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April 16, 2018

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall.
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the King’s horses and all the King’s men
Couldn’t put Humpty together again.

But there is no egg! Yet “everybody knows” that Humpty is an egg. This is an example of what “everybody knows” as not necessarily being so. The poem was first printed in 1810, and Lewis Carroll wrote Alice in Wonderland in 1865, including illustrations that for the first time showed Humpty as a huge egg sitting on a wall – fixing an image forever in subsequent imaginations.

But the story of Humpty Dumpty is earlier. In the 15th Century in England, Humpty Dumpty was a common “nickname” to describe someone who was extremely large, resulting in many stories identifying who or what Humpty really was. The most plausible one is that in the English Civil War in the 1640s, Humpty Dumpty was the name of a large Royalist cannon atop the church tower in Colchester.   In the siege of the town, the upper portion of the tower was destroyed by cannon fire from the Parlementarian attackers, and the large Humpty Dumpty came crashing down.  The Royalists (“all the King’s men”) were unable to restore it to use and soon surrendered the town.


Another example  of what “everybody knows” or perhaps assumes, this time from the Bible, tells of Saul’s name being changed to Paul after his conversion experience on the road to Damascus. But the Bible never says that, and the explanation is much simpler. Saul is his name in Hebrew. Paul is his name in Greek (Paulos) or Latin (Paulus). In Acts, Saul is his name used in Palestine contexts, and Paul is used in Gentile contexts. And the Letters of Paul were written in Greek.

So just a caution. What “everybody knows” doesn’t make it true.

Loren Bullock
April 16, 2018

From → Beliefs

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