5 Myths You Probably Believe About Famous Landmarks

#2. What We're Calling London Bridge ... Isn't

Goodshoot/Goodshoot/Getty Images

The Myth:

When we think of England, we can't help but picture gray skies, Big Ben, guards in funny hats, the letter "u" in places it shouldn't be, and London Bridge. Whatever stereotypical thing you believe about the Brits when it comes to food or orthodontics, they sure as hell know how to build towers and bridges.

Davis McCardle/Digital Vision/Getty Images
That hasn't stopped children's nursery rhymes from spreading cruel, vicious rumors otherwise.

But Actually ...

It turns out that when people talk about the London Bridge, they're mostly talking out of their ass, because what they're actually thinking of is the Tower Bridge. We don't mean they're just getting the name wrong, either -- they are two completely different things. Even Google has it wrong -- a quick "London Bridge" search brings up this as the main picture:

Google Images via London Attractions
"Did you mean 'the cool bridge that everyone actually cares about'?"

That is not London Bridge. That is Tower Bridge. It was never London Bridge -- it's like searching for "Empire State Building" and getting a picture of the Chrysler Building. Our friends at Wikipedia actually have it right this time. A search over there brings up the actual London Bridge, which opened in 1973:

Burge5000
Seen here in the timeless color of hot pink.

No one entirely knows why the bridges have been confused with each other; it's just one of those cultural things that has happened, and continues to happen. You hear the "London Bridge is falling down" song and you picture the big pointy bridge in London. Occam's razor dictates that you must be correct. Of course, you're not.

#1. Everything About the Statue of Liberty

Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images

The Myth:

Ever since the French built it, the Statue of Liberty has been a unique symbol of American freedom and hope. More specifically, it has always been a special symbol of American immigration, welcoming newcomers to Ellis Island, as demonstrated by the poem attached to its pedestal:

National Park Service
"When do we get the free handguns?"

But Actually ...

Originally, the statue had nothing to do with immigrants at all; tired, poor, or otherwise. Immigrants weren't mentioned during the statue's dedication ceremony in 1886, and the "give me your huddled masses" poem by Emma Lazarus wasn't attached to its pedestal until almost 20 years later, at the urging of a friend of hers, who had found the forgotten poem in a used book store. But the real connection of the statue with immigration only took off during World War I, largely as part of a campaign to sell war bonds. This came about when an enterprising youth sketched out a totally rational and not-at-all-ginned-up image of New York City being strafed while an extra crispy Statue of Liberty looked on mutely.

Department of Treasury
Thus beginning the longstanding tradition of depicting the statue's demise in absurdly elaborate and exotic ways.

In fact, in the early years the statue was more commonly used as an exclusionary symbol by white supremacists, who saw it as an "us vs. them" motif. As in a "this land is our land, there's the door" type of attitude.

Medioimages/Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images
Exemplified when she was used to deport Vigo the Carpathian.

And while the statue was given to the Americans by the French, it wasn't given so much as a reward for being awesome as it was as a demonstration of French engineering skill coupled with a political statement against the French government. When the statue's planners first came up with the idea, France was ruled by authoritarian and general dickbag Napoleon III, and the designers wanted to express their displeasure in a passive-aggressive "Hey, isn't American freedom dreamy?" kind of way. In fact, the French national government wasn't involved in the statue at all -- much like a 19th century Kickstarter project, the statue was financed largely by donations from normal French men, women, and even children.

And then, strangest of all, there's the controversy that came up from Roman Catholics, who considered the statue a graven image. They had serious concerns with New Yorkers' deference to a massive "heathen goddess" with some pagan roots, and they actually had a point -- the statue was basically a depiction of the Roman goddess Libertas, with a side of Asherah, a pagan god, thrown in for good measure. And while no one was actually worshiping said statue, there was no denying that erecting a 150-foot-tall goddess woman in New York Harbor would cause a stir. Seriously, go try it.


"Hey, at least it's not straddling the inlet so that every ship that passes under it has to look at its taint!"



C. Coville's Twitter is here.

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