Adam Ruins What We Learned in School

Aug 13 2017

In his first animated episode, Adam teaches us that Christopher Columbus didn’t discover America, King Tut was a dud, and the rules of grammar are not as ironclad as you’d think. Here are his sources. Study up!


"Christopher Columbus couldn't have discovered that the Earth was round, because in his time it was already common knowledge."

Jeffrey Burton Russell. Inventing the Flat Earth: Columbus and Modern Historians. Praeger, 1997.

"My math says the Earth is teeny-tiny and shaped like a pear. And at the top it has a succulent nipple."

Elizabeth Kolbert. "The Lost Mariner." The New Yorker, 14 Oct 2002.

"Fine. Give this moron the bare minimum. 90 dumb men and 3 dumb ships."

"Christopher Columbus," Explorers & Discoverers of the World. Gale, 1993.

"Sure, he did. If you don't count the quarter million Taino people that lived there already."

Vincent Schilling. "8 Myths and Atrocities About Christopher Columbus and Columbus Day." Indian Country Today, 22 March 2017.

"Columbus repaid their kindness by returning with 17 ships and 1,200 men, so he could enslave the Taino and steal their gold. Only one problem: they didn't have any."

Stephen K. Stein, ed. The Sea in World History: Exploration, Travel, and Trade. ABC-CLIO, 2017.

"This infuriated Columbus. And soon, he and his crew began to slaughter them."

Edmund S. Morgan. "Columbus’ Confusion About the New World." Smithsonian Magazine, Oct 2009.

"Columbus's regime was so senselessly brutal that by 1542, the Taino population on the island had fallen from 250000 to 200."

David Holmstrom. "Discovering Columbus After 500 Years." The Christian Science Monitor, 9 Oct 1992.

"He just bounced around the Caribbean, slaughtered a bunch of innocent people, and died thinking he had made it to India."

Edmund S. Morgan. "Columbus’ Confusion About the New World." Smithsonian Magazine, Oct 2009.

"For centuries, Columbus was a historical footnote. But that changed in 1828, when Washington Irving, the writer of The Legend of Sleepy Hallow and other tall tales, wrote the first English-language biography of Columbus."

"1492: Columbus in American Memory." Backstory Radio, 11 Oct 2013.

"To help prove Italians were a part of the American story, Italian- Americans latched onto Washington Irving's version of Columbus and promoted it like crazy."

Lakshmi Gandhi. "How Columbus Sailed Into U.S. History, Thanks To Italians." NPR, 14 Oct 2013.

"Tutankhamun was only 9 years old when he became pharaoh. And since he was so young, other people did the ruling for him."

"Tutankhamun." BBC, 2014.

"Even his tomb was smaller and less ornate than the others."

Emma Mason. "8 things you (probably) didn’t know about Tutankhamun." BBC History Magazine, 23 Jan 2017.

"French scholars helped themselves to whatever they wanted, even returning to France with a severed mummy head for Napoleon's wife."

Mark Rose. "Napoleon on Madison." Archaeology Magazine, 9 Jun 2006.

"When images of the findings reached Europe, scholars went kookoo for these corpses. And over the next century, hundreds of rich Europeans started excavating Egyptian cultural sites like crazy, pilfering thousands of priceless treasures."

Donald Malcolm Reid. Whose Pharaohs?: Archaeology, Museums, and Egyptian National Identity from Napoleon to World War I. University of California Press, 2002.

"It gets worse. Rich Europeans even held "Mummy Parties" where they unwrapped the ancient remains as a party game."

Dimitra Nikolaidou. "Victorian Party People Unrolled Mummies For Fun." Atlas Obscura, 23 Feb 2016.

"Tut was so unimportant that his tomb was pretty much ignored by grave robbers. When Howard Carter uncovered it in 1922, it was so well-preserved that over five thousand separate items were found inside."

A.R. Williams. "King Tut: The Teen Whose Death Rocked Egypt." National Geographic, 24 Nov 2015.

"The discovery of Tutankhamun's tomb made international headlines! But not because Tut hisself was historically significant -- it was because of that ancient Egyptian bling."

Alastair Sooke. "Why the world went wild for King Tut." The Telegraph, 21 Jul 2014.

"And in the 1970s, Tut's artifacts made a six-city museum tour in America. Eight million people saw the exhibit, which was said to have generated over $111 million in economic impact for New York alone."

David Kamp. "The King of New York." Vanity Fair, 19 Mar 2013.

"An executive from the Metropolitan Museum of Art even said, 'Seeing Tut is the status symbol right now in this city. It's even superseded sex.'"

Jane See White. "Tut fever grips New York City." Associated Press, 15 Dec 1978.

"Up until the 1800s 'ain't' was a proper contraction of 'am not' used by the upper class."

Patricia T. O'Conner and Stewart Kellerman. Origins of the Specious: Myths and Misconceptions of the English Language. Random House, 2010.

"People have been using 'literally' as a hyperbolic intensifier for literally hundreds of years."

Bill Walsh. "‘Literally’ bothers me, too. But it’s not literally wrong." The Washington Post, 22 Aug 2013.

"The fact is, there was no documented rule against using 'literally' this way until 1909, when author Ambrose Bierce wrote a grammar book titled, 'Write It Right.'"

Jesse Sheidlower. "Use or Abuse of the Word 'Literally.'" NPR, 3 Nov 2005.