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Professor Buzzkill

Professor Buzzkill is an exciting new blog & podcast that explores history myths in an illuminating, entertaining, and humorous way
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Professor Buzzkill
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Apr 18, 2017

Mohandas K. Gandhi should also be known as the Mahatma of Misquotation. Did he ever say, “Be the change you wish to see in the world,” as we read in so many inspirational tweets and messages? Listen as Professor Buzzkill delves into the origin of this quote, avoiding snake bite and 1970s urban violence along the way

Apr 14, 2017

What is the actual history behind "The Nuclear Button" and "The Nuclear Football"? And what has to happen before the missiles are launched? Is it automatic, or are there confirmation measures in place? Could we ever find ourselves in a Dr. Strangelove scenario? Listen to Professor Buzzkill calm us down!

Apr 10, 2017

What do the letters “S.O.S.” actually stand for? “Save Our Ship”? “Save Our Souls”? And why were those three letters chosen? The Professor explains this famous quote, and also the myth that it was first used by telegraph operators on the Titanic after it struck the iceberg in 1912. It’s more complicated and interesting than you can possibly imagine! Send out a distress signal for your brain!

Apr 5, 2017

One of the absolute best stories emailed by your nutty uncle is the one where a young Scottish farmer boy saved a young English aristocrat from drowning. The aristocrat's grateful father pays for the farmer boy's education. That young farmer boy grows up to become a doctor and discover penicillin. In later life he receives an emergency call to come save a prominent politician's life. The farmer boy's name was Alexander Fleming. The life he saved twice? That was Winston Churchill's. Hear the real story in Professor Buzzkill's new episode

Apr 3, 2017

The phrase and sentiment, "A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song," is one of the best-known expressions of the intrinsic nature of art and beauty. It has been quoted by presidents and school teachers, and practically everyone in between. And we all "know" that quote comes from Maya Angelou. The US government even said so. But did Maya Angelou really say it? Join Professor Buzzkill as he sings out the answer!

Mar 29, 2017

Was the Nazi high command, including Hitler, soaked in hard drug use? Over the course of the war, Hitler became increasingly dependent on injections of a cocktail of drug (including a form of heroin) administered by his personal doctor. Drugs alone cannot explain the Nazis’ toxic racial theories or the events of World War II, but if drugs are not taken into account, our understanding of the Third Reich is fundamentally incomplete. Professor Nash gives us the clean story!

Mar 27, 2017

In times of political turmoil and rhetorical strife, commentators sometimes wheel out this old "quote" by the French philosopher and Enlightenment writer, Voltaire: "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." They do this in an attempt to calm things down, but also to support the principle of freedom of speech. Voltaire was indeed a champion of free speech and free-flowing political discourse. But did he actually write or say: "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it"? Or is this another example of biographers and later scribes putting words in a great thinker's mouth?

Mar 22, 2017

What is the actual history behind "The Nuclear Button" and "The Nuclear Football"? And what has to happen before the missiles are launched? Is it automatic, or are there confirmation measures in place? Could we ever find ourselves in a Dr. Strangelove scenario? Listen to Professor Buzzkill calm us down!

Mar 20, 2017

One Winston Churchill’s most famous quotes supposedly occurred at a social occasion in the 1920s, and went like this. Lady Astor (never one of Winston’s admirers) said, “If I were married to you, I'd put poison in your tea.” Churchill replied, “And if I were married to you, I'd drink it.” Great reply, but did he really say it? Find out, Buzzkillers!

Mar 15, 2017

What can possibly be wrong with St. Patrick’s Day? Not much, except that there’s very little historical basis behind stories about St. Patrick. And there’s certainly no historical basis for excess drinking, green beer, and the Chicago River turned green. Or is there? The Professor becomes more open minded right before our very ears!

Mar 13, 2017

The number of different images and different sayings or phrases printed on t-shirts exploded in the early 70s. And one of the most striking was the t-shirt from the women’s rights movement which said, "A Woman Needs a Man Like a Fish Needs a Bicycle," most famously worn by the feminist champion, Gloria Steinem. Did she coin the saying? We explain the history behind that great phrase.

Mar 8, 2017

President Roosevelt’s “Fireside Chats” are famous for breaking new ground in how political leaders communicate with their people. But where they really as ground-breaking as we all tend to believe? Did they really help the American people get through the Great Depression and World War II? Was it FDR’s tone and confidence that connected to the people, or was there something more mundane that explains the popularity of the Fireside Chats? Professor Phil Nash enlightens us!

Mar 6, 2017

Have we all been fooled all the time by people applying this quote to Abraham Lincoln? Where did the quote originate? Honest Abe or someone else? When was it said? During the Lincoln-Douglas Debates? During the 1860 Presidential Election? Find out in this brand new Quote or No Quote episode of Professor Buzzkill!

Mar 1, 2017

How “clean” was the regular German army (Wehrmacht) during World War II? The Nazis and the SS usually get all the blame for war crimes and for the Holocaust. How much blame can be placed at the feet of “ordinary” German military units? Turns out that the “clean Wehrmacht” story is not only a myth, but it also greatly influenced how post-War Europe was re-built. Professor Nash joins us to examine how deep and wide the war guilt goes.

Feb 27, 2017

Many things seemed phallic to Freud, the father of psychoanalysis. But did this include the humble cigar? Or did Freud just dismiss overanalysis by saying, “sometimes a cigar is just a cigar”? What that a genuine Freudian quip? Did Groucho Marx agree? Find out by listening to this brand new Quote or No Quote episode!

Feb 24, 2017

Join members of the 82nd Airborne Division of the US Army as they interview Professor Jennifer Keane and our own Professor Buzzkill! We discuss the complicated history of the end of World War I, as well as the historical legacy of the 82nd Airborne, the "All American" division. Listen and learn, Buzzkillers!

Feb 22, 2017

George Washington has every political ideal in the country ascribed to him at one time or another. Big government. Limited government. Freedom of religion. Freedom from religion. What did he really think? What were his political principles and beliefs? Where did they come from? Find out in this episode, Buzzkillers.

Feb 20, 2017

Lots of people are credited with coining the great phrase, “well-behaved women rarely make history.” These include Marilyn Monroe, Gloria Steinem, Eleanor Roosevelt, Anne Boleyn, and our own Aunt Ginger from the Buzzkill Institute. Given time, any powerful woman with backbone and verve will get credit for this phrase and sentiment. Listen and learn who said it first.

Feb 15, 2017

Huge numbers of listeners have flooded the Buzzkill Institute with emails, faxes, texts, and Tweets, asking about President Donald Trump’s Executive Orders. They’ve come so fast and furious! With a little help from Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Reagan, se explain the nature and operation of Executive Orders, as well as the history behind this fascinating aspect of American history and government.

Feb 13, 2017

Valentine’s Day is here again, Buzzkillers, and you can be certain that we’re depleting the Buzzkill bank account at a rapid clip so that we can give Lady Buzzkill all the best tokens of love and affection befitting her rank and station. And it’s always around this time of year that people ask me about St. Valentine. Did he really pass a heart-shaped note to an admirer and sign it “Your Valentine”? Was this the first Valentine’s Day card? Listen and learn!

Feb 7, 2017

The 2017 Super Bowl ad by 84 Lumber was dramatic and touching. It shows a Mexican mother and young daughter trying to get to the United States. They struggle for many days to reach the border, but are confronted by a huge obstacle when they get there. Find out why Professor Buzzkill thinks this ad owes a lot to historical parallels, and why it meant a lot to him personally.

Feb 6, 2017

Legendary American football coach, Vince Lombardi, was fond of telling his players “Winning isn’t everything. It’s the only thing.” He employed it many times to motivate them, as well having it posted all around the locker room. And he’s usually the person who gets credit for the quote. But was he the first person to say it? Find out in this episode of Quote or No Quote!

Feb 1, 2017

The tragic story of the ship “Marie Celeste” has been told for over a hundred years. And tale gets wilder and wilder every time. On December 5, 1872, the vessel was found drifting in the Atlantic Ocean about 1,400 miles west of Portugal. The crew and passengers were gone, but the ship was in near perfect condition, with all her lifeboats intact, and all the supplies, clothing, and provisions for her occupants intact. It was as if the people had evaporated. What happened? Find out, and also learn what the “Marie Celeste” tells us about how historical myths and misconceptions start and spread!

Jan 30, 2017

At the height of World War II, the British people and British government finances were stretched to the limit. A journalist asked Winston Churchill if the government should cut funding for the arts. The Prime Minister replied, “Then what are we fighting for?” But did he actually say this? The real story is much more interesting. Listen and learn!

Jan 25, 2017

German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel has gone down in history not only as a genius soldier and commander, but also as a military leader above politics, and a hero because he participated in the plot to kill Hitler. How much of this is true, and how much of this is myth? How much of the myth was generated by the German propaganda machine, and how much was boosted by British media buying into it? Professor Phil Nash joins us as we unravel The Rommel Myth.

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