It’s called the Mandela effect.
It’s named for Nelson Mandela, the icon of racial equality who tragically died in prison in the 1980s. If you’re old enough, you can probably remember a few of the moments from his funeral.
Of course, Nelson Mandela didn’t actually die in the 1980s; he survived his imprisonment, then became the first black president of South Africa, eventually dying of old age in 2013. President Barack Obama spoke at his funeral, which he clearly wouldn’t have been able to do had Mandela died in the ’80s. Plus that whole “first black president of South Africa” thing is kind of a big deal. Still, some people swear that they remember his funeral from decades earlier—despite clear evidence to the contrary.
Certain lies become entangled in our culture to an incredible degree. For instance…
1. It’s the “Berenstain Bears,” not the “Berenstein Bears.”
There’s actually a popular internet conspiracy theory that claims that we’re living in a parallel universe. According to the theory, our universe diverged from another in one crucial way: There’s a children’s book series in our universe called “Berenstein Bears,” but in the parallel universe, it’s spelled “Berenstain Bears.”
Somehow the universes collided, and we all remember the Berenstein spelling, but all of the artifacts of the other universe stayed in ours.
Yes, it’s a very stupid theory. The point is that if you tell a few of your friends about this discrepancy, they’ll never stop arguing with you. Everyone remembers Berenstein. Berenstain doesn’t exist.
But tell that to Stan and Jan Berenstain, the married couple who created the popular grizzlies. They’re pretty sure that they spelled their names right, and they’ll thank you to stop correcting them.
2. Sinbad never played a genie in a ’90s movie.
Remember that family comedy from the ’90s that starred Sinbad as a genie? You might even remember a specific scene where he used his magic to help a kid become popular at school. You should really go and rent that movie right now, because…
Oh, right. It doesn’t exist.
Many denizens of the internet swear that there was a genie movie called Shazaam, starring Sinbad. They’re all wrong, unless there’s a massive cover-up (in which case, Sinbad’s way more powerful than we’d imagined).
There was a film called Kazaam, released in 1996, and it had a similar premise. It starred Shaquille O’Neal as a genie, and by all accounts it was absolutely horrible. In fact, the one positive quote the movie’s producers could wrangle up for the poster was the single word “Fun!” And we’re pretty sure that the producers added the exclamation point.
But the internet doesn’t give up that easily, and eventually word traveled to Sinbad, who trolled everyone by creating “lost footage” to keep the rumors going.
3. The Monopoly guy doesn’t have a monocle.
His name, by the way, is Rich Uncle Pennybags, because whoever named him obviously used up all their creativity deciding that a thimble and a dog could own property.
Originally, his name was just Rich Uncle, and he was featured in several Parker Brothers games aside from Monopoly. His first appearance was in 1936, when he began showing up on the Chance and Community Chest cards. Monopoly fans loved him (although we’d take their judgement with a grain of salt, since they actually like Monopoly), so Parker Brothers started putting Rich Uncle Pennybags on the front of the game.
There’s just one issue: He never had a monocle. Not once, not ever. In fact, he doesn’t even wear glasses.
The most likely explanation is that people confuse the features of Rich Uncle Pennybags and Mr. Peanut, the Planters’ brand icon. Both characters wear top hats, but only one of them wears a monocle (and only one of them is naked, but that’s a controversy for another article).
4. No, there is no balcony scene in “Romeo and Juliet.”
Act 2, Scene 2 of Romeo and Juliet is one of the most romantic scenes ever written. Romeo approaches Juliet’s home, wakes her up, and professes his love to her in sweeping prose.
“But soft, what light through yonder window breaks?” he says as Juliet appears at the window.
But Romeo never climbs up to meet her, because she’s not on a balcony—balconies didn’t really exist in London at the time (so Shakespeare wouldn’t have written about one). Instead, Romeo is simply standing outside her window looking up at her.
Now, every modern production tends to set this scene with a balcony, because it seems so natural, but Shakespeare certainly didn’t indicate that in the script. The misconception is so common that even Shakespeare Online refers to this as “the balcony scene,” and we can’t really blame them, since it’s such a pleasing setting.
Plus, what you call it doesn’t matter; what’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.
5. The Bible never says that Eve ate an apple.
We all know the story: The devil gives Eve an apple, and she eats it, and God sends mankind out of the Garden of Eden. In the modern world, it’s one of the first stories you ever hear.
But there are two misconceptions here. First, the exact fruit is never specified. We don’t know whether it’s an apple, a banana, or a tomato (yes, tomatoes are fruit, no matter how wrong that feels).
At some point, artists began depicting Eve taking an apple from the serpent, and that’s where we get that image. Never mind the fact that fruits looked completely different several thousand years ago.
Also, in the original text, the serpent wasn’t Satan, simply because the concept of Satan didn’t occur to the ancient Jews. These days, Christians recognize the serpent as being a fallen angel, but regardless of your beliefs, that’s a relatively new concept.
6. There is not, nor has there ever been, a brand of peanut butter called Jiffy.
This is similar to the Berenstain Bears thing. We’ve all heard of Jiffy peanut butter, but we’re all wrong; while there’s a Jif and there’s a Skippy, there’s never been a Jiffy.
People who believe the parallel universe theory often point to this as another example, but it’s simply a demonstration of how brand names get confused when you hear them too many times. Plus, you’ve probably never looked too closely when buying peanut butter, just like you never look closely when buying cereal. That’s why you never realized that Fruit Loops is actually spelled Froot Loops.
While we’re blowing your mind, it’s Oscar Mayer, not Oscar Meyer. It’s also Chick-fil-A, not Chik-fil-A, and it’s definitely Interview with the Vampire, not Interview with a Vampire.
With spelling, we go with what feels right, and we mainly just look at the first and last letters, anyway.
7. C-3PO isn’t made entirely of gold.
We know we’re taking a risk with this entry, because Star Wars fans are some of the most dedicated fans in the world, and they’re sure to leave a few unsavory comments when we say this.
We hate to be the ones to deliver this news, but it’s true. C-3PO is not made entirely of gold (or gold-covered…space metal, whatever it is). He’s actually got a silver leg.
It’s his lower right leg, to be specific. Right below the knee. It’s been silver since A New Hope, by the way.
While we’re dashing the mistaken but firmly held beliefs of geeks everywhere (we’re geeks, so we can say that), we should also note that Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope doesn’t exist, except for the first two words of that title.
The rest—the “Episode IV” and the “A New Hope” subtitle—were added later, when the whole Star Wars thing turned into a franchise.
8. Hannibal Lecter never said, “Hello, Clarice,” and Darth Vader never said, “Luke, I am your father.”
When Lecter meets Clarice in Silence of the Lambs, he doesn’t say her name—he doesn’t know her name. He simply says, “Good morning,” which, you might have noticed, isn’t even close to “Hello.”
The Darth Vader line is closer, but it’s “No, I am your father.”
While we’re at it, Will Smith didn’t say, “Welcome to Erf!” in Independence Day, even though you probably remember it that way. He very clearly pronounced “Earth,” but the cultural consciousness wouldn’t let it go down like that. At some point, someone said “Welcome to Erf,” and that’s how we remember it.
So…why? Why do we remember these iconic movie lines so incorrectly? Well, remember that these films came out before home video was really a thing (with the exception of Independence Day).
You might have shelled out the cash to see the films once, but after that, you’d rely on impressions from your friends to relive the major scenes. If someone’s impersonating Darth Vader, the impression is a little clearer when they add in “Luke,” and ditto for “Clarice.”
As for “Welcome to Erf,” well, your guess is as good as ours.