, causing at least one motorist to crash her car. Now road safety officials are demanding it be removed.

The 10-foot wooden statue has been a fixture on the roadside for at least 15 years. It made headlines in May of 2018 when a woman driving her car saw the landmark and took it to be the real thing. She was so startled that she veered off the road and into a street sign.

After the incident, she complained about the bear to highways officials who agreed that it poses a safety threat and should be removed. But the small town isn't giving in to the Welsh government's demands so quickly.

The bear statue was originally erected on the site of a now-defunct wool mill. Even though the mill has since closed, locals still see the statue as an important landmark. Llanwrtyd Wells councilor Peter James called it an "iconic gateway of the town," according to The Telegraph.

Another town resident, who wished to remain anonymous, told The Telegraph that the woman who crashed her car had been a tourist from Canada where bears are common. Bear were hunted to extinction in Britain about 1000 years ago, so local drivers have no reason to look out for the real animals on the side of the road.

The statue remains in its old spot, but Welsh government officials plan to remove it themselves if the town doesn't cooperate. For now, temporary traffic lights have been set up around the site of the accident to prevent any similar incidents.

[h/t The Telegraph]

The Most Popular Infomercial Product in Each State

You don't have to pay $19.95 plus shipping and handling to discover the most popular infomercial product in each state: AT&T retailer All Home Connections is giving that information away for free via a handy map.

The map was compiled by cross-referencing the top-grossing infomercial products of all time with Google Trends search interest from the past calendar year. So, which crazy products do people order most from their TVs?

Folks in Arizona know that it's too hot there to wear layers; that's why they invest in the Cami Secret—a clip-on, mock top that gives them the look of a camisole without all the added fabric. No-nonsense New Yorkers are protecting themselves from identity theft with the RFID-blocking Aluma wallet. Delaware's priorities are all sorted out, because tons of its residents are still riding the Snuggie wave. Meanwhile, Vermont has figured out that Pajama Jeans are the way to go—because who needs real pants?

Unsurprisingly, the most popular product in many states has to do with fitness and weight loss, because when you're watching TV late enough to start seeing infomercials, you're probably also thinking to yourself: "I need to get my life together. I should get in shape." Seven states—Colorado, Idaho, Kentucky, Montana, Nebraska, Utah, and Wisconsin—have invested in the P90X home fitness system, while West Virginia and Arkansas prefer the gentler workout provided by the Shake Weight. The ThighMaster is still a thing in Illinois and Washington, while Total Gym and Bowflex were favored by South Dakota and Wyoming, respectively. 

Kitchen items are clearly another category ripe for impulse-buying: Alabama and North Dakota are all over the George Forman Grill; Alaska and Rhode Island are mixing things up with the Magic Bullet; and Floridians must be using their Slice-o-matics to chop up limes for their poolside margaritas.

Cleaning products like OxiClean (D.C. and Hawaii), Sani Sticks (North Carolina), and the infamous ShamWow (which claims the loyalty of Mainers) are also popular, but it's Proactiv that turned out to be the big winner. The beloved skin care system claimed the top spot in eight states—California, Mississippi, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee, and Texas—making it the most popular item on the map.

Peep the full map above, or check out the full study from All Home Connections here.


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