#2. Bagpipes Were Invented by the Romans
We said earlier that when asking people to name something Chinese, they'll likely blurt out "fortune cookies." Well, if you do the same with Scotland, you'll get one of two answers: "kilts" or "bagpipes." But while the Scots in Braveheart used bagpipes to scare the willies out of the English, before that, the Romans used them against the Scots.
"Now that it's not part of my cultural heritage, I suddenly understand why you all hate that sound."
There are many ancient carvings and statues depicting someone playing an early form of bagpipe, including a Greek statue of Apollo playing one. Reed pipes were a popular instrument throughout the ancient world, but on paper, Emperor Nero was the first man described as able to play reed pipes with the bag (presumably before he took up the fiddle). As he described it, the bag was invented because the cheeks didn't store enough air to make a really effective imitation of a cat on fire.
cjh1452000 via Wikipedia
Tyranny, bagpipes, and neckbeards: nice legacy, jackass.
But the Romans, as we know, didn't stay in Rome. They conquered the known world, using bagpipes as a war instrument as their armies marched across the globe. It's said that when Caesar marched on Britain, he used a troupe of bagpipe players to scare the living shit out of the barbarian Scots. And it worked, because the Scottish forces (who weren't actually "Scottish" yet, but a mixed bag of Celtic tribes) had yet to hear such an incredible racket, so much that they believed it was some kind of supernatural weapon of irritation.
"Couldn't you just conquer us with torches and swords?"
Once they learned what a bagpipe was, legend says that they began to worship it and eventually built their own in an effort to learn the secret of its magic. Then when it turned out not to be magic, they apparently just decided they might as well keep them.
#1. Russian Nesting Dolls Aren't Russian
Your grandmother probably has a set of these stashed away in the attic somewhere -- Russian nesting dolls (or matryoshka dolls) are those hollow wooden figures that split apart to house progressively smaller dolls until you ultimately come to the diminutive midget at its core. They're pretty much the only thing we know about Russian fashion besides those tall, furry hats. But once again, Russian nesting dolls are actually about as Russian as the cheap American knockoffs you see at the local craft market. In reality, they're a carbon copy of an invention that originated in China.
For those who enjoy the thrill of knickknacks and keeping their possessions in storage.
Of course, the original idea as produced by the Chinese was just a set of boxes that bore little resemblance to the dolls we see today (except that they fit inside each other). It was the Japanese who knocked off the Chinese boxes in order to produce sets of nesting dolls. The Japanese version used an old bald man in the design, as if they figured that everyone wanted a vision of their own inevitable deterioration staring at them from the mantle.
The Japanese dolls were, if anything, more impressive than the Russian version -- they would keep getting smaller until the final doll was no bigger than a grain of rice. These days, the smallest doll in the set is simply where the guy who carves dozens of them a week in his garage says "screw it."
"Nuts to this. No one's gonna check all the way to the bottom."
Citing extreme paranoia and a completely rational fear of sea monsters (still depicted in modern Japanese cinema), the island nation had been closed to outside contact for a long time, but they slowly opened to trade in the mid-19th century. And as soon as they did, they got burned. A couple of Russian artists saw the imported dolls, realized they'd look great when converted into quick cash, and replaced the old man motif with a series of more appealing Russian ladies.
These days, nesting dolls are known by most as a distinctly Russian concept; some refer to the knickknacks as "the soul of Russia." In an ironic twist, the Japanese have recently started importing the dolls from Russia for their apparent effectiveness in exorcising demons. We're not sure how this feature was originally discovered.
Related Reading: Cracked has a whole slew of stereotypes to myth-bust, including the idea that French people suck at war. And if you've got a head brimming with crazy ideas about Chinese people, Christina's article here will set you right. Round out your study in "isms" with this look at gender stereotypes that used to be the opposite.
We have some bad news: all those 'underdog' myths about the United States are bullshit, the Ancient Egyptians didn't "worship" their Pharaohs and your favorite book sellers are now taking pre-orders for a text book written and illustrated entirely by the Cracked team! Hitting shelves in October, Cracked's De-Textbook is a fully-illustrated, systematic deconstruction of all of the bullshit you learned in school.
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