Old wives’ tales – good or bad?
Can you really cure a hangover?
…asked The Times online a while back, and then went on to say:
Some remedies may actually work, but others are just old wives’ tales — or may even be bad for you.
‘Just old wives’ tales’, eh? In other words, information of no use that it would be best to ignore.
Good job William Withering (1741-1799) didn’t take this attitude. Credited with the discovery of digitalis (or foxglove) as an effective treatment for heart disease, he in fact learnt of this preparation from a woman, Mrs Hutton, who lived in Shropshire, England, and worked as a herbalist. She used digitalis as part of a formulation containing over 20 different ingredients to successfully treat heart conditions.
Wikipedia has an account of this, but – tellingly – doesn’t bother to mention the woman’s name.
Isn’t it interesting how the phrase ‘old wives’ tale’ is almost always used pejoratively? Here’s Oxford Dictionaries’ definition.
It’s another example of how the everyday words and phrases we use have such power — in this case to deny and denigrate the knowledge and wisdom women have traditionally passed down through the generations.