You, of course, know that if you break a mirror, it's seven years of bad luck. But did you know that a room falls silent at 20 past every hour?
I discovered this and a host of other scientific facts as I reviewed a list of ''old wives' tales.''
This leads to the obvious questions: Why can't new wives tell tales, and why are we discriminating against the tales of old - or possibly new - husbands?
Old wives' tales is the name given to the compendium of common wisdom - both wise and a little suspect - passed down through the ages. The list of intelligence is pretty impressive. For example:
* Sitting too closely to a TV will ruin your eyes. (But you can hear it over people talking.)
* If you swallow gum, it will stay in your stomach for seven years. (Yes, do you have any shirts that look like Wrigley wrappers?)
* If you swallow watermelon seeds, a melon will grow in your stomach. (This could explain the bloating at my belt line.)
* If you sweep trash out the door after dark, it will bring a stranger to visit. (But if I toss out my junk in the daytime, the neighbors will catch me.)
* To cure a cough, take a hair from the coughing person's head, put it between two slices of buttered bread, feed it to a dog, and say, "Eat well you hound, may you be sick and I be sound." (And to think of all the money I wasted on cough syrup.)
As unbelievable as this may sound, some of these old wives' tales apparently aren't true. This is disappointing because I hadn't had time to enjoy the ''20 after'' rule.
According to that tale, even in the biggest crowds, a silence will fall across the room at 20 minutes past the hour. If this is the case, I want all important business meetings that I am forced to attend to begin at 18 after. Two minutes is more than enough jabbering.
A variation of that is that conversations lapse into silence every seven minutes. Let me tell you, as a guy who hates talking on the phone, I lapse into silence well before the seven minutes, but the person on the other end often doesn't take notice until after about 77 minutes.
A cousin with clippers once told me that hair grows faster on the left side of the head than the right. So she gave me a lop-sided haircut.
Nature will even it out in a couple days, she said. Nature wasn't listening. I wore a hat for three months. I was afraid to get another haircut for fear I would walk lop-sided.
Should I print them all, I could fill this entire newspaper with so-called old wives' tales.
Finding old husbands' tales was more difficult. Among them:
* Women cannot enter a restroom except in packs.
* ''What, that little thing? It won't hurt you.''
* ''It's really simple. Any fool can do that. All you have to do is (quickly mumble the batting order of the 1940 Chicago Cubs so that it sounds like instructions). Nothing to it.''
* They wouldn't sell it if it wasn't safe.
* Sitting too far away from a TV will ruin your eyes. (And you won't be able to hear it over the women chattering about chores.)
Actually, those all sound correct to me. I suppose I'm growing into an old husband.
---- Tell tales to Cole at firstname.lastname@example.org