Please help me debunk this email

I recently got one of those annoying “interesting unsubstaniated facts” emails. I was able to debunk most of it, but I need help with these two:

“Elephants can’t jump. Every other mammal can.”
“The cigarette lighter was invented before the match.”

#1. I’d be willing to accept the first half, although “can’t” is a stronger word than I’d use, but I’d really like some specific authoritative examples that disprove the second part. I’ve never seen film of giraffes hopping gaily about the plains, but that’s not the same as saying they can’t. I first thought of whales and dolphins, but I guess you could call their leaping out of water jumping. Any other ideas?

#2. No real reason for disbelieving this one, except lighters seem more complicated. Anyone have some dates for me?

I have no idea about the matches but this explains the elephants

Actually, Smeghead, it seems sensible to me that the lighter would come first. Striking flint against steel near a flammable liquid was probably a common practice long before someone thought to dip a stick into sulfur or magnesium to make a match. I have nothing to back this up. It’s just my WAG.

>> Elephants can’t jump. Every other mammal can

Hippos too? I doubt it. Rhinos?

How do you define jump? Do bats “jump”?

>> The cigarette lighter was invented before the match."

I doubt it but how do you define lighter? The common way to light fire was striking steel against flint and have the spark light kindling. Is this a “lighter”? I would say no. I would say a lighter is a single object that can produce a flame.

Anyway, I get sick of the emails that arrive with all this dribble, half untrue, half stupid, half pointless, half irritating… (note: the totals may add up to more than 100% because some may fall into several categories)

According to

So, we know when matches were invented.

All I could find about lighters though is that Zippo first started producing in 1932…that doesn’t help much.
Sorry I couldn’t do more.

Am with you on this one, Sailor…

I received one of these emails from my uncle a month ago or so containing 35 factoids. Thanks to the wonderful people here and the first thing I emailed back was that yes, a ducks quack DOES echo.

Idiot still doesn’t believe me.

The “Inboxer Rebellion” link and Snopes RULES, as far as I’m concerned…

Wish more people knew about Snopes and the Straight Dope, but they just won’t listen to me :frowning:

I find it hard to believe that a sloth can jump, too.

If by jump they mean to push one’s body entirely into the air, I have a hard time believing elephants are the only ones. As mentioned above, Hippos and Rhinos don’t seem very likely to be able to jump. Larger whales don’t get entirely airborne (from the footage I’ve seen) either. Hell, there are probably people who can’t jump!

I get these same e-mails all the time and do my best to debunk them by searching here and Snopes and adding links to the original e-mail, then I reply to all. Hey, anything to advance the cause, right.

There was also something going around a few years back about how “White Men Can’t Jump”, despite massive amounts of evidence to the contrary. One must assume that they meant to say “Most White Men Can’t Jump As Well As Michael Jordan”.

I have to give the elephants the benefit of the doubt. I think they can jump, they just generally don’t want or need to. Why jump over something when it so much more fun to stomp it?

However, for all intents and purposes, I do think it’s pretty safe to say that Redwood trees can’t jump.

non-jumping mammals that haven’t been mentioned yet (as far as I know)…sloths, sea-lions, walrus

those factiod emails are frequently and annoyingly incorrect (and yet fun to debunk :))

3light•er "li-ter\ noun (1553)
1 : one that lights or sets a fire
2 : a device for lighting a fire; esp : a mechanical or electrical device used for lighting cigarettes, cigars, or pipes

©1996 Zane Publishing, Inc. and Merriam-Webster, Incorporated. All rights reserved.

3match noun [ME macche, fr. MF meiche] (1549)
1 : a chemically prepared wick or cord formerly used in firing firearms or powder
2 : a short slender piece of flammable material (as wood) tipped with a combustible mixture that bursts into flame when slightly heated through friction (as by being scratched against a rough surface)

©1996 Zane Publishing, Inc. and Merriam-Webster, Incorporated. All rights reserved.

Im happy I know how to use a dictionary, as we can see that a match came first, as it should be.

>> Im happy I know how to use a dictionary

handy, I am not so sure you do. Those dates are when the words appear in the language, not when the devices do. The word “lighter” could have been in use for centuries For instance meaning a person who lights or a tool used to light) before the invention of the lighter as a tool that makes a flame. The lighter is a modern invention but you can say that in 1500 they set a house on fire using a torch as a lighter. That does not mean they had BIC lighters then.

“Pipe lighters” were a small pair of tongs for picking a glowing coal out of a fire to light your pipe. They go back to at least the 17th century.

However, cigarettes weren’t invented until the 19th C. Previously, the only options for pacifying a nic-fit were pipes and cigars.

sailor, no really, I do know how to use it, ‘lighter’ definitions are seperated so this refers to one used to light things.

Those dates from M-W are not useful for this question. They refer to the first use of the word with any of the definitions. And M-W lists definitions in historical order.

So 1553 was the first use of lighter to mean “one that lights or sets a fire” and 1549 was the first use of match meaning “a chemically prepared wick or cord formerly used in firing firearms or powder”.

Checking the OED (which is where M-W got many of their dates), I find that the earliest citation for match for our purposes is 1831. That citation indicates that it’s not quite the same match we use today as it had to be touched to sulfuric acid to light it. The earliest use for (cigarette) lighter is 1895.

But these don’t indicate when they were invented, just that they were invented by those dates.

I heard the elephant thing as them being the only land mammal that couldn’t jump-- That rules out the walri, sea lions, etc. As for giraffes, rhinosceri, and hippopotomi, all of those animals can gallop, which means that they, at times, have no point of contact with the ground. I don’t think we’re going too far out on a limb by calling that “jumping”.

Wow. Good stuff, everyone. Sorry it took me so long to get back to this. Things were a little nuts today at work (read: I actually had to do something today).

Good cite, mblackwell. BTW, in case anyone read it and is wondering, polar bears turned green because algae started growing in their fur. Anyway.

Re #1: looks like we had some great ideas going there until Chronos came along and ruined it for everyone. :smiley: Back to square one, I guess, although I’m still rooting for sloths. If anyone tries to tell me that falling out of a tree is the same as jumping, they will get a smack upside the head.

Re #2: Good start. I don’t suppose anyone feels like looking up patents, do they? I know I don’t.

I will continue to monitor the Teeming Millions’ progress intently. In the meantime, here. You all get gold stars for your work fighting ignorance!

Hmm, sloths, I knew I was forgetting one of the examples there… Naw, I don’t think that we should count falling, after all, even an elephant can fall, even though they’re smart enough to usually avoid doing so.

So, elephants are one of darned few land mammals suffering from “white-men syndrome”.

I did a quick search, and came across this:
(Hope his works…it’s my first link)

It says that the ‘lighter as we know it’ was invented in 1903 by Carl Auer von Welsbach, but traces the history of the concept a bit further back.

As for matches…

I went to the Denver Zoo one mornign, right at opening time. My daughter and I were walking along and stopped to watch the hippos eat the breakfast.

The male hippo just stood there and continued to munch on his breakfast, but the female saw my daughter and I, quit eating and became agitated. She began galloping along the perimeter of her enclosure, snorting and bucking - all four feet in the air at the same time - little hops.

I’d call the physical activity “frolicking” but I got the distict impression that she was displaying aggression would have charged us if she hadn’t been fully aware of the limits of her enclosure. Eventually, she made a noise that I can’t describe and full on leapt into her water (swimming) hole - soaking us.

Yes, Hippos can jump, but I don’t think they get very much altitude or distance when they do or she’d have come over that fence, it was only about 4 - 4.5 feet tall.