The rule of sixty six by Nigel Roth

Updated: Mar 2

Fifty-four years ago this very month, a game show named Call My Bluff was being hailed as the latest entertainment triumph from the BBC. In it, two teams of three people tried their hardest to bluff their opponents with fake definitions of obscure words, like queach or morepork, jirble and ablewhacket, the true definitions of which I shall leave you to look up at leisure.

For more than twenty years, guest teams in the British show refined their ability to say things that were totally fake without batting an eyelid. The format itself was based on an American show of the same name, but that only ran for six months, before being mysteriously cancelled.

It’s not the only show the United States has cancelled, of course, but rejecting a program in which two out of three sentences were fake is somewhat ironic, because that proportion, around sixty-six percent, is about the norm for the US, historically.

For example, you may have been taught that the Italian explorer Christopher Columbus discovered America on the third of August 1492, setting the nation on the glorious strada to the country you see today.

And of course, only a part of that statement is correct.

Columbus, of course, was Spanish, not Italian, so it was a carretera not a strada. Also, and more importantly, America had already been ‘discovered’ at least five hundred years earlier by Leif Erikson and his Norse seafarers, and Columbus didn't actually set foot on any part of the United States. It did happen on that date, though, and that seems enough for the US to have named twenty-three places after him, and erected one-hundred-and-fifty statues in celebration of the confused Spaniard.

Years later, the Pilgrims arrived from Holland, and, after enjoying the pleasant journey on the Mayflower, determined to seek advice from the local Indigenous people on how to survive in this new world, and sat down with them for that enduring American celebration called Thanksgiving, centered around a warm-hearted and loving meal with their Native American brethren, devouring turkeys to solidify their friendship.

But of course, that’s mainly the triptofan talking.

In reality, the Pilgrims were attempting to steal their neighbors' food supply for their own needs. They practiced trickery, gave the indigenous population diseases they had no defense against, and acted with pure hatred, not friendship, for their ‘savage’ neighbors. It really wasn’t any celebration at all, although the Pilgrims did bring several turkeys to America on that epic voyage in 1620.

After the Pilgrims progressed from conning locals to enslaving strangers, they began to flourish in what you’ve been taught, if you’re an American, were the thirteen original colonies of the United States. And again, you've been misled.

Delaware wasn’t even a colony until 1776, just as the Revolution was starting, and for the majority of the eighteenth century, it belonged to the British. Before that it was a part of Pennsylvania, so, in reality there were only twelve colonies, a true dozen, and never a baker’s.

During that same Revolutionary War, you may have been told, a fearless hero called Paul Revere rode with lightning speed to warn of the oncoming British forces, yelling at the very top of his lungs, “The British are coming!

And of course, only two-thirds of that is true as well.

At the time, the colonies were still absolutely British, and as the whole scheme he was allegedly part of depended on secrecy and stealth, yelling about the British while atop a steed would have been ridiculous. He did ride that night, so that’s true, but he was stopped before even getting down the end of the lane he lived on, and sent back to make extremely fine colonial-era silverware, which he actually did, though no-one ever told you that bit.

In some cases, even that sixty-six percent may be a stretch.

Take the flag for example, the famous Stars And Stripes, which obviously wasn’t created by the sweet goodly Betsy Ross.