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From the AFP, a recent poll suggests that a frightening number of Britons think that fictional Sopwith Camel ace James "Biggles" Bigglesworth existed, and that Winston Churchill is a mythical, Nazi-slaying comic book character:

Britons are losing their grip on reality, according to a poll out Monday which showed that nearly a quarter think Winston Churchill was a myth while the majority reckon Sherlock Holmes was real.

The survey found that 47 percent thought the 12th century English king Richard the Lionheart was a myth. And 23 percent thought World War II prime minister Churchill was made up. The same percentage thought Crimean War nurse Florence Nightingale did not actually exist.

[…]

Indian political leader Mahatma Gandhi and Battle of Waterloo victor the Duke of Wellington also appeared in the top 10 of people thought to be myths. Meanwhile, 58 percent thought Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's fictional detective Holmes actually existed; 33 percent thought the same of W. E. Johns' fictional pilot and adventurer Biggles.

Considering the source (British cable network UKTV Gold), I think a measure of skepticism is in order, though previous surveys have come to similar conclusions. As the BBC reported back in 2001, "Sir Edmund Blackadder was a real historical figure and Adolf Hitler was the prime minister who led Britain to victory in World War II, many schoolchildren in Britain believe."

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  1. Yes, but, more importantly, was Benny Hill real or fictional?

  2. I have a cunning plan.

    Give this same sort of poll anywhere in the world and you’d get similar nonsense.

  3. Some Brits are even ignorant enough to believe that unguided rockets, rather than large bare feet descending from the clouds, were responsible for the damage of the Blitz.

  4. So Biggles Flies Undone isn’t a true story?

  5. who would spend time on such a survey except to prank it? hardly any of those cheeky brits 😉

  6. Real or Fiction:
    Danial Boon
    Davy Crockett
    Pecos Bill
    Buffalo Bill
    Annie Oakley
    Johnny Appleseed
    John Henry
    Paul Bunyan
    The Hatfields and the McCoys
    Mark Twain
    Tom Sawyer
    Huckleberry Finn

  7. Yes de stijl, let us not forget that you tried to solve the problem of your mother’s low ceiling by cutting off her head.

  8. Eric Dondero the libertarian.

  9. Warren,

    My answers would differ depending on whether you are paying me per right answer.

    Paid: R(and misspelled)RRRRRFFRRFF
    Unpaid: FFFFFFFRFFRR

    Notice I answered F for John Henry on both. Not sure on him, I will score 100% on one list of the other. I mean, I know John Henry is a baseball owner, but I dont think you were referring to him. 🙂

  10. If it’s “Beat Up On Britain Day,” how about this?

  11. Warren,

    Some of those, like Crocket and Boon, are a little real and a little hollywood.

  12. Morpheus is real; Neo is fiction.

  13. some dude,

    Which of the real ones in that list arent a little hollywood?

  14. robc,
    You get points for spotting the misspelling. Unfortunately neither of your lists is 100%

  15. Warren,

    Who did I miss? Pecos Bill?

  16. Sorry, but Daniel Boone.

    Tidbit: If you meet enough amateur genealogists, you begin to think everyone in Kentucky claims to be descended from either Daniel Boone or Native Americans. That either is not the case or Boone got it on with every Indian lass in the 120 counties.

  17. From a quick wiki search, Pecos Bill was mythical. I guess like Buffalo Bill and Johnny Appleseed, I thought he was based on someone real.

  18. SugarFree,

    This Kentuckian is the descendent of at least 7 generations of native Americans on both sides of his family. 7 generations of native Kentuckian even. I also claim some American Indian ancestors. But, not Daniel Boone.

    My Mom started doing serious geneological research back in the 90s. My joke about being the result of 7 generations of inbreeding in South-Central KY got less funny.

  19. Continuing my wiki search, John Henry *may* have been based on a real person. So my confusion over him seems acceptable (to me).

  20. Mark Twain
    Ha, that was a trick question. Mark Twain exist only on paper. Samuel Clemens was a real person… Then again, maybe it’s the other way around.

  21. Warren,

    Mark Twain (or was that Samuel Clemens?) also existed in ST:TNG episodes. Which makes him more real than many real people.

  22. Some Brits are even ignorant enough to believe that unguided rockets, rather than large bare feet descending from the clouds, were responsible for the damage of the Blitz.

    Those Brits would be pretty ignorant indeed, if they thought that buzzbombs and V2s were the Blitz.

    A day without pedantry is like a day without sunshine.

  23. The funny thing about the 51st state is just how much they are exactly like us.

    (but with better football)

  24. Wait, so you’re telling me Bear Grylls isn’t the President of England?

  25. robc,

    But don’t the false claims detract from your heritage? If someone falsely claimed to be descended from drunken Irish layouts and German pickpockets, I’d be pissed.

    It’s really just the boredom of having worked in a genealogy library that makes me so cynical on the subject. You get asked the same questions every damn day, you finally just snap. You just want to scream: “The vast majority of you are boring white people with boring white ancestors. GO HOME!”

  26. As Michael uses half his posts to slag off the Brits – is there any chance he could work out the difference between England and Britain?

  27. damn!! i am so pissed someone else added the “biggles flies undone” reference before me!!

  28. My ancestors did awesome things, like slaughtering Indians, being Indians slaughtered by rednecks, striking oil, and being Davy Crockett. Maybe you come from boring folk, SugarFree.

  29. As soon as we get some Beef Wellington up in this piece, sure.

  30. Warty,

    Actually, I come from a long line of rotten bastards who’d fuck a mother of three in the eye for a nickel.

    Selective breeding did nothing to improve me.

  31. James Bond definitely exists.

  32. who’d fuck a mother of three in the eye for a nickel.

    You can get paid for that?

  33. Once again, thank God for our victory at Yorktown.

  34. robc,

    It’s all about who you know, apparently.

  35. Does Pussy Galore exist?

  36. the results from that old survey aren’t so bad. Only 3% of kids said that Adolph Hitler was the prime minister who led Britain during WWII – and I’d bet that a good number of that 3% was joking.

    Also, a lot of the questions dealt with specific dates, and on almost all of them a majority or near-majority got the right answer.

    The BBC story is a big headline with little substance.

  37. – Are you British or are you Jamacian?
    – “”
    – He’s a good man. He’s a good man he is.

  38. My favorite genealogy story:

    This upright and proper DAR bluehair was researching her family tree and realized its branches were tangled up with these charming fellows. She bitched at me about this fact. Talk about shooting the messenger.

  39. Real or Fiction:
    Danial Boon – real
    Davy Crockett – real
    Pecos Bill – fiction
    Buffalo Bill – real
    Annie Oakley – real
    Johnny Appleseed – fiction
    John Henry – fiction
    Paul Bunyan – fiction
    The Hatfields and the McCoys – real
    Mark Twain – real
    Tom Sawyer – fiction
    Huckleberry Finn – fiction

  40. Agares, you made at least one mistake. Johnny Appleseed was real-though his real name was John Chapman.

  41. Johnny Appleseed was a real guy. Google John Chapman. Also featured in this H&R story from 2002 here.

    Plus we have our very own Johnny Appleseed of Crack who comments regularly here.

  42. fictional Sopwith Camel ace James “Biggles” Bigglesworth

    You don’t want to get Mr Bigglesworth upset.
    Because, when Mr Bigglesworth gets upset, people die.

  43. joe and Warty —

    Actually, neither the V1 nor the V2 meets joe’s terms of unguided rockets anyway. Only 15% of the civilian casualties of the Blitz resulted from V weapons, but both V weapons were guided and one was a jet (not a rocket).

    The real question to everyone is this: are the …

    Ah shit. I can’t even bring myself to make a wooden stock joke.

  44. Well, the great majority of the people on this forum would think the 90% or so of Brits who think Jesus was a real person are mistaken, so there you go.

  45. Danial Boon

    Warren was actually thinking of a man named Denial Boone. He was the guy who originally wrote the lyrics to “Nobody But Me.”

  46. Hands up, atheists. Hands up if you think Jesus was not an actual person.

    Wow, I thought I’d see at least one or two.

    Oh, that’s right, Chris Potter, I forgot you’re a retarded Christian troll. My bad.

    Pillock.

  47. Hands up, atheists. Hands up if you think Jesus was not an actual person.

    I think whether or not Jesus actually existed is debatable. Theres a lot of debate as to whether he was a composite of different Jewish sages or not.

  48. Cesar,

    I fine debate to have, but not what jerkass was getting at. Not thinking Jesus is the son of Magic SkyFather != Jesus is a wholly fictional creation.

    If fuckwads like him want to dip into a thread and hurl an insult, then I’ll respond in kind.

  49. Hands up, atheists. Hands up if you think Jesus was not an actual person.

    Not a clue. The four canonical Gospels were all written three decades plus after his reported death.

    If I were a betting man, I’d say probably yes, but without any way of knowing at this point it seems like an exercise in futility.

    Isn’t there some contemporaneous mention of him somewhere? I seem to recall this came up fairly recently.

  50. Does Pussy Galore exist?

    Yes, but glorious pussy is a myth.

  51. Warren,

    If the Internet can’t convince you, I’m certainly not going to try.

  52. “The vast majority of you are boring white people with boring white ancestors. GO HOME!”

    So true. My maternal grandfather did fight in the Boxer Rebellion (he was a Canuck at the time) which is pretty cool.

  53. SugarFree,
    The internet DID convince me.

  54. Hands up, atheists. Hands up if you think Jesus was not an actual person.

    It has never been proven to my satisfaction. Hero and Pontius Pilate definately were real people. Birth records from Judea at the time are hardly complete. Surviving newspaers don’t mention him. 😉 The lack of proof that a man named Jesus existed does not prove he didn’t. Muhammed existed. Joseph Smith existed. Jesus’ existence is, IMHO, up in the air. A historian with proof that withstands rigorous scrutiny, would certainly make a name for himself.

    I’m a skeptic. That doesn’t meam my mind is closed.

  55. And now word has come from England that Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are real.

  56. Warren,

    [new minted Darth Vader yelling “NOOOOOOOO!]

    [horror at referencing the most poorly acted scene in the history of science fiction]

    [resistance of urge to post many fine pr0n links]

  57. Warren, I aced your test w/o googling. My only pause was Hatfields and McCoys. Of course, many legends I was taught about US history later turned ou to be myths. That’s where the older/sadder/wiser stuff comes in.

  58. It’s a well known fact that Mr Bigglesworth is a cat.

  59. Isn’t there some contemporaneous mention of [Jesus] somewhere? I seem to recall this came up fairly recently.

    The Jewish historian Josephus mentioned him, but there is also evidence that his remarks were modified by a later Christian editor.

    FWIW, one of our longtime regulars, an atheist and formerly a very outspoken one, has more than once expressed doubt that Jesus actually existed because he is poorly documented outside of Christian writings. I’d name him but he has gone by many, many names, and I’m not sure he’s even around at present. He has also mellowed considerably over the past year or two, IMO.

    I forget what point I was making.

  60. How boring can white ancestors be when they went around pillaging and looting everyone else?

    My only historically interesting ancestor was a follower of Giordano Bruno who fled Italy to avoid the same fate.

  61. Stevo Darkly,

    You’ve become the very model of restraint.

    I don’t like it.

  62. Daniel Boone is real – he ran a company that made a cheap sweet wine back in the 60’s. He was in competition with Davy Crockett whose company made Mad Dog.

  63. How boring can white ancestors be

    T, this is not directed at you… but…

    I hate goring a sacred cow when I wasn’t planning on making cheeseburgers for dinner.

  64. The above poll may demonstrate that a “frightening number of Britons” believe absurd things.

    But it’s not half as scary as that 2003 poll that showed almost 70% of Americans believed Saddam Hussein was personally involved in the 9/11 attacks.

  65. But it’s not half as scary as that 2003 poll that showed almost 70% of Americans believed Saddam Hussein was personally involved in the 9/11 attacks.

    You mean he wasn’t? Damn. My elaborately constructed conspiracy theory lies in ruins yet again.

  66. But it’s not half as scary as that 2003 poll that showed almost 70% of Americans believed Saddam Hussein was personally involved in the 9/11 attacks.

    I hear this brandied about quite often but I’ve never seen the actual poll being referred to. Linky, please.

    Something like 25% I could believe but not 70%. I smell a rat.

  67. Nevermind. I got the link in your name.

    Yes, the country went through a retard phase from 9/12 until 2005.

  68. click on my name above for the link

  69. Sugarfree, it gets worse.

    I withdraw my previous comment about the Many-Named One. Knowing that it might come back to bite me in the ass if I misremembered, I did some Googling and it appears that the Polynominate One did make the point that Jesus is poorly documented outside of Christian scriptures in the context of discussions about whether Jesus historically existed, but I may be mistaken in thinking he actually considers the personage of Jesus to be entirely fictional.

  70. I spent last Halloween in New York City. While there I saw a huge anti-war protest in SoHo that was a bit dampened by the rain. The usual puppeteers and unaffiliated vegans wandered about, but mostly they stayed on message about ending the war and bring the troops home.

    While I am against the war and always have been, I still was able to think to myself: “What a bunch of morons.” They were protesting the war in the largest concentration of anti-war types on maybe the whole East Coast. Talk about low-hanging fruit. Talk about “Sticking it to the man!”

    Protesting something in a place where very few people disagree with you is stupid, counter-productive,and more than a bit cowardly.

    But it’s not half as scary as that 2003 poll that showed almost 70% of Americans believed Saddam Hussein was personally involved in the 9/11 attacks.

  71. Colonel Sanders
    Robin Hood
    Felix the Cat
    Speed Racer

    Three of these things belong together
    Three of these things are kind of the same
    Can you guess which one of these doesn’t belong here?
    Now it’s time to play our game (time to play our game).

  72. SugarFree, you might want to follow your own advice before you go posting messages like Europe being full of “bureaucratic shitholes” or Britain being “kooky”.

  73. The Colonel

    The other 3 are non American with Robin being a Brit, Felix from Aussie, and Speedy from Japan.

  74. Well, the great majority of the people on this forum would think the 90% or so of Brits who think Jesus was a real person are mistaken, so there you go.

    Fewer than two-thirds of Britons even believe in God at all. Hence, it is highly unlikely that 90% or so think Jesus was a real person.

    Since many mainstream Christians, like Anglicans, do not believe in the literal historical existence of Jesus that figure becomes even more dubious. It is not even likely true of America with its 91% belief in God rate (Since 1) it includes Jews and 2) it includes those mainstream believers mentioned above).

  75. People who have actually lived in other countries and/or know a lot of people from other countries well know that Americans are not uniquely prone to idiotic beliefs.

  76. Very true Isaac, I’ve lived in many countries and heard many idiotic things.

    I do however think that Americans are unique in the sheer vastness of the amount of different idiotic things that they’ll individually believe. That is to say in other countries it was more of a shared thing. Like 95% of Turks not believing in evolution.

  77. I do however think that Americans are unique in the sheer vastness of the amount of different idiotic things that they’ll individually believe.

    That’s cause we’re a nation of immigrants…we get to collect all teh world’s idiotice beleifs in one country…the US is sort of an international Smithsonian of idiotic beleifs.

  78. Does Pussy Galore exist?

    Episiarch,

    You must be dreaming.

  79. “This sceptical way of thinking reached its culmination in the argument that Jesus as a human being never existed at all and is a myth…. But above all, if we apply to the New Testament, as we should, the same sort of criteria as we should apply to other ancient writings containing historical material, we can no more reject Jesus’ existence than we can reject the existence of a mass of pagan personages whose reality as historical figures is never questioned. Certainly, there are all those discrepancies between one Gospel and another. But we do not deny that an event ever took place just because some pagan historians such as, for example, Livy and Polybius, happen to have described it in differing terms…. To sum up, modern critical methods fail to support the Christ myth theory. It has ‘again and again been answered and annihilated by first rank scholars.’ In recent years, ‘no serous scholar has ventured to postulate the non historicity of Jesus’ or at any rate very few, and they have not succeeded in disposing of the much stronger, indeed very abundant, evidence to the contrary.”

    – Michael Grant (1914-2004), before his death one of the most distinguished historians of the classical period in the English-speaking world. He was also a non-believer who was skeptical of the veracity of many of the specific claims in the Gospels.

    I don’t think people realize how scanty the records of ancient history in general are. There are only about a dozen Greek or Roman historians in the whole period from 500 B.C. to A.D. 500 whose works survive and are worth reading, plus a dozen or so more surivors of lesser importance. Of course, the scantiness of sources can also be used as grist for the no-Jesus mill, but it is important to realize that there are not dozens or hundreds of non-Christians historians who might possibly have mentioned Jesus’s existence, but only a handful, and only one (Josephus) whose main interest was Jews and Judea.

    Also, people in the first century just doesn’t realize that Christianity would become the dominant world relgion. It may seem suspicious to us that there is only a brief (possibly spurious) mention of Jesus in Josephus and an even briefer (almost certainly authentic) one in Tacitus, but look at this way: How many histories of the twentieth-century U.S. mention L. Ron Hubbard? Mormonism is the dominant religion in large sections of the American West, but there are otherwise good histories of nineteenth-century America that relegate Joseph Smith to barely more than a footnote. Christianity’s prominence in A.D. 100 was probably greater than that of modern American Scientology, but less than that of modern American Mormonism. Its founder was, therefore, not of much interest to historians who generally centered their writing around the doings of the Roman political elite.

  80. I should have written that “people in the first century just didn’t realize that Christianity…” “Doesn’t realize” was wrong in both tense and number.

  81. Sorta like “Jaywaking” in London…

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