I bet when you were a kid some oldster told you TV would rot your brain. But, on the contrary, there are tons of facts I only know because I watched a ton of TV and movies growing up. For example, I am not what you would call a gear head, but I can explain how an independent rear suspension works and what "positraction" does thanks to the testimony of Mona Lisa Vito in the 1992 film My Cousin Vinny.
Here are just some of the bits of trivia folks probably only know because they had too much screen time growing up.
The meaning of the word "sporadic."
Look, if you learned that word by reading it in a book and then looking it up in a dictionary, I'm happy for you. But most people of a certain age learned this word means "once in a while" thanks to Cher Horowitz in Clueless encouraging Tai to expand her vocabulary. Try to use it in a sentence!.
The delegates to the Second Continental Congress.
I asked people on Twitter some of the things they learned from movies, and one friend shared that she only remembers the thirteen original colonies and most of their delegates because of the movie musical 1776. (Not a movie, but I definitely can attribute virtually everything I know about the Revolutionary War to Hamilton.)
Most people who didn't live through the 1980s would have no idea how to care for a perm if not for Elle Woods in Legally Blonde. She used that knowledge to demolish Chutney's alibi during her testimony against her stepmother, Brooke. Now we all know you're forbidden to wet your hair for at least 24 hours after getting a perm at the risk of deactivating the ammonium thioglycolate.
The formula for glue.
OK, I admit this might not be how glue is made, but as a kid I memorized the formula for the stick-em on Post-Its in Romy and Michele's High School Reunion dream sequence... and it feels right to me. See, first you need to thermoset your resin and then, after it cools, you mix in an epoxide, which is really just a fancy schmancy adhesive, right? But it turns out you can raise the viscosity if you add a complex glucose derivative during the emulsification process!
Thanks to Sandy Bullock, pretty much every woman is equipped to deal with an assailant who attacks her from behind, thanks to her demo of S.I.N.G. (solar plexus, instep, nose, groin) in Miss Congeniality. My best friend literally fended off a guy who grabbed her on the street thanks to that movie!
If you've ever been confused about which fork to use at a fancy dinner, just watch Titanic for Molly Brown's advice to Jack during his invitation to dine with first class. "Just start from the outside and work your way in." It's much simpler than Barney's confusing tutorial to Vivian in Pretty Woman.
Loop, Swoop, and Pull!
If you struggled with tying your shoes in the early 00s, you probably got a big assist from Adam Sandler in Big Daddy, who taught the total game-changing "loop, swoop, and pull" method to a young Cole (or Dylan) Sprouse.
Some colorful French.
There are plenty of foreign curse words people probably only know because of movies and TV. For example, I learned how to say, "I don't know, maybe it's up your ass!" from 10 Things I Hate About You. It's, "Je ne sais pas, peut être qu'il est dans ton cul?" Try it next time someone asks if you've seen their keys.
What those cue marks on old movies mean.
Before we saw Fight Club, most of us had no idea why that weird mark used to show up in the upper-right corner of films during movie screenings. Now we know it's a cue to the projectionist that it's time to change the reel. Most films are digital now, so cue marks are a relic of the past.
The international differences on fast food menus.
Thanks to Pulp Fiction, we know a McDonald's Quarter Pounder is called a Royale with Cheese in France (and most of Europe) because of the metric system, and that you can get a class of beer in a lot of European franchises. Unfortunately, we never learned what they called a Whopper.
How Napoleon was defeated at Waterloo.
In Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, Napoleon explains his idea for a waterpark and it's essentially his strategy for Waterloo, which was his biggest military defeat. Everyone knows he was defeated there, but Bill and Ted taught us why.
The water jug problem.
In Die Hard With a Vengeance, John McClane has to defuse a bomb by using a 3-gallon jug and a 5 gallon jug to measure out exactly 4 gallons of water. It's a seemingly impossible problem, but now we can solve it: fill the 5-gallon jug, then fill up the 3-gallon one with it, leaving two gallons in the bigger container. Then empty the 3-gallon jug and transfer the two gallons from the 5-gallon container over. This leaves space for one gallon. So, if you fill the 5-gallon container once more and use it to fill the 3-gallon one all the way up, exactly 4 gallons will remain in the big jug.
How to say the name "Hermione."
Admit it. Before the Harry Potter books were adapted to movies, you were probably saying Her-Me-Own and not Her-My-Own-Ee. Unless you happened to grow up as a Hermione or had one as a friend, you probably didn't know how it was pronounced before the films came out.
That Greenland and Iceland are both misnamed.
Thanks to The Mighty Ducks, we know that Greenland is ice and Iceland is green. It's how we recall that the glacial expanse known as Greenland was so named by Erik the Red essentially as a marketing ploy to get people to move there. (However, it's a myth that Iceland was named that to discourage people from moving there.)
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade taught us about forced perspective with the "leap of faith" trial in the search for the grail. While it seems like there's just a big ravine there, he's able to sprinkle some different colored earth over the bridge that's camouflaged there. It's a pretty neat trick.
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