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Aluminum Christmas Trees

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"Roadrunners are real?"
Homer Simpson, The Simpsons, "Last of the Red Hat Mamas"

A story element that exists or existed in Real Life but is assumed to be fictional by the audience, often because it seems too unlikely, bizarre, or kitschy to be real. Sometimes truth really is stranger than fiction...

The Trope Namer comes from the 1965 Peanuts TV special A Charlie Brown Christmas, in which Lucy instructs Charlie Brown to "get the biggest aluminum tree you can find [...] Maybe painted pink!" Aluminum Christmas trees? In pink?! Obvious hyperbole about the artificiality of Christmas, right? Nope: The '50s and The '60s had their share of oddball kitsch, and the aluminum Christmas tree was real. They were artificial trees with foil needles, not hollow metal cones as seen in the special, but they definitely existed, and you could even get them in pink. They were usually called "tinsel trees", which is the name under which they are marketed today. There are many videos on YouTube showing how to set up, restore and repair them.note 

So why do viewers assume these shiny spruces must be fictional? Well as it happened, A Charlie Brown Christmas contributed to their demise. After the special aired, sales plummeted, and tinsel trees had all but disappeared by 1971.note 

In short, when a quaint element of Real Life appears in a work of fiction, the audience might mistake it for part of the fiction. The usual reason is lack of familiarity with the object, so it is more likely to trip up those viewing the work from a different perspective (e.g. years after the work was created, or from another culture). And most "aluminum Christmas trees" are, like the original, a bit out-of-the-ordinary and kitschy. Even so, it's immensely funny (to those in the know) when someone dismisses a Real Life element as patently absurd and "unrealistic".

This can also occur in works where the writers did do the research, but the truth they uncovered is so bizarre or surprising that audiences think they must have just made it up. In this case, writers may add a "Not Making This Up" Disclaimer. Of course, just because something once existed doesn't mean that it was commonplace. This is why period pieces which did their homework (all the costumes are reconstructions or composites of documented outfits, for example) can still reveal the cultural assumptions of the time in which THEY were created.

Compare Technology Marches On, Once Original, Now Common, Defictionalization, and Poe's Law. A subtrope of Reality Is Unrealistic, Values Dissonance, and Truth in Television. Can also be used as a means of Shown Their Work. Frequently found in Unintentional Period Pieces. If even the creators were unaware that the "tree" was real, it's Accidentally-Correct Writing.

When this occurs in-universe, it's either Eskimos Aren't Real, or the work will give a "Not Making This Up" Disclaimer.

It could simply be a case of Small Reference Pools.


Example subpages:

Other examples:

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    Anime and Manga 
  • In Arpeggio of Blue Steel, the JDS Hakugei is a submarine with a rocket propulsion system. This is currently being researched by DARPA.
  • Berserk: Kentaro Miura uses Rule of Cool to sprinkle his fantasy world with weapons, armors, costumes, architecture, and technology from various real life cultures and eras, to the point where it's hard for the layperson to distinguish between what he made up and what he borrowed from history.
    • Miura loves to draw elaborate and fantastical armors with animal-shaped parts and other decoration, many of which did not exist but are inspired by almost equally wild parade and costume armors that survive in museums; he even directly copies some museum pieces, such as the armor worn by Lord Gennon in the Battle of Doldrey which is shaped to simulate puffed-and-slashed clothing of the early 16th century.
    • For the Kushans, a Fantasy Counterpart Culture of India with some "Arabian Nights" Days thrown in, he depicts real weapons and armor that most Western readers have never even heard of: examples include Silat's urumi swords, with multiple flexible whip-like blades, and the maduvu used by the monstrous Daka soldiers, which consist of two blackbuck antelope horns pointing in opposite directions and connected by two crossbars which serve as grips. The Kushan Empire was also the name of a Real Life dynasty.
    • One of Mozguz's disciples uses a strange weapon resembling a spiked collar on a pole, which clamps around a victim's head. It seems so outlandish that such weapons appearing in other works have been misidentified as Berserk references. Not only is it a real weapon, it's still used today by riot control officers in some countries, including Japan.
  • Bleach: A flashback set 109 years in the past has Shinji telling Aizen that he's playing jazz music which is just becoming popular in the World of the Living. The fandom reacted with surprise that Tite Kubo, a famous music geek, would be wrong about jazz existing back then. However, in a small joke sketch in that volume, the author informs the character that 'jazz' doesn't actually exist yet, leaving Shinji confused over what he's listening to. The implication is that Shinji is listening to ragtime, which these days is often viewed as an early form of jazz.
  • Darker than Black:
    • The British Secret Intelligence Service is popularly called MI6, thanks to the James Bond series. So, the name "Secret Intelligence Service" seemed too "spy-like" to be real and looks like a fictional agency created by the show. MI-5 and MI-6 were real organizations with responsibility for domestic (MI-5) and overseas (MI-6) human-intelligence assets. Details
    • Also with the British spies of Darker than Black — it's easy to think that the designs of November 11's cigarettes, black with white skulls on them, are just a joke. Nope, they are an actual British product, which fits perfectly with November 11's sense of humor.
  • To non-Japanese viewers of Digimon Adventure, the giant red saw seen in the real world might seem remarkably odd, but it's a real sculpture called "Saw, Sawing" near Big Sight in Odaiba.
  • In the Universe Survival Arc of Dragon Ball Super, Goku gains a new power called Ultra Instinct. Ultra Instinct is a fictional, supernatural, and exaggerated version of something that can be achieved in real life — it's based off the concepts of Mushin and Flow.
  • Future GPX Cyber Formula:
    • The series has a handful of cars with 6-wheels, particularly the later incarnations of Asurada, which are basically futuristic versions of the Formula One Tyrrell P34 model used 15 years earlier.
    • The Asurada cars also have effect fans, which are used to produce more downforce for cornering and to cool the engines. There have been race cars with fans before: Chaparral and Brabham experimented with these models in the 70's, but they were outlawed before anyone else had a chance to copy them (the Brabham fan car remains the only F1 car with a 100% winning record).
  • One episode of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex centered around a computer program a person used that automatically traded stock, which continued even after the programmer died. In fact, those kinds of programs already existed and were in use when the episode was made, and have since become commonplace to the point that automated stock transactions are actually the majority.
  • Oh, you thought the Wellington noble family from Hello! Sandybell were fictional?
  • In Hellsing, the Papal Knights wear pointed, face-concealing hoods that many American readers assume are a reference to The Klan. They're actually capirotes worn during certain Catholic ceremonies, most famously Holy Week processions in Spain.
  • Many Hetalia: Axis Powers fans have wondered why in flashbacks the male countries seem to be crossdressing as toddlers. They're not, those're boy's clothes. Until the early 20th century, it was common in many countries for young boys to wear dress-like garments until they were at maximum 8 years old. When that happened they would begin "breeching".
  • HuGtto! Pretty Cure:
    • Several episodes feature characters changing diapers even if they aren't soiled. While this may seem odd to Western viewers, it's a Japanese tradition to change the diapers of babies hourly, even when they aren't wet or soiled.
    • Some episodes feature the characters singing traditional Japanese songs that may seem like original ones to the average foreign viewer. For instance, episode 9 has Emiru sing "Picnic" and episode 14 has daycare workers sing "Yurikago no Uta".
  • In JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders, Iggy's favorite coffee-flavored chewing gum seems like something that was made up to Western audiences, but it's a common product in some Asian countries. In the west Wrigley's actually sold a coffee-flavored gum for a limited time, and some specialty companies still make them.
  • One episode of Lupin III shows Lupin in a race driving a six-wheeled car. At the time of production, the Tyrrell P34 was competing in F1, using the four small wheels up front to maintain traction while having better aerodynamics than a pair of taller wheels.
  • Naruto:
    • There was some controversy over a claim made by Killer B while fighting Kisame that octopuses eat sharks. In real life though, it's been known to happen.
    • While the ones present in Naruto are stylized, some types of Japanese armor really did use forehead protectors, sometimes taking the form of a headband.
    • In Naruto Gaiden, Karin is shown to have put Sarada's umbilical cord into a box. Many non-Japanese fans were confused by this, but it's an actual Japanese tradition akin to cutting a piece of a baby's hair and putting it away.
  • In Negima!, season one, episode eight, the twins mention a "walking club", which is about professional walking. There actually is a sport called "racewalking", established enough to be included as an olympic event.
  • Episode 7 of Oh, Suddenly Egyptian God shows the titular gods huddling inside to stay warm while the world outside snows over. While it sounds very improbable, snow in Egypt is something that can actually happen in real life, albeit very rarely. Last time it happened was in 2013, which was said to be the first time Egypt (or more specifically, Cairo) has had snow in over 100 years.note 
  • Despite being the Anime of the Game, some viewers were surprised to find out that Phantasy Star Online 2: The Animation is based on a real video game. The anime's use of a fictional, in-universe counterpart of the game it's based on did not help in the least.
  • The English name of the Pokémon: The Series protagonist, Ash Ketchum, would be easy to see as merely a punny play on the franchise's Gotta Catch 'Em All slogan. In truth, Ketchum is an actual English surname dating back centuries.
  • In the 95th episode of PriPara, Mirei shows some moms at a playground a "Mama Ticket" she made. Most viewers outside of Japan assume that it's just a mother-themed PriTicket, but it's actually a spoof of mama cards.
  • Red Sprite: While Tatsu's Technicolor Lightning seems exotic, it's actually based on a real meteorological phenomenon where large-scale electrical discharges go off in the sky, often in colors like red, forming ethereal "sprites" of plasma. This phenomenon is also the source of the name of Tatsu ship's and the title of the story, "Red Sprite".
  • Rurouni Kenshin:
    • The title character fits this in two respects. One, he's loosely based on an actual person, and likewise, so were a number of the other characters (see below). Kenshin's original was named Kawakami Gensai. Potentially, Kenshin's Bishōnen to the point of Dude Looks Like a Lady appearance could be an example of this. Word of God states that Gensai had feminine features and carried out assassinations in broad daylight because people thought he was a woman and allowed him to get close enough, and at one point was said to have hid out in a brothel following an assassination. It also might have something to do with Uesugi Kenshin,note  who is presented as a bishonen in some historical fiction works. On top of that, there have been some speculations that Uesugi Kenshin was secretly a woman.
    • Shinomori Aoshi was based off historical character Hijikata Toshizo, and his boss Kanryuu based on Takeda Kanryuusai. Also, there really was a Saito Hajime. And Saito Hajime was married, which the author predicted would be so unbelievable that there was a tag that said "This is historical fact" when Saito mentions he's married. He also spent much of his later life as a school teacher and died of an ulcer.
  • In Continuity Reboot Sailor Moon Crystal, the retention of Game Center Crown may seem to run counter to its Setting Update to non-Japanese viewers, given the Westernnote  death of the Video Arcade, and the 2003 tokusatsu's change to a Karaoke Bar, but though contracting, arcade gaming remains the largest sector of Japan's gaming market.
  • Strike Witches, has the premise of the series it self. Many people may find young teenage girls riding around in World War II era flying equipments on the frontlines of the war to be the most ridiculous things that they've ever heard. Well, just try to tell that to the veterans of the Night Witches and the 586th Fighter Regiment, many of which had pilots as young as the girls in the show. Even better, one of the show's main supporting characters was even based on the Ace Pilot of the latter regiment, who is also the current record holder for the greatest number of kills by a single female fighter pilot.
  • In the 1986 anime adaptation of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the poppies that put Dorothy, Toto and the Cowardly Lion to sleep are blue instead of red. This might seem like Fantastic Flora, but blue poppies do in fact exist: the Himalayan blue poppy, native to China and parts of South Asia.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!:
    • The Duelist Kingdom arc featured a famously altered ruleset from the real game, which led to many kids of the era deriding it for not following the rules of the card game—most evidently, the lack of Tribute Summoning. The thing is, the card game actually did use such a ruleset for about three months, before switching to an "Expert" ruleset. Tribute Summoning was essentially an Obvious Rule Patch to curtail how absurdly overpowered cards like Blue-Eyes were. The manga even acknowledged this by noting that Battle City (which introduced Tributes to its version of the game) would be using similar rules.
    • An unnamed Rare Hunter in the Battle City arc is known for using a deck focused on Exodia, featuring three copies of every part of Exodia, along with multiple copies of the draw-based card Graceful Charity. Many fans assume his decklist to be a sign of cheating (and it certainly doesn't hurt that his cards are noted to be counterfeit, and he explicitly does cheat in the anime), since the Exodia pieces and Graceful Charity were limited to one copy per deck at best throughout the TCG's lifecycle, but there was a period of about half a year in the OCG where players could indeed use up to three copies of the Exodia pieces and Graceful Charity. At the time the Rare Hunter was introduced in the manga, his deck would have been basically legal.
  • Zombie Land Saga: Episode 5 features the girls of Franchouchou participating in the Gatalympics, which are a real event that takes place on the mud flats of Kashima, Japan in late May or early June. While the show was in production, several of the voice actors participated in that year's actual Gatalympics, with Minami Tanaka winning 2nd place on the bicycle race.

  • Some fans of Barry Humphries' character Dame Edna Everage have been surprised to learn that her home town, the 50's middle-suburban dream Moonee Ponds, is a real suburb of Melbourne in Australia.
  • JJ Bittenbinder from John Mulaney's special Kid Gorgeous is a real person. Mulaney didn't really exaggerate much about Bittenbinder's "Street Smarts" presentation, either. The real Bittenbinder didn't deny anything from the bit other than the fact that he didn't wear a cowboy hat when he talks to kids. The specials that Bittenbinder did for PBS Kids can also be found on the internet to be compared to the bit.
  • A lot of people thought that Bill Cosby's "Chicken Heart" routine was a fake Lights Out episode that Cosby made up just for comedy purposes. There was indeed an actual episode of Lights Out called "The Chicken Heart". While Cosby did exaggerate a bit, the basic premise of "a chicken heart becomes enormous" is mostly intact. However, more people know of Cosby's routine mocking the skit than the actual episode.
  • Image Macro: "How are unicorns fake, but giraffes are real? Like what's more believable, a horse with a horn or a leopard-moose-camel with a 40 foot neck?"
  • Played with in The Onion’s article, “Man Consults Internet Whenever Possible”. Yes, when it was written, it really was unusual to primarily use the internet for all the things listed within.

    Comic Books 
  • Jughead's trademark hat in Archie Comics was actually once a real fashion trend among teenagers during the years in which the comic debuted. They would cut up their fathers' old fedoras into jagged-edged inverted caps (it's called a "whoopie cap"). Nowadays, Jughead's hat now just makes him look eccentric, or maybe just like a hipster. Due to Jughead's Big Eater tendencies, some folks confused it for a Bland Name version of Burger King's cardboard crowns they give to kids. The same style was worn by Goober Pyle on The Andy Griffith Show.
  • Asterix is mostly Purely Aesthetic Era and the kind of deliberately inaccurate things French children half-remember from primary school history, but the creators did do a lot of research by reading contemporary Roman reports, and occasionally this shows.
    • For instance, according to the Romans (the Celtic people, as a rule, left no written records) the historical Gauls really were said to be terrified of the sky falling on their heads, and to have shot arrows at the sky during thunderstorms to just dare it to come down. Occasionally Cacofonix will be depicted with instruments besides his signature lyre, usually a ridiculous-looking bagpipe-like thing and an even more ridiculous horn with an animal head, all of which are the instruments the real Gauls would have used — bagpipe-like instruments were known to have been played by the Romans (notably by Nero, who was also said to have been very bad at it), and the horn is a carnyx, a kind of early trumpet with a boar's mouth-shaped bell.
    • At Varius Flavus's orgy in Asterix in Switzerland, the women are wearing ridiculous, apocalyptic hairstyles with a bonnet-shaped mass of tight curls at the front of the head. That is a hairstyle seen quite commonly on busts of rich Roman women.
    • One gag in Asterix the Gladiator involves a trio of Romans in silly costumes walking into the arena covered in advertising slogans before a gladiator fight, while Caesar wonders whether or not people are bothered by all of the commercials. This is obviously a joke about television advertising, but was an actual practice — gladiator matches were preceded by advertising and sometimes the gladiators themselves would carry advertising pennants, wear slogans or use sponsored equipment.note  The Romans weren't even the first to do this, as there are accounts of Product Placement in ancient commentaries on Greek plays.
    • Whilst the "Place That Sends You Mad" in The 12 Tasks of Asterix is perceived as a sendup of modern-day unhelpful governmental public service departments, the Roman empire actually was one of the earliest civilizations to have the kind of complex, sprawling bureaucracy needed to spawn such locales.
  • Batman:
    • One of the more frequent nitpicks about the comics is the corruption of the Gotham City Police Department, from the Bronze Age onward. People thought that there's no way a major city could be that openly and utterly corrupt without someone (city government, the Feds) stepping in and cleaning house. Then you get a look at stories about New York City and Chicago, from as recently as the early 90s. Mob control of both departments (in addition to the courts and local government) was near absolute and took the FBI decades to break their hold.
    • In Batman: Year One, several high ranking police members attempt to kill Batman by ordering the abandoned building he was in at the time bombed by helicopter. The idea of law enforcement air bombing residential city space seems absurd, but was probably inspired by an incident in Philadelphia which occurred a few years before the comic was written.
    • The Dark Knight Strikes Again:
      • Linkara had thought that the News in the Nude segments were made up and was rather incredulous of the idea. While it is a paid service, Naked News is indeed a real thing.
      • Tthe idea of women in sexy cosplays of superheroes was treated in and out of universe with similar incredulity. Fast forward to the 2010s, it's become more mainstream.
  • The Solicitine sisterhood in Castle Waiting have been criticised by some readers as imposing modern feminist ideals on Middle Ages female monasticism. However, they are very similar to the real beguine movement in Middle Ages Northern Europe, which similarly involved women living together as a religious order with significantly laxer conditions than full nuns — notably, and as depicted in the comic, they were allowed to own property and run businesses, and to leave the community without question if they decided that they wanted to marry a man.
  • People smile in disbelief today if you tell them illustrator Frank Frazetta's art, and similar heroic fantasy creations including some pretty good amateur works, used to appear on vans.
  • Giant Size Man-Thing was an actual, six-issue, comic book series. Marvel had many "Giant-Size" comic books in the 1970s, in this case for the character Man-Thing. Other titles included Giant-Size Invaders, Giant-Size Marvel Triple Action, and the legendary (if less innuendo-laden) Giant-Size X-Men.
  • One of the many things that Linkara criticized about the comic Holy Terror was the ridiculous looking knife on the cover page with spikes on the underside of the guard. In a later video, he says it was pointed out to him by a fan that the ridiculous looking knife actually exists, although the spikes on the underside of the guard would be detached from it if wielded as a weapon.
  • In yet another Linkara example, he harshly criticized the Daredevil villain the Surgeon General for using her surgical skills to steal people's organs for resale, instead of using them in actual legitimate medicine. What Linkara apparently didn't realize is that the black market organ trade is a very real and very, very lucrative thing.
  • There's a 1940s JSA comic that consists of anti-German war propaganda, which claims (among other things) that the German people are violent by nature. One example of this "natural German barbarity" was called "scar dueling," where young men from high-end academies would fence with the intention of scarring each other's faces, then wear the scars as a status symbol. More than one modern reader thought this was ridiculous propaganda, except it was an actual occurrence in German academies! The scar was called a "schmiss". Left unsaid was the fact that the student organizations where this was so common were actually suppressed by the Nazis.
    • Mensur dueling is a tradition among many of the German equivalent to American fraternities ("Studentenverbindung", types of which include "Burschenschaften", "Corps", "Landsmannschaften" etc). Nowadays it is not mainstream any more, which they were and it was in those times, and the scars ("Schmiss", pl. "Schmisse") are no longer a status symbol accepted throughout society, deliberately sought, deliberately emphasized (by deliberately bad stitching, by adding dirt to the wounds, by excessive use of alcohol specifically aimed at impeding the healing of the fresh wounds), which they were at the time, but rather a prominent (very recognizable, definitely not universally desirable) side effect. Here's the type of safety equipment worn for a mensur duel in the late 1950's; unlike a normal fencing mask, it protects the eyes, nose, and throat but leaves the cheeks and forehead vulnerable.
    • In Star Trek: New Frontier, it is assumed (though never said outright) that Katerina Mueller's scar was from a mensur duel from her Heidelberg days. Apparently, the practice is still in existence in the 24th century (though probably on the DL).
    • There is a Genius Bonus about that in Batman: The Animated Series, where Duvall tells Jonah Hex "You cannot defeat me. I am a Heidelberg fencing champion". Jonah is not impressed...
  • Lucky Luke: Lucky Luke drawing his gun noticeably faster than his own shadow is a mighty impressive feat—the emphasis being on the word "noticeably". Since your shadow always moves a fraction of a second later than you yourself do, it's physically impossible not to draw your gun at least a little bit faster than your own shadow.
  • Rorschach (2020) features a major plot element of a video cassette documenting a séance held between Frank Miller, Otto Binder (best known creating Supergirl and his work on DC's Captain Marvel), and others, using on a technique of listening to cassette static to hear messages. In the comic, this gets passed around as being what ends up driving those who listen to it into a conspiracy theory, believing there to be a hidden message sent by Dr. Manhattan after the heroes disbanded long ago. However, the tape itself actually existed in real life — Binder fell into the "Static Man" conspiracy rabbit hole following the death of his daughter, and he became convinced he could listen to her through the static. The transcript of the tape presented in the comic is almost identical to the real deal, with the only change being how it replaces the "Tom Fagan" in attendance with the fictional William Myerson.
  • Superman:
  • Many raised eyebrows when X-Men introduced the villainous character Manuel Enduque, a West African teenage billionaire whose wealth comes from a family tradition of human trafficking that goes all the way back to his great-great-grandfather, thinking that the idea to have an African who profited from slave trading was done purely to be edgy. In fact, there was a thriving slave trade amongst African and Arabian nations long before Europeans arrived and established the Trans-Atlantic Slave Routes, and even to this day, many West Africans descended from slavers feel no shame about what their ancestors did, or even regard them with pride for the wealth and power they enjoyed.
  • As in Watchmen, which features the Comedian's smiley face button (stained with blood during his Plot-Triggering Death) as a recurring visual motif, there really is a smiley face crater on Mars. This smiley face is called Galle (which is another huge element of the series). Dave Gibbons admits that was incredibly lucky.]
  • In Superhero comics in general, people criticize the Cut Lex Luthor a Check trope where highly intelligent villains use their inventions and skills to commit crimes when they could use their skills legitimately for more money. However, these complaints overlook the fact that a lot of very intelligent and skilled people do use their inventions and skills for crime for any number of reasons. They may have technical skills but lack the accompanying business or social skills to advance in their career, they may hate the idea of working for anyone else, or they may just be doing it For the Evulz as much as any actual profit.

    Comic Strips 
  • In Elvis, Elvis' daughter listens to "Smurf Hits," pop songs with the lyrics rewritten to be about The Smurfs. Most people in Sweden, where Elvis is published, know that Smurf Hits is a real thing. But the fact that the song that Elvis' daughter is listening to, which goes "Kokobom smurf smurf, kokobom smurf smurf," is real will surprise a lot of readers since it sounds more like a parody.
  • Garfield:
    • In one strip where he put on a singing performance on top of the fence, he had money thrown at him by the resident of some distant Pacific island in the form of a millstone. The Yap islands in the Pacific really do use enormous round stone discs with a hole in the middle as a form of currency. See The Other Wiki for details. Anyone who grew up in the '60s or '70s would remember the Yap stone coin's frequent appearances in Ripley's Believe It or Not! on the funny pages, but everyone else....
    • In one strip, Jon purchased a "battery powered battery charger". At first glance, this seems like an absurd waste of money, but in fact many people carry external battery packs to recharge the batteries in their phones and other portable electronics when there's no power outlet available.
  • Knights of the Dinner Table:
    • The Faygo soft drink, beloved of the characters, and the bizarre flavours mentioned (like Rock & Rye), is an actual US brand and not something Jolly Blackburn made up. Fans of the Insane Clown Posse will recognize it as the band's drink of choice. For added surprise, Rock & Rye is both a whiskey cocktail and a commercial liqueur made with rye whiskey and rock sweets.
    • Some fans were likewise unaware that Hawk the Slayer is a real movie. This is somewhat more justified than the Faygo example as Hawk is one of the few films mentioned by actual name; most of the time the characters mention a movie, the title is a made up one. Though this may become less of an example since Hawk the Slayer has been featured on Rifftrax.
  • A story arc in the 1980s Old West comic strip Latigo starts with one character, who is a bit impractical and thoughtless, rejoicing at finding a "three-dollar gold piece". It's got to be a fake, right? Nope, the U.S. Mint tried it, from 1854 to 1889. Nobody liked it. In the 35 years it was produced, less than half-a million were struck, at all three U.S. Mint facilities, combined.
  • In one Calvin and Hobbes strip, Calvin's dad waxes nostalgic about wooden escalators. It's easy to assume he's just talking about regular stairs as a snipe at modern technology (and would even be well within his character to do so), but no, wooden escalators were a real thing (and, while much rarer now, still exist today).
  • The UK adult comic Viz (not to be confused with the Japanese manga company) is an Affectionate Parody of the kind of children's comic that proliferated in the UK even before World War II. Everything from the layout to the tropes therein are in the same style. Given that that type of comic fell victim to higher prices for newsprint and changing tastes, there is at least one generation that doesn't understand what the comic is attempting to copy. (The Beano is the only survivor [unless you count Genre Throwback The Phoenix], and these days arguably comes across as a kid-friendly version of Viz.)

    Fan Works 
  • In Boys und Sensha-dō!, it is mentioned that there is a sport called Sentoki-do, similar to Sensha-do, but with planes rather than tanks; Akio's family does it, but he is unwilling to do so because of the accident that killed his father. The author says that combat dogfighting actually exists in real life, over the Pacific Ocean, with lasers instead of simunition rounds.
  • Dragon Ball Z Abridged:
    • In Episode 19, Vegeta tries to prepare Gohan for the fight with the Ginyu Force by comparing it to various Toku shows. Gohan didn't know any of them... except for the last of a long list, Tattooed Teenage Alien Fighters from Beverly Hills. Judging by the comments in several YouTube videos of that series, a lot of people were surprised to find that the show was real, and not just a joke. Amusingly, prior to making the episode, neither did Team Four Star themselves: when they were writing the joke and needed the most obscure Western Toku-style show possible, KaiserNeko's husband suggested Tattooed Teens, only for the others to say "That existed?!"
    • Likewise, quite a few people unfamiliar with the original dubs of the show had no idea that Piccolo's motivational speech after his fusion with Nail was taken directly from them.
      • In another Piccolo example, Abridged occasionally has characters refer to him as "Big Green". This is another reference to an old dub of the show, where Piccolo was renamed to Big Green.
    • Cell's comment about how by the time Goku was in his teens, he'd "defeated an army, several demons, and sent a rabbit to the moon" had Trunks asking "Did you make that last one up?" A lot of comments on any video dealing with early Dragon Ball villain Monster Carrot tend to get a response along the lines of "huh, Cell didn't make it up."
    • According to the commentary, several viewers didn't realize that the scene of Gohan pissing on Krillin in Dead Zone was actually in the original movie.
  • The Heroes of the Storm fanfic Heroes of the Desk has its protagonists escaping in a vessel propelled by "magnetohydrodynamic" engines. The drive is both a real (if impractical) concept and has been used in fiction before (as the "caterpillar drive"). Its cousin, the magnetoplasmadynamic drive (ion engine), also makes an appearance, though the ability to have both in a single housing switching between modes at will is Rule of Cool.
  • In A Kingdom Divided, it is mentioned that the airships' rotary engines tended to lose cylinders in mid-air. It's an actual issue of WWI-era aircraft rotary engines.
  • In Seven Days in Sunny June, a group based in several high schools is named "The Club" whose purpose is to drug and date rape girls in the various schools until it was taken down. Some people complained that it was a Very Special Episode plotline doused with a lack of realism until the author pointed out that said groups do exist...and then proceeded to give examples, two cases of which happened at prestigious schools in Tokyo and Philadelphia.
  • In Vinyl and Octavia Engage in Roleplay, the two title characters play a tabletop roleplaying game called Pony Tales. It's a real thing.
  • In Origins, a Massive Multiplayer Crossover between Mass Effect/Star Wars/Borderlands/Halo, a ship propelled by nuclear bombs sounds typically Torgue. Except it’s not. NASA actually had designs for such a ship, called the Orion Drive. Needless to say, just like Torgue, reality set in and it was scrapped.
  • In Ambience: A Fleet Symphony, a C-130 is landed on the USS George Washington, which led to some readers calling it impossible. Actually, C-130s have been landed on carriers before, although the idea was later rejected as too risky to be made a routine operation.
  • Several readers of Doing It Right This Time were quite surprised to learn that The Ethical Slut is a real book.
  • The Discworld fics of A.A. Pessimal preserve the Original Flavour of Terry Pratchett by incorporating unlikely, ridiculous, strange and little-known concepts from Real Life — usually explaining in footnotes how and where they happened on this world. "Spanish Bacon", for instance, or the little-known Pig War between Great Britain and the USA.
  • The Pieces Lie Where They Fell: In the sequel Picking up the Pieces, chapter sixteen mentions salmon-flavored vodka. It actually exists in real life — it's brewed in Alaska.
  • Citadel of the Heart
    • Digimon Re: Adventure has an unorthodox example because it mostly revolves around all of these different things existing in the same place, of an area in Japan that just so happens to be Odaiba from Digimon Adventure. For starters, there is a mall complex named "AQUA CiTY" that has literally the only thing fictional shown within it in the fic being the Chrome Digizoid reinforcement. Yes, this means that the android receptionist is real as well.
    • Digimon Re: Tamers has something significantly more mundane being presented as Ruki is presented as being a G-Rated Alcoholic by having an addiction to soda as opposed to alcohol. The author explains this by stating since Ruki is too young for alcohol, he chose soda as a replacement, because based off of the author's own experiences with sugary and caffeinated soda himself, he has indeed experienced many symptoms akin to withdrawal from a lack of soda on the schedule he's allowed some each day of the week. So this is more so being a case of Write What You Know accidentally being subject to this, because the author didn't expect he'd have to actually explain this to his friends who were confused by this at first.
  • In Ghosts (How To Train Your Dragon), the pregnancy test Gothi has Astrid take seems like a take on a classic method — peeing in a bag of barley seeds. If they sprout within a few days, that means she's pregnant as is the case. While there is no evidence that Vikings practiced this, this was an actual method of finding out if a woman was with child since the times of 14th century BCE Ancient Egypt and was practiced into the medieval period.
  • In Chapter 29 of The Chronicles of Karai Getting Her Shit Together, Karai takes Leo to KFC, claiming that it is super popular in Japan during the holidays. In Real Life, KFC as Christmas dinner has been a widespread practice in Japan since 1974.
  • In Chapter 3 of Infinity Train: Blossoming Trail, Chloe shampoos her hair from a flower that smells like chocolate. Sounds fictional? The flower is an orchid called "Oncidium Sharry Baby" which actually does smell like chocolate.
  • In Fire & Rain: Applejack and the Queen of Knives the date and time for the most part is presented in what appears to be straight out of an Alternative Calendar / Standard Time Units invention. Most readers actually thought it as, until it was pointed out that it's actually the military Date-Time Group, based on the Julian date system, and used in real life.
  • Toonatopia: The Animation Initiation has a line where Wanda says "I knew that sponge was going too far as soon as I saw the SpongeBob thermometer!" Believe it or not, that's not a joke — there actually were SpongeBob thermometers.
  • In A Sad Story, Uncle Vernon uses a shotgun with a silencer to kill Hedwig. The silencer sounds like a Hand Wave to prevent the neighbors from hearing the gunshot, but shotgun suppressors do exist- not to make the weapon stealthier, but to reduce the risk of hearing damage by making the gunshot less loud.

    Films — Animation 
  • The Statue of Liberty is a golden yellow in the first An American Tail movie. The animators showed their work, because the statue's skin is mostly copper, it really was that color when it was new. The greyish bluey green which the Statue of Liberty would eventually be known for is a copper oxide patina that formed in subsequent decades.
  • In Anomalisa, Michael arrives at a hotel in Cincinnati and is given the option of a smoking or non-smoking room, picking the former. The film takes place in 2005; Ohio did not ban smoking in hotels until the following year.
  • In Beavis and Butt-Head Do America, Mr. Van Dreissen picks up an acoustic guitar and plays a song called "Lesbian Seagull", which later reprises over the end credits sung by Englebert Humperdinck in the style of an Award-Bait Song. The song is silly enough that you'd think it was made up for the film, but the original version was released in 1979 by gay singer-songwriter Tom Wilson: The album it appeared on, Gay Name Game, featured both serious and humorous songs, so it's unclear whether the narm of this particular song was intentional after all.
  • In The Boxtrolls, the "tastiest cheese known to man" is aged for centuries from the milk of the male lactating fruit bat. Cheese aged for centuries from bat milk is not a thing (yet, at least), but two species of fruit bats are in fact the only male mammals known to naturally lactate.
  • In Despicable Me 2, Lucy uses a lipstick taser on Gru, a moment showcased in the trailer. Stun guns disguised as lipstick actually exist.
  • Many people who viewed Frozen were surprised to find that ice harvesting was an actual thing in the 19th century that was especially common in Norway and many other parts of Europe and North America, and was exported to countries as far as the Philippines and the Carribean. Blocks of ice were put into icehouses to store food before modern refrigerators existed.
  • Frozen II: It might look weird to see black people like General Mattias in a 19th century Scandinavian kingdom, but it's not a matter of Politically Correct History. Norse settlers, traders, and Viking raiders explored all over Europe, including North African and Middle Eastern nations on the Mediterranean sea, and some people from those areas came back to Scandinavia (as either slaves/indentured servants or free-men), so it's not impossible for there to be dark-skinned descendants of those immigrants.
  • Many non-European viewers of Disney's The Hunchback of Notre Dame consider Esmeralda Ambiguously Brown, but her ethnicity actually is "gypsy". Gypsies, or Romani as they're more correctly called, are descended from nomads who left India hundreds of years ago. Many people who have never met a Romani don't realize that "gypsy" is an actual ethnic group and not just a term for nomadic travelers. To add to the confusion, like most adaptations, Disney gave the character a Race Lift (in the book she was a stolen white baby raised by the gypsies). Due to the unfortunate implications of this, most adaptations cut this part out. With that said, Disney's version of Esmeralda does have a darker skin tone than even the other Romani in the film, so she may be Ambiguously Brown after all.
  • The Incredibles:
    • The way the interviews and news broadcasts were done in the film was how interviews and news were done in Real Life in the '50s and '60s.
    • One of the film's settings is "Nomanisan Island" its name being taken from the phrase "No man is an island". There really was a "Nomanisan Island" in Lake Kittamaqundi, Maryland, U.S., until it was converted into a peninsula in 2010.
  • Inside Out:
  • Kronk's New Groove: The idea of an elected Empress (which is one of the schemes Yzma tries to pull off) obviously sounds ludicrous, but, in fact, there are some places that actually did elect monarchy, including the Holy Roman Empire, medieval Ireland, and early modern Poland. There are still elective monarchies, including Malaysia, Cambodia, and Wallis-and-Futuna, a French territory in the Pacific Ocean, which is divided into three traditional kingdoms each led by a king elected among the local aristocracy.
  • Lightyear:
    • In the 1980s and 1990s, it was not uncommon for there to be merchandise or children's cartoons based on more adult geared action films, films that were often very popular among younger viewers (particularly teenagers) despite their ratings. This would explain how both the Buzz Lightyear action figure in Toy Story and the series Buzz Lightyear of Star Command could have been spun off from this movie.
    • Moreover, there were a few instances of media aimed at families or younger viewers showing or at least alluding to same-sex relationships in the 1990s. Examples include Willow and Tara on Buffy the Vampire Slayer (a series aimed primarily at teenagers), Xena and Gabrielle on Xena: Warrior Princess, and the same-sex kiss in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Rejoined".
  • Monsters vs. Aliens: Dr. Cockroach telling Gallaxhar's supercomputer that his Ph.D is in dance seems like a funny case of Artistic License – Education, but in actuality, dancing Ph.Ds exist, which are designed to help those who earn their doctorates become performance artists.
  • Mulan is sometimes attacked for invoking Interchangeable Asian Cultures and borrowing elements from Japanese and Korean culture. However, those are really just Ancient Chinese aspects that influenced the other countries. Mulan's dress for the Matchmaker resembles a kimono but is actually a hanfu (traditionally Chinese).
  • In My Little Pony: Equestria Girls – Rainbow Rocks, the instruments Trixie's bandmates are playing look bizarre to some fans who haven't seen any live performances of electronic music. They're a fairly accurate representation of typical portable sequencers.
  • Pocahontas:
    • John Smith ends the film sailing back to England on a months long sea voyage to get better treatment for a gunshot wound than the Powhatans had. Some viewers think this is ridiculous; that a months-long sea voyage would only put his life in more danger. Except that's exactly what happened (although he was injured in a gunpowder accident rather than being shot by the Big Bad) and he did survive the voyage.
    • The Green Aesop of "Colors of the Wind" actually ties into traditional Native American values, specifically the religion of Animism. That is the belief that all natural phenomena has a soul (reflected in the lyrics "but I know every rock and tree and creature has a life, has a spirit, has a name"). The presence of Grandmother Willow — a spirit of a talking willow tree — is a representation of this belief too.
    • The sequel has a moment where Chief Powhatan gives Pocahontas's escort to London a staff — and tells him to cut a notch on it for every "white face" he sees, so they can get an idea of their numbers. This is something the real man actually did.
  • Ratatouille:
    • As crazy as it seems (to American viewers at least), the pest control shop with all the dead rats hanging in the window is an actual store in Paris. It's called Aurouze, and it's been around since 1872.
    • Anton Ego's last review of Gusteau's prior to the events of the movie said "Gusteau has finally found his rightful place in history right alongside another equally famous chef, Monsieur Boy-ar-dee." Ettore Boiardi was a real chef who ran a restaurant in Cleveland and became famous enough to start marketing a line of prepackaged Italian food. The earliest products were more akin to the boxed pastas and canned sauces still sold by more respectable brands today.
  • The Aracuan bird from The Three Caballeros is actually a real species, called the Aracua or Speckled Chachalaca. However, the real animal looks nothing like Disney's version.
  • Toy Story:
    • In Toy Story 2, Al lives in an apartment block that doesn't allow children, which is Truth in Television; 18+ only apartments do exist for various reasons and became more common in the 2010s.
    • In the opening scene of Toy Story 3, Woody has to save a train full of orphans. Orphan trains actually existed in the late 1800s.
  • In Turning Red, milk is advertised as being sold in bags which is actually common outside of the USA.
  • Winnie the Pooh: Pooh likes eating honey from jars, which tends to be portrayed as a solid bright yellow color and fairly thick and creamy in texture, rather than a semi-translucent, syrupy orange-gold liquid. However, the honey he eats is crystallised "set" or "creamed" honey, where the honey crystals are ground very fine to prevent a grainy texture. This has sometimes not been encountered by readers or viewers before, leading to confusion due to the lack of similarity with "runny" honey. "Runny" honey will itself crystallise over time, but these crystals are much larger than those in "set" honey.
  • Legends of Valhalla: Thor: While having Thor be Odin's illegitimate son sounds like something people only familiar with Classical Mythology would drum up, one must remember that this was the case with Thor in the original mythology.

  • The Arrogant Worms song "The Last Saskatchewan Pirate" is a comedy about a down-on-his-luck farmer turned to piracy on the river Saskatchewan. While real life pirates have probably not operated on the Saskatchewan to any great extent, river pirates have been a thing on most major rivers in the world.
  • Many American listeners thought that the "Electric Avenue" of Eddy Grant's early '80s hit song was a made-up name for a party place. In fact, it's a real street in the neighbourhood of Brixton in South London, which gets its name from being the first market street in the area to have electric lighting and hosts a regular immigrant street market (and once you realize that, the fact that it's a protest song about the 1981 Brixton riot rather than a party anthem becomes clearer).
  • "Punk Rock Girl" by The Dead Milkmen features the lines "Someone played a Beach Boys song on the jukebox / it was 'California Dreamin'..." Some have expressed irritation at such an error, since "California Dreamin'" is of course by The Mamas & The Papas. Others have called it a deliberate mis-attribution: the main characters are portrayed as Quincy punks, so it would sort of be in-character for them to not know (or care about) the difference. However, the band have confirmed they were actually referencing a Cover Version of "California Dreamin" that The Beach Boys had released as a single two years earlier (in 1986). The Beach Boys version was much later used in a montage in Stranger Things Season 4 episode "The Hellfire Club", since the season was set in 1986 and the montage in question involved a character moving to California.
  • Perhaps because of its use in Super Size Me, "Rock N' Roll McDonald's" is one of the better-known Wesley Willis songs. Listeners tend to think it's just about McDonald's in general, and are therefore puzzled by lyrics like "McDonalds is the place to rock" and "people flock here to get down to the rock music" and assume they are simply part of Willis' unconventional songwriting style. Rock N' Roll McDonalds was an actual place—a large flagship McDonalds restaurant full of rock and roll memorabilia in Willis' home city of Chicago.
  • In 1949, Mel Blanc recorded a wild takeoff on Al Jolson singing "Toot, Toot, Tootsie (Good-Bye)" (which Jolson sang in The Jazz Singer). At one point, Mel whistles in a manic bird-call-esque fashion. Just Mel being silly? Nope! Jolson had done a new recording of the song two years prior where he did a whistle solo that was almost as wild as Mel's.
  • Listeners can be surprised that "the Rolling truck Stones thing" or "the mobile" in "Smoke on the Water" note  refers to the Rolling Stones Mobile Studio, a truck with a built-in recording studio that was owned by The Rolling Stones, who loaned it out to bands such as Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin to record music.
  • "Weird Al" Yankovic:
    • The song "The Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota" recaps a family road trip to see the world's biggest ball of twine. He also rattles off a list of other tourist traps they've visited in the past:
      Like Elvis-A-Rama, the Tupperware Museum,
      The Boll Weevil Monument and Cranberry World,
      Shuffleboard Hall of Fame, Poodle Dog Rock,
      And the Mecca of Albino Squirrels
    Even if you're aware that the world's biggest ball of twine is indeed a roadside attraction — if only from the number of other times it's been mentioned or parodied in popular media — and correctly assumed that it is indeed located in Minnesota (its creator's hometown of Darwin, to be exact), you'd probably think that list was made up like the rest of the song's details. Nope, they're literally all real places, even the last one, which could actually be referring to a number of different towns vying for recognition of their albino squirrel populations.
    • "Virus Alert" claims that the eponymous virus will "invest your cash in stock in Euro-Disney". Euro-Disneyland (now known as Disneyland Paris) was an infamous flop, but how could someone specifically buy stock in a particular Disney property? But no, he's referring to Euro Disney S.C.A., an independent company that built and operated the park in partnership with Disney and which, prior to 2005 (admittedly before the song was released, but probably not before it was written), did indeed have its own stock listing on the London Stock Exchange.
  • In the post-Thatcher era, many younger listeners assume that the line "It's one for you, nineteen for me" from The Beatles' "Taxman" was an exaggeration. It wasn't; the top marginal tax rate really was 95%. (Note that this means only income above a certain [very high] threshold was taxed at 95%.)
  • The Marty Robbins ballad "El Paso" begins in Rosa's Cantina. This cantina does exist in the same city and fans of Robbins and The Grateful Dead (who covered the song) regularly visit the place.
  • Indie rock musician Kurt Vile is often assumed to be using a stage name, with some believing it's a pun on either Kurt Weill or Alan Moore (who once used the pseudonym Curt Vile). In fact, Kurt Vile is his real name, the similarities are a coincidence and his parents were apparently unfamiliar with Weill when he was born.
  • In Frank Zappa's song "The Blue Light", from Tinseltown Rebellion, there's a line about smoking the white stuff from the inside of a banana peel. As ridiculous as this sounds, people really used to think you could get high this way.
  • Nas's "No Introduction", Kendrick Lamar's "HUMBLE", and likely a large slew of other rap songs mention "syrup sandwiches". It's an actual recipe where you put syrup between pieces of bread, similarly to jam.
  • Tom Wilson's "Lesbian Seagull" (see above) counts. Nowdays, the song sounds like some strange joke, if you don't know the historical context. The song refers to actual scientific interest in the 70s about an explosion in observed same-sex female couples among seagull colonies. It was quite a to-do in Gay and Anti-Gay circles; given the theme of the surrounding album was homosexual life in the 70s, the debate would have been somewhat well known to Wilson's intended audience at the time.
  • The video for Ultravox's "Dancing with Tears in My Eyes", during the line "We love to the sound of our favorite song", depicts a boombox that plays vinyl records. Several models of vertical turntables were in fact made by Sharp at the time.
  • The 1961 hit "Tossin' and Turnin' " by Bobby Lewis has the lines "The clock downstairs was strikin' four" and "I heard the milkman at the door". This wasn't contrived to make a good rhyme. It's an Unintentional Period Piece from the days when dairies would deliver milk door-to-door, before supermarkets were common or grocery stores sold milk. A delivery man would be out from about 4 to 6 in the morning, delivering glass quart bottles of fresh milk every day. Since the milkman was out so early, most people never saw him.
  • The cover of Less Than Jake's Pezcore is an illustration of a young girl shooting Pez candy out of a small pistol — Pez did briefly market a "pez gun" in the mid-'60s, and the cover art is a detail from a real print ad.
  • Sabaton's Horrible History Metal frequently calls attention to obscure, forgotten, or lesser-known parts of history that might come across like something out of an exaggerated Hollywood war movie. An all-female regiment of teenage girls who fly biplanes against the Nazis? Less than 800 Polish infantry holding off a Nazi tank invasion force numbering 40,000 strong, for three days? Nazi forces attempting to besiege a castle being successfully held off by a motley assortment of American GIs, French POWs, Austrian resistance fighters, and deserting Wehrmacht troops? 7000 Germans being forced into retreat by a numerically inferior Russian bayonet charge even after the Russians had suffered a gas attack so devastating that they were literally coughing up bloody flesh and pieces of their own organs as they charged? All real.
  • Yello: Listeners in Europe commonly assumed that Domingo de Santa Clara was made up by the band for the song "Domingo", given the mystical description of him in the lyrics and the band's other eccentricities. However, Dieter Meier confirmed in a 1985 interview with Vinyl magazine that he was a real person, specifically a notoriously bizarre Augustinian monk named Abraham a Sancta Clara. The Domingo title (taken from the Spanish word for Sunday) was tacked on purely because Meier liked the word.
  • The classic 1943 Christmas song "I'll Be Home for Christmas" includes a reference to "presents on the tree." This sounds strange to most modern listeners, and several cover versions change it to "under the tree," "'neath the tree," or "by the tree." But in the 19th and early 20th centuries, it really was common to use ribbon or string to tie small gifts onto the Christmas tree branches: e.g. small toys, mittens, socks, or packages of nuts and sweets. In some households, Santa Claus left his gifts on the tree rather than in stockings by the fireplace.
  • This can happen with Rated G for Gangsta artists who started out with a controversial reputation but time has made them appear 'safe'.
    • It's common for young Eminem fans to think his songs about his censure from Moral Guardians and Corruption of a Minor-themed persona is just him trying to appear shocking, especially because since getting clean from drugs he's been best known as an earnest and uplifting figure who seems far better behaved than hip-hop stars like Kanye West, 6ix9ine and even Lizzo. In reality, he was picketed constantly on tour by GLAAD, radio stations were getting fined for playing his songs and his toxic relationships with drugs and his on-again-off-again wife were Media Scaremongering topics that dominated every newspaper, being marketed as he was to children and young teenagers despite the vulgar content of his music.
    • It's well known that most Gangsta Rap is just Kayfabe, but Snoop Dogg, despite being best known nowadays as a beloved marketing brand and Erudite Stoner, does have gang connections, was involved in a murder (that he got away with — it was ruled self-defense), worked as a pimp, was the main character of a moral panic and was almost banned from entering the UK on tour due to his past. His advocacy of marijuana use was also much more edgy when he was doing it in the 90s before marijuana legalisation became successful in the US, which is why weed became so much of his persona.

    Mythology and Religion 
  • The Trojan War was long believed to have been pure myth until Heinrich Schliemann succeeded in finding the ruins of Troy in Hissarlik, Turkey. They still turned out to have grown in the telling somewhat, however. For one, there wasn't a single city of Troy, but many, each built over the ruins of the last. Which one of these, if any, inspired the story is hard to say, though the sixth city (destroyed c. 1250 BCE) or more often the seventh (destroyed c. 1180) are the most favored. It wasn't just Troy either; Greek cities mentioned in the story but not inhabited in Homer's time have been found, and some of the stranger pieces of equipment like boar-tusk helmets have been found dating to the Bronze Age.
  • Archaeological discoveries apparently related to myths and legends tend to be all over the place with regards to this phenomenon. Each new find has different groups declaring that a tale is confirmed, disproven, or needs to be rewritten and all can usually offer up at least a token bit of evidence for their viewpoint. Even the discoverers themselves are often at odds with each other over how to interpret what they've dug up. At least part of this problem derives from a sort of ancient Memetic Mutation. Good stories spread, and locals alter those stories to relate to local heroes, events, and locations. It's often a mistake to attempt to point to an archaeological site as the source of a story, because it's just as likely that there are literally dozens of such sites scattered around.
    • For example, the famous Twelve Labors of Hercules were likely originally the famous acts of ten or twelve different local heroes, whose stories all got clumped up and attributed to the most famous one.
    • One explanation for Zeus' legendary hypersexual reputation (including family members) is that various myths involving the Top God or thunder god were syncretized over time into happening to a single god (so if one culture had a myth where the thunder god and fertility goddess had a child but weren't related, they became Related in the Adaptation as Zeus and his sister Demeter).
  • Historians assumed that King Belshazzar from the Book of Daniel was made up, due to non-Biblical sources identifying Nabonidus as the king of Babylon at the time of its conquest by Cyrus the Great and other historical inconsistencies. However, it was later discovered that Nabonidus's son and heir apparent was named Belshazzar and that he was his father's regent in the capital while he was campaigning.
  • Gilgamesh, King of Uruk, is usually thought to be merely a mythological king, because the only stories we have of his life are outlandish and framed in that kind of setting, and also because the name "Uruk" doesn't sound like a real city. However, Uruk was a real ancient Sumarian city-state, and Gilgamesh was its historical king. Gilgamesh is widely accepted to have ruled sometime between 2900 and 2350 BC, and we know this because of references to him from a different ruler we KNOW existed.
  • Timbuktu is believed by many to be a fictitious location found only in mythology and African folklore. Some even believe that "Timbuktu" is a general term for a dreamlike and/or nonsensical parallel universe. Timbuktu is a real place, a city in Mali with over 50,000 people living there and has a very interesting history. The reason why it's so often believed to be made-up is because of its odd-sounding name and because of the many ancient stories written about the city which make it sound like it only exists in legend.

  • The playfield freeway signs in Truck Stop refer to various towns with funny names, such as "Santa Claus, IN", "Smackover, AR", and "Metropolis, IL". These are all Real Life Cutesy Name Towns.

  • In Behind the Bastards during the second episode on Reinhard Heydrich, Evans mentions that some listeners wrote in to say they were shocked to find out that the "knife missile" mentioned in his Running Gag about Raytheon is an actual thing. Specifically, it's the R9X variant of the AGM-114 Hellfire air-to-surface missile, nicknamed the "ninja missile" and "Flying Ginsu" which replaces the explosive warhead with a cluster of heavy metal blades. They've been used in targeted strikes against terrorist leaders, to kill the person without blowing up the area around him and harming others.
  • Hey! Jake and Josh:
    • A more disturbing example pops up during the Cool Kids Table game Bloody Mooney. When Ms. Pear the detention teacher threatens to hit the students with a paddle, Jessica shoots back that she can't because it's 1986. The DM Alan, through the teacher, points out that striking students was actually still allowed until the nineties.
    • In Episode 51 of Pokémon World Tour: United, Alan describes a Chansey dipping her cookie into her tea as something strange, causing Jake, Josh, and Matt to all roast him for having never considered that that's the purpose of cookies in the first place.
  • Pretending to Be People includes an off-hand reference to cashew chicken. While nobody would be surprised by the existence of cashew chicken itself, the podcast is actually referring to a variant of the dish from Springfield, Missouri.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Ric Flair and Harley Race both seem like obvious kayfabe names. They aren't. Neither is Rick Rude.note 
  • Likewise, a tag team named the Hardy Boyz seems totally made up, but Matthew Moore Hardy and Jeffrey Nero Hardy really are brothers and those really are their birth names.
  • Katey Harvey didn't invoke My Nayme Is when she became a wrestler. Her name is naturally spelled 'Katey', and she's competed under her real name for her whole career.
  • Mickie James likewise sounds like a stage name, but it's her given name. Especially unusual considering she used a stage name in TNA and the indie scene (Alexis Laree) but went by her real name when signed to WWE.
  • Vince McMahon had a concept called Friar Ferguson back in 1993, 13 years before Nacho Libre. Of course, the Catholic Church of New York called him out on this, forcing the character to be dropped. Yet, there was a priest named Fray Tormenta, who earned extra money for an orphanage by taking part in professional wrestling. Yes, before Jack Black, Vince McMahon had done his research.
  • Brock Lesnar's name is so fitting for his image that it might be shocking to find out it's his birth name.
  • Joaquin Wilde is of Filipino descent yet he's part of the Latin American based LWO and previously Legado del Fantasma. Sounds like a bit of a mistake but although they consist of 1% of the entire population, there are Filipinos who in addition to identify themselves as Asian, also consider themselves Hispanic as well due to having a similar history of Latin American countries.

    Puppet Shows 
  • Many modern American viewers can't make sense of a scene in the original Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons. Lt. Green is manning the gun turret on a moon rover. After blowing up all the enemies (for the moment), he asks, "Do I get a coconut?" The response is something like, "When we get out of this, you'll have all the coconuts you can eat." This is often misinterpreted as a racist joke. It's actually a reference to Coconut Shies, where coconuts were a common prize. They're still common enough at fairs in England. As is memorialized in the old novelty song, "I've Got a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts".
  • Many people would never believe you if you told them that Alice Cooper appeared on The Muppet Show in 1978. But he did — performing "Welcome to My Nightmare" dressed as a vampire and "School's Out" dressed as a devil, and trying to get the Muppets to sell their souls to him! (And yes, that episode did come in for some flak — to the point that the writers had to slip in a totally extraneous scene of Robin the Frog singing "Over the Rainbow" just to placate the censors.)
  • In the Under the Umbrella Tree episode "What's Cooking?" Jacob makes peanut butter and lettuce sandwiches for dinner. This might seem like Bizarre Taste in Food today, but actually, peanut butter and lettuce sandwiches with mayonnaise were a popular cheap lunch during The Great Depression.

  • The Goon Show has Bluebottle talking about how when his grandad retired, his firm gave him "one of dem tings what it is that wakes you up at eight o'clock, boils the kettle, and pours a cuppa tea," which turns out to be Bluebottle's grandma, but you're supposed to think he was talking about a teasmade. Listeners from less tea-obsessed countries might think it's just more Surreal Humor. Which, incidentally, is why in the video for Queen's "I Want to Break Free", Brian is woken by by an alarm clock that's blowing steam.
  • "Never Be Rude To An Arab" from Monty Python's Contractual Obligation Album may seem like just another example of the troupe's boundary-pushing humour, but there is actually a Danish children's song titled "Jeg har set en rigtig negermand"note  which is basically the same concept, except played 100 percent straight.
  • KFM 94.5's Whackhead Simpson prank-called a woman to tell her that her car had some serious problems, and reeled off a list of fictitious repair parts, one of which was a headlamp gasket (not to be confused with a head gasket, which goes between the engine and the cylinders). Headlamp gaskets are, in fact, real car components which seal the headlamp and protect it from rain and road debris.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • In the campaign "Living Greyhawk", there was a Veluna event where the heroes visited an anarcho-syndicalist commune near the border of the country. Many players claimed that this was a blatant reference to Monty Python and the Holy Grail that had no purpose in the setting. The author had to explain both on the Internet and repeatedly in person that much of Monty Python's humour was based on British politics, and that there once was such a political system. Early Anglo-Saxon communities were rather democratic, often appointing a honcho solely to command in wartime and booting him shortly thereafter. In pre-industrial societies, it would be quite common to find communes making collective decisions and informal positions of authority. Many people wouldn't even know the king's name; the young Chairman Mao didn't hear of the Emperor's death until two years after. Even as late as the early eighties, some Chinese peasants were still referring to Deng Xiaoping as "the best Emperor we've ever had." Aside from the precise term used as a title, he literally was.

      Although what is incorrect here is the use of Anarcho-Syndicalism as the name for the system used there. Communal decision making was often the norm in Europe, but Anarcho-Syndicalism is a separate ideology based around revolutionary industrial unionism that would be really anachronistic in a pre-industrial world.
    • Also, a lot of players may be surprised to learn that a fair amount of the more ridiculous monsters of Dungeons & Dragons are actually derived from real mythology.
      • Most notably the Peryton (a stag-headed eagle that needs humanoid hearts to reproduce) and Al'Miraj (a giant unicorn-horned bunny). The Peryton is, funnily enough, something of an inversion as well; its earliest mention dates back to 1957, and it's believed it was created as a joke along the lines of "people will believe anything if you say it's in a lost medieval bestiary."
      • One of the most iconic dragons, Tiamat, is a real part of the Babylonian mythology. That said, the mythical Tiamat as described in the Enûma Eliš looked nothing like the five-headed dragon from the show/game.
      • Similarly, many players might be surprised to learn that Bahamut is a real part of Arabian mythology, though just like Tiamat most of what you see in pop culture is a modern invention. Bahamut was never the mortal enemy of Tiamat (they're not even from the same pantheon!) and bore more resemblance to a fish than a dragon.
    • If you're not a devout Catholic, you probably don't know that St. Cuthbert, the World Of Greyhawk god of mercy, is an actual saint (in fact, he's the patron saint of Northumbria). Along with Tiamat, he's one of the few real-life religious figures who remain in the default pantheon.
    • Ah, the Monk class. A giant homage to Shaolin monks and Hong Kong kung fu movies, totally out of place in the Medieval European Fantasy setting of a typical D&D campaign — right? Not quite — in medieval Germany, it wasn't unknown for monks to be trained in martial arts, and there are even records of them threatening knights. The Royal Armories Manuscript I.33 (also known as the Tower manuscript and the Codex Walpurgis), a 13th-century German martial arts manual, actually depicts a monk and a scholar fighting each other, not knights as you might assume.
  • One may be forgiven for thinking that, due to frequently going for The Theme Park Version of feudal samurai culture, the majority of samurai family names in Legend of the Five Rings are faux-Japanese hackjobs. Well, several are, but the game gives us a good number of legit surnames as well: Shiba, Matsu, Yoritomo, Asahina, Isawa, Togashi, Ujina, etc. A few others aren't proper people's names, exactly, but do reference things that were actually in Japan. Hida was the name of one of the old feudal provinces on Honshu Island, and Ikoma is the name of a mountain. Most of the place names are technically Japanese, as well. At least, they use real Japanese words that make sense and were probably intentional... Just not in the right order. A notable example (which is both common and understandable, among novice speakers) is the usage of "no" as equal to the English word "of" rather than the possessive "'s".
  • Some of the names the designers of Magic: The Gathering come up with for the cards are actual archaic terms or derived from archaic terms. In fact, Doug Beyer hosted several linguistic looks at sets and divided certain names into "okra" words (real but strange), "twinkie" words (completely made up), or "tofu" words (made from real words, but are really alien), inviting readers to guess which category a certain word on a card fell into.
  • The "Get Out of Jail Free" Card from Monopoly was indeed a real thing in Britain in 1567, done to raise money for their Navy. They created a lottery with first-prize being a whopping £5000 worth of money, precious metals, fine tapestries, and linen cloth (so, around $2.6 million in today's money). They cost about 10 shillings a pop (about $270 in today's money), which was far too rich for most people's blood, so they also declared that anyone who had a ticket was promised freedom from arrest for all crimes excluding murder, felonies, piracy or treason. Yes, this means not only was it a very real thing, but the one-time-use "Get Out of Jail Free" Card from Monopoly is actually more believable than the real thing.
  • Pathfinder includes Mummy paste as a moderately addictive Fantastic Drug. In real life, mummy powders and extracts saw occasional use as drugs for centuries and only finally fell out of use in the 1920s. Of course, real-life mummia wasn't harvested from a supernatural source and didn't risk transforming its users into undead abominations... as far as anyone knows.
  • Part of the extensive backstory of Shadowrun includes an earthquake hitting New York City in 2005, which completely devastates Manhattan. Sounds like it could only be the product of the setting's magic, except there do exist fault lines in New York and New Jersey, including many close to the Big Apple itself. The largest of these occured in 1884, which was estimated to be Magnitude 5.
  • In Warhammer 40,000, there's a shard of an ancient star god called the void dragon on Mars in an area called the Noctis Labyrinth (Latin for "labyrinth of night"). This is an actual place on the surface of Mars, called "Noctis Labyrinthus", where deep valleys form a maze-like structure.

  • Samuel Adams wrote in one of his letters that if the Founding Fathers did not ban slavery, "there will be trouble a hundred years hence." He was off by fifteen years. The writers of the musical 1776 had to modify the line because they were afraid the audience would think they had made it up.
  • Performances of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) often result in the audience asking "did William Shakespeare really write that?" afterward; he did. Sort of. Many of the Shakespeare quotes are verbatim. note 
  • In Mozart's opera Don Giovanni, there is a scene where there is a party where everybody is supposed to watch Don Giovanni eat. A satire on the decadence of eighteenth century aristocracy? An example of an absurdist flight of fancy? Not at all: watching the nobles eat was a popular form of entertainment in pre-revolutionary France. The Palace of Versailles even sold tickets to the King's meals. (Anyone could go, whether local or tourist.) It could be described as the eighteenth-century version of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. Unfortunately, the logistics of providing viewing space meant that the food served, while superficially magnificent from the audience's point of view, was often cold, congealed, and barely edible by the time it reached the head table. And testing each dish and drink for poison meant that a glass of wine took about 20 minutes to pour.
  • In Hamlet, the title character tells Horatio he endorses Fortinbras as king in the ensuing election. The Danish nobility of that era did, in fact, elect the king. By Shakespeare's time it had become common for son to follow father on the throne, but that was by no means automatic, and the Kings had to invest significant political capital in making it happen. It took a coup d'etat perpetrated by the reigning King (yes, that's a thing) in 1660 to make the throne automatically inheritable.
  • The fate of Cinderella's stepsisters in Into the Woods seems like an addition to tie into the musical's Deconstruction of fairy tales. But this is what happens to them in the Brothers Grimm version — one sister cutting off her big toe and the other her heel, and the birds blinding them afterwards. Likewise instead of a Fairy Godmother, Cinderella prays at a tree planted on her mother's grave.
  • In Knickerbocker Holiday, Stuyvesant, obviously grasping for a Pretext for War, asserts that "the Connecticans have built a fort on the Connecticut River, within our territories". Though the musical is riddled with historical inaccuracies, particularly Stuyvesant's Historical Villain Upgrade (which is even lampshaded), it is true that New Netherland did claim the Connecticut River as within its territory at the time. New Netherland/New York gradually surrendered its claims to territory bordering on the Connecticut River through separate treaties with Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont.
  • Given the changes made to the story of the von Trapp family in The Sound of Music, viewers might be forgiven if they assume that Georg's membership in the navy of landlocked Austria was invented as well, but they'd be wrong. Before 1918, Austria controlled a large empire including all of what is now Croatia and far-northeastern Italy (specifically, the city of Trieste). In that territory were numerous sea ports that were protected by a small but well-respected navy. The real Kapitan Georg von Trapp was one of Austro-Hungary's most decorated naval officers during World War I: he commanded two different submarines and was responsible for the sinking of an Italian armored cruiser and a French submarine.
  • In the original productions of the musical Spring Awakening, the punk rock-esque hairstyles some of the boys sported are assumed by many to be a result of the show's Anachronism Stew, but in fact, the director claims that they were inspired by some actual hairstyles in photos from the era.
    • Also, those unfamiliar with the 19th century play the musical is based on (if they even know there is one) can be surprised to find that many scenes from the musical that seem to touch on modern controversial topics, such as one featuring a kiss between two boys, or the female protagonist's back-alley abortion, were, in fact, in the original.
  • A latter-day viewer/reader of the stage or film versions of State of the Union may wonder why Conover is so monomaniacal about gaining the support of party power brokers for presidential candidate Grant Matthews, and is contemptuous of Grant's support with voters. The answer is that in those days, as had been the case throughout history and would still be true for a couple more decades, the party nominating process was controlled by power brokers. Party primaries did exist but were largely irrelevant, and in Real Life, candidates really were nominated by people controlling blocks of delegates at conventions.
  • The audience of The Tsars Bride are often skeptical about the German physician being called Eliseus Bomelius and suspect it's a case of As Long as It Sounds Foreign. Actually, Bomelius is a Historical Domain Character who really had that name (or at least went by it) and really came from Westphalia. (There was a fashion to Latinise German names, which resulted in some truly odd but real names.)

  • American Girl:
    • Children who got Molly might have been confused that her penny was silver, not copper like was expected. Steel pennies really were minted in 1943 due to copper shortages. In fact—early in the line's creation—the penny that came with Molly dolls was actual coinage. (This was, sensibly, changed to copies later on.)
    • Felicity names the horse she later frees Penny, saying that she has the coat of a bright copper penny. This can be thought of as inaccurate because the US didn't mint pennies until the 1790s, after the Revolutionary War. However, British half-pennies and pence would have been in circulation (given Virginia was a British colony) as well as other coinage such as the Spanish dollar (and bits broken off it) and Spanish coins in copper. "Penny" wasn't just a term for one-cent pieces and more a general term for any coinage in use.
    • A lot of the BeForever stuff has been assumed to be historically inaccurate, particularly bright and colourful items or things that would be considered unusual today. In particular, many people complained that Samantha's BeForever collection had too much emphasis on pink colored clothing. However, the availability of coal dyes starting in the mid-1800s made bright pink (among other colors) a very widespread fashion choice and highly popular, and it's possible that older extant clothing has faded from originally brighter hues. So yes, Samantha's Frilly Frock is historically accurate, including the lace-up boots (which are roundly mocked as "metallic" but were based on real satin boots, which would indeed have been shiny).

    Visual Novels 
  • Ace Attorney:
    • A major plot point in the first game is the Statute of Limitations on an old murder case being almost up. Just another aspect of the series' ridiculous Kangaroo Court, right? No, Japan really did have a Statute of Limitations on murder until 2010. The abolition applied to all murders that were still active under the prior Statute, i.e. within the past 15 years. Given that the murder in question happened in 2001, the plotline for the revisit in 2016 falls under the assumption the law would remain.
    • Non-Japanese players might be surprised to learn that the Defense Attorney's and Prosecutor's badges in the series are the designs of the actual lapel pins worn by Japanese legal professionals.
    • The court system itself (no jury, enormous amount of power in the hands of the prosecutor, no respect for defense attorneys) is only a minor exaggeration of the Real Life justice system in Japan at the time the games first came out.
    • Case 4 in Spirit of Justice has a few examples. Time Soba and Soba Glutton are both real Rakugo routines, and English-language karuta cards do exist. They're often used to teach Japanese speakers English phrases and idioms.
  • Followers of the Let's Play thread for Hatoful Boyfriend were convinced that the bird photograph used for Anghel Higure was either Photoshopped or a bird that had been shot (or 'shopped from a bird that had been shot). Bleeding-heart doves do exist, and the namesake red stain on their chest is natural.
  • Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors:
    • An International Driver's License is not just some convenient Hand Wave.
    • Downplayed with Ice-9. While the substance described in the game is fictitious, there actually does exist a substance called Ice-IX.note  In fact, the numbered ices actually go all the way up to Ice-XVIII, with Ice-Ihnote  being the everyday form of ice.
  • John Titor was not just some random name made for Steins;Gate. He was an actual figure from 2000 who claimed, on the Internet, to be a time traveler from the year 2036.

    Web Animation 
  • Awesome Series:
    • In Metal Gear Awesome 2, the player is skipping through an annoying Cut Scene when Snake first meets Otacon (at Otacon's suggestion). Halfway through, he stops skipping just when Otacon is complaining about Snake coming onto him, causing Snake to get annoyed the player had to stop skipping at that part. It scans pretty much like a standard Shallow Parody Queer People Are Funny gag, but in fact the scene is a direct spoof of an out-of-place Ho Yay moment that actually is in that cutscene, in which Snake starts feeling up Otacon asking if anything's wrong, and Otacon complains that Snake's "getting friendly all of a sudden", causing Snake to get embarrassed and flinch backwards (in reality, Snake is checking Otacon for symptoms of FOX-DIE). The scene also takes place immediately after a cutscene 'chapter break', so a player skipping through could easily stop skipping exactly at that scene.
    • The Awesome Series parody of Trauma Center has a gag where the doctor protagonist defuses an atom bomb. A number of viewers thought this was just one of the series's usual surreal jokes and were rather caught off guard to find that, no, there really is a scene in this surgery simulation game where you defuse a bomb.
  • Battle for BFDI: In "What Do You Think of Roleplay?" Spongy says one of his hobbies is sailing an airplane. Despite Firey Jr. saying otherwise, sailing aircraft do exist, but they look nothing like what Spongy was imagining.
    • In the battle between Deadpool and Deathstroke, Boomstick makes up the alloy "boomstickium" in response to Deathstroke's promethium armor, only to get told by Wiz that promethium is a real thing, although it's still nothing like it's portrayed in the comics — it's actually a chemical used in atomic batteries.
    • In the battle between Samurai Jack and Afro Samurai, Wiz compares Jack being forcefully sent to the future after years of training to "spending sleepless months in college only to find out no one cares about your English major", which Boomstick remarks that he should've gone with a more realistic major like his, which is poultry science. That's an actual major, by the way.
  • Homestar Runner:
    • In the short "Meet Marshie," the title talking marshmallow mascot advertises "all-marshmallow mayonnaise." To those not in the know, it just sounds like a silly (and rather disgusting) idea, but marshmallow creme is an actual product and is used for making actual sandwiches — for example, a peanut butter and marshmallow creme sandwich is called a Fluffernutter. Of course, that didn't stop Homestar from using the mayonnaise to make Marzipan a veggie burger.
    • In the idle Strong Bad Email animation on the Homestar Runner Toons menu, Strong Bad tells a sender that there is "no such thing" as too much salty plum soda. Such a beverage does exist and it is popular in Vietnam.
    • In another email, Strong Bad misinterprets the "CA" after a correspondent's name as a title of "Certified Arborist". That sounds like the sort of word salad that he and his costars drop on a regular basis — and many word processors' and browsers' spell checkers don't even acknowledge "arborist" as a real word — but there is indeed such a profession.
    • Similarly, in the game "Peasant's Quest," looking at a particular tree brings up the message "It's Arbor Day, Charlie Brown!" which is indeed the name of an actual Peanuts special and not a parody of how Peanuts had a special for seemingly every holiday.
    • The Cloitsterizer, a wooden Cartoon Cheese on a string first seen in the Strong Bad Email Suntan, is based on a real toy the creators saw a kid dragging around at a thrift store. They're actually mass-produced and known as lacing cheese, and are meant to teach lacing and sewing skills to toddlers.
    • In the email "lunch special", Coach Z orders a "cod plank platter", which sounds like a made-up foodstuff akin to "Super Chinese Fish Buffalo Rice" in the same email, but is a real menu option from Mandy's Pizza.
  • Hunter: The Parenting: Episode 1 takes place in Norfolk, England, and has the cast being amused by a nearby village named "Cockthorpe". Another nearby village is called Warham. An immature joke and a reference to the group's previous project? Nope, real Norfolk villages.
  • Part of the humor in If the Emperor Had a Text-to-Speech Device is that even the weirdest of elements used have shown up at some point or another, and are usually entirely canon.
    • The biggest one is the Adeptus Custodes being hellaciously Stripperiffic, which came from a few references straight out of the First edition of Warhammer 40K that weren't contradicted until the 8th Edition (long after Text To Speech made the joke). Indeed, many believe it was this series' portrayal of the "Fab Custodes" that prompted the new material.
    • While Karstodes receives a lot of mockery for thinking there's a Warboss called Big Green, he is correct, down to the book and page he references to try and justify himself.
    • During the Fourth special, Kitten stops Magnus' dramatic speech about the power and millennial legacy of the Ouija Board by asking "Why does it say 'Hasbro Incorporated'?" Hasbro does own the Ouija trademark and has sold boards before.
    • From the Eight short, crotalids. You'd think they would be entirely made up for the sake of Steve Irwin jokes, since Warp-dwelling crocodiles are generally kind of a ridiculous concept, but they are entirely canon. Just as the Deathwatch books say, gigantic crocs that can migrate through Hell itself for no conceivable reason genuinely exist in the Warhammer universe.
  • Episode 8 of Inanimate Insanity II has Test Tube use a bag of rice to attempt to repair a damaged MePhone. As ridiculous as it sounds, the "bag of rice" method actually works in real life to repair water-damaged iPhones. Test Tube just didn't execute it properly, as Fan must not have provided all of the details.
    • Later in the same episode, Steve Cobs makes an off-hand remark about the time where he was a video game designer. It's a rather unknown fact, but Apple did at one point design a console—the Pippin—which predates Microsoft's Xbox by a good few number of years. Unlike the Xbox, though, the Pippin was a massive failure and was quickly discontinued.
  • In Ratboy Genius, Little King John gets an unsettling Villain Song where he sings about how he makes "Potato Knishes" in his factory. It's not uncommon to think "Knishes" is just a random, surreal-sounding word for the sake of the magic and the mystery. But no — a knish is an Eastern-European snack made of a vegetable filling (like potatoes) inside a baked, grilled, or fried dough covering.
  • Salad Fingers: In the episode "Glass Brother," Salad Fingers is making a dish following a recipe that calls for "spider milk." While that sounds like something made up for the series, spider milk is real, and is actually healthier than cow milk.
  • SHARE MY STORY: In the video "How I Made $50 Million Dollars At Age 15," Alex uses a metal detector to find buried Roman coins and becomes rich by selling them. Commenters claimed it wasn't possible because the story is set in Poland, which was not part of The Roman Empire. However, this claim is false because people have discovered Roman coins as far away as modern-day India due to trade. The Romans engaged in trade with tribes in modern-day Poland, rendering the events of the story plausible, though it is most likely not considering the confirmation that most of the stories on the channel are fake.
  • Sonic for Hire: Seniqua is an actual given name. It's not quite as common of a name, especially outside the US, so many viewers thought this was made up.
  • This one is likely unintentional, but one episode of Two More Eggs' parody of British children's shows, Trauncles, focuses on the coming-of-age tradition of a school-age boy getting his first pair of trousers. While there's no longer such a tradition, there used to be.

  • Concession had a Story Arc where the character Artie is taken to a NAMBLA meeting after being Mistaken for Pedophile. The author had to assure people that it was a real organization and not something he made up for the comic.
  • Digger by Ursula Vernon frequently invokes this, most notably with the Hyenas' creation myth, and the vampire squash. A direct result of the author having been an anthropology major in university, and being fond of showing her work (she often comments on her website about the sources of the various odd myths, folklore, and biological quirks used in her comic).
  • Many Dumbing of Age readers who did not grow up in Christian North American households were surprised to learn that Hymmel the Humming Hymnal, Joyce's favorite TV show as a child, was a parody of a real Christian children's entertainment character: Psalty the Singing Songbook.
  • A lot of readers of Harkovast believed the strange, forward curving Junlock swords were a concept invented by the author (referred to by some readers as "crowbar swords"), rather than based on the falx used by Ancient Dacians.
  • Homestuck:
    • A number of readers on the MS Paint Adventures forum didn't realize that John's Trademark Favorite Food, Fruit Gushers, are an actual product. Ditto for WV's and Gamzee's Trademark Favorite Drinks, Tab and Faygo, respectively. More understandable if you're viewing the comic from somewhere outside of North America. American Homestucks well aware of the existence of Fruit Gushers likely didn't realize that said fruitsnacks were a product of Betty Crocker until reading the comic either. Even then, they probably thought that was made up as one of the smaller examples of how much of the world the Betty Crocker corporation has control over.
    • The troll culture might seem like an over-the-top spoof of militaristic civilisations and Proud Warrior Races. In fact, many elements of troll society — including all citizens above a certain age being automatically drafted into the military, a strict class-based society with the lower classes being freely abused by the higher classes, and babies being left in a hostile environment at birth to fend for themselves — were practiced by the original Proud Warrior Race Guys, the Spartans.
    • Another thing that surprises a lot of people is the fact that "I'm a Member of the Midnight Crew" was not made up for Homestuck: it was written by ragtime singer Eddie Norton in 1909, and the Midnight Crew are named after it, not the other way around. The a capella cover of the song usually featured in the comic is a modern performance, however, sung by David Ko in 2011. The original version is owned by Terezi as a vinyl record and can be listened to here.
  • IDGet annual has strips dedicated to celebrating Cheap Plastic Frog Day, which actually is a legitimate holiday, it's just a regional holiday in Ohio.
  • The comments section in morphE were skeptical on the idea of Billy Thatcher being able to play a game of chess with Curio from dictation alone (no board and nothing to note where the pieces were). A comment read "how anyone could hold a game of chess entirely in his brain. Once there is a disagreement over the positions, it's basically over.". It turns out that not only is a dictated game of chess possible but grandmasters, such as Billy, are capable of running multiple games at once in their head. The present world record is 32 games running at the same time.
  • Oglaf:
  • The Order of the Stick: Obviously, it's not real real, but the Monster in the Darkness's darkness-producing umbrella is a real Dungeons & Dragons magical item. It's called the Parasol of the Night Fiend, and is popular with sunlight-averse monsters like vampires and drow. (The kitties and duckies are Rule of Funny, however.)
  • The protagonist of Poison Ivy Gulch is Lotta Doler, a female Professional Gambler. Women gamblers like Lotta really did exist in the Old West! Some examples include Belle Ryan Cora, Eleanora Dumont and "Poker" Alice Ivers.
  • How many people realized the "Sogs" featured in this Captain Crunch parody were actual characters in old Captain Crunch commercials?

    Web Original 
  • One episode of The Angry Video Game Nerd has the Nerd pull out and quote the philosophical text “On Bullshit” by Harry G. Frankfurt. An obvious joke, riffing on the Nerd’s love of calling things shit right? Nope. It’s a real book.
  • Atop the Fourth Wall: Many fans thought that Linkara made up "It's magic, I don't have to explain it," unaware that it's a jab at Joe Quesada, who said it to justify the controversial changes made to Spider-Man in One More Day. The exact quote is a case of Beam Me Up, Scotty!, and was coined by a Spidey fan writing in response to the story. Quesada, upon being asked why he essentially responded with "It's magic. We don't need to explain it," in regards to the story, said that other Marvel characters used magic and no one needed an explanation for those.
  • The Black Guy Who Tips opens every show by mentioning that "The unofficial sport [of the show]... Is Bulletball! (And Bulletball Extreme!)". While "sport" may be too strong a term, Bulletball is real. Rod and Karen were on board even before Bulletball's creator brought it to Dragon's Den.
  • Can You Spare a Quarter?: Jamie at first isn't convinced that Jason knows an actual medicine man, thinking that they only exist in films.
  • Constable Frozen is a tumblr blog that specializes in surreal photo edits of Frozen. When the short Frozen Fever came out and images started trending on tumblr, some users were legitimately surprised that they weren't Constable Frozen's work.
  • Considering the weirdness of Don't Hug Me I'm Scared, you'd be surprised to learn that "Aspic" from Episode 5 is a real food. It's a clear and gelatinous ingredient made from meat stock which is eaten on its own, or used to season and preserve meat in pies, mostly those of the pork variety (Hence its earlier use in the King Crimson album title Larks' Tongues in Aspic).
  • Although the Department for Transport (DfT), part of HM Government in the United Kingdom uses Lampton a lot as a placeholder name on road sign designs, it isn't a fictitious name, but a small village near Hounslow. The place-name has nothing to do with lamps, meaning "lambs' farm".
    • Axtley, another place holder name, is also a real one, being a misspelling of Astley, a town in either Greater Manchester or a smaller village in Worcestershire, where x was used in medieval times sometimes if s was misspelt.
  • Dr Glaucomflecken: In the "First Day of Rural Medicine" video, the rural physician is the mayor of the town and says that he's "running up against a goat whose got some pretty impressive ideas" in the coming election. The line seems like it's simply a joke about how the town is in the middle of nowhere, but it's a reference to how the town of Lajitas, Texas has elected a series of goats as mayors since the 1980s.
  • Epic Rap Battles of History: "Gordon Ramsey vs Julia Child" caused this reaction in younger viewers, as Child died in 2004, so they didn't grow up with her on TV. As a result, the video sent many searching Youtube for clips of her cooking show to confirm that yes, she really did speak that way and Mamrie Heart's mannerisms in the video weren't exaggerated much.
  • The point of divergence of the timeline, The Footprint of Mussolini, is Mussolini being saved from assassination by a Jewish blackshirt. As it turns out, there were in fact Jews who joined the fascist movement, and many Italian fascists who opposed antisemitism. note 
  • Many of Freeman's bizarre anecdotes in Freeman's Mind are actually true, based on things that happened to the series creator. Squirrels really have been known to cause very large power outages by chewing through substations, and a quick Google search will bring up quite a list of burglars who died after slicing themselves open on window glass.
  • The GREYLOCK Tapes:
    • While it's a little more well-known nowadays, the fact that Project Stargate, mentioned in orientation protocols, was real and really did investigate Psychic Powers for the US Government can still take people by surprise.
    • Commentators have found Jim randomly picking up a dead rat at night only to find a tape inside it to be bizarre. This is a very real technique used by spies to pass information since most people would prefer not to touch an animal carcass.
  • The Gumdrops has an episode titled 'Whipping Day', centered around a strange Slavic tradition of whipping girls on Easter Monday as part of a fertility ritual to keep them beautiful and healthy for the upcoming year. Lindsay assumes it means A Taste of the Lash — only to find out it's a light tap with a homemade switch made from pussywillow.
  • The web series Hot Bikini Beans available to view on YouTube.
    • The very title is named after the bikini coffee stand which the show centers around. Though coffee stands with baristas serving drinks in two piece swimsuits is more-or-less a Northwest enterprise, they have grown in popularity and do actually exist. Exploitation of sex appeal and the demand for coffee, is it really that hard to believe?
    • Also in Episode 2 of the series, the character Cassie refers to "Sleep Dentistry" which just sounds too ridiculous to be a thing, right? Wrong. Sleep Dentistry clinics exist for people who experience anxiety at the dentist office, who are given a sedative or completely anesthetized.
  • Internet Historian's video on the Costa Concordia disaster of 2012 has a part where the coastguard calls up Captain Francesco Schettino, furious to learn he'd abandoned ship in the middle of the rescue efforts without even trying to help, to which Schettino protests he did try to help, but slipped and fell into a lifeboat. With how pathetic of an excuse this is, combined with the fact that while the rest of the video is filled with footnotes clarifying and elaborating on other details, this part doesn't have any, it's easy to write this off as an exaggerated joke mocking Schettino for how poorly he handled the situation. Yet according to news reports, Schettino really did try to use this as an excuse for why he fled.
  • Kickassia focuses on the main characters taking over Molassia, a "micro-nation" that's one acre in the middle of Nevada. Many people were surprised to find out that Molassia actually exists — and that they actually got President Baugh to play himself. The part where Baugh dresses up in a different uniform and insists he is not the President but rather one of his Ministers also seems like a gag for the series, but it's actually a standard part of the bit and he has several more costumes they didn't use. All the filming took place in Molassia as well.
  • In Mega64's video of a fictional newscast reporting about the hype of Modern Warfare 2, Derrick reports that Obama plans to restrict the release dates of Modern Warfare 2 and all future Call of Duty games to Sundays only in order to prevent disruptions. This sounds like a cheeky joke that Mega 64 would make but it's based off an urban legend where Japan decided to restrict sales of Dragon Quest to weekends due to children skipping classes and violence over lack of supply. While it's true that there were children skipping class to buy the game, the legend is false; there never was a law placed to restrict sales and the games being released on weekends was done voluntarily by Enix in order to avoid bad press.
  • Some Neopets players outside of the UK are surprised to find out that cheese rolling is not something the site made up, but a real event held in Brockworth, Gloucestershire. Similarly the Dandelion and Burdock drink is a real drink dating back centuries.
    • A cheese rolling minigame also temporarily existed in RuneScape during an Olympics-themed event.
  • The Fictional Video Game in which Noob is set mixes elements of real MMORPGs and completely made-up stuff and the fact is generally well-known within the fandom. As a consequence, someone sometimes assumes a feature is made up, only for someone else to inform them that it actually exists in a game.
  • SCP Foundation:
    • With more commonly used synonyms going around, and unless you're a user of the old Pine or Alpine email program, you've probably never heard of the term "expunge" before reading anything from the site. The rather frequent and narmy use of the term doesn't help it sound too much like a real word either.
    • Two of the items dispensed by SCP-261 are "Pepsi: Dragon Twist" and Mountain Dew: Doritos Blaze". In real life, Pepsi produced a limited dragonfruit flavor called Pepsi X to sponsor The X Factor in 2012, while Mountain Dew experimented with a "Dewitos" flavor in 2014, but it never went into production. Chocolate penises filled with white chocolate or fondant are a thing too.
  • In one of Ashens' '80s toy videos, he reviewed a toy that came with a story on cassette tape. He dragged out an actual tape deck to play it, and fast-forwarded through the tape in order to find the interesting bits. Several of his younger viewers were surprised to discover that in some players, cassette tapes actually do make a high-pitched, garbled noise when fast-forwarded, and that it wasn't just a sound effect invented by foley artists.
  • Trinton Chronicles features seemingly impossible future technologies, several of which are actually being tested in Europe and Asia right now, including:
    • Mag-Lev Trains: Trains that ride on magnetic thrusting power like a roller coaster using LMS launch systems. Japan is a world leader of this super silent and fast system but France is building an infrastructure based on Mag-levs. The first commercially operated Maglev train was a 1984 low speed system at Birmingham airport. The first commercial high speed Maglev line is the Shanghai Transrapid, which was developed by the German company Transrapid International and completed in 2003.
    • Recycle Tanks: Pay-As-You-Recycle devices that give change for weight of aluminum, plastic, and paper.
    • Paper-Thin Phones: Actually real world tech is going into making cellphones disposable and paper-thin using nano fibers and microchips the size of ants.
    • Hydrogen Power Cars: A new fuel source using hydrogen gas to power cars. Testing in Germany mostly, although there was a bit of a push in California in the mid 00s. The main problem is people's fear of what will happen in an accident (The Hindenburg was filled with hydrogen, and look how that turned out.)
  • In Two Best Friends Play Spider-Man Games, the two spent a while bringing up increasingly weird misadventures of Peter, many of which seem absurd to casual listeners but actually did occur. This reached a new level when Matt asks if Pat remembers the time Mary-Jane died due to Peter injecting her with his radioactive semen, which Pat promptly declared was not real. It was actually from the Spider-Man: Reign comic.
  • Vinesauce: During the "Windows Longhorn Destruction" video, Joel comes across a program called SUPERAntiSpyware and thinks it's a rogue security software. Despite its shady name and old-looking interface, SUPERAntiSpyware is actually a legitimate security software, but is not designed to replace antivirus software.
  • In a Whateley Universe story, Bladedancer and Phase complain about Generator's love of Hello Kitty gear. Bladedancer complains about a 'Hello Kitty maternity ward'. Readers found this one pretty silly. There is a real Hello Kitty maternity ward in Asia.
  • In Wrestle Wrestle, Spoony noted that in an earlier review of a WWF VCR game, he played a clip of a really silly character intro, The Zombie, and fans thought he faked that somehow.
  • One of the many insane cooking techniques used in Regular Ordinary Swedish Meal Time is melting butter by screaming at it. Turns out there actually is a traditional Scandinavian brewing technique that involves screaming at your ingredients.
  • Taiwanese manga-style artist Ironlily has a fondness for historically accurate medieval European weapons and armor, and posted one of their characters proudly showing off a dueling longsword hybridized with a morning star, hammer, pick and a spear head. It looks ridiculous at first glance, and some people assumed it was just a shitpost, but no, Ironlily proceeded to show their work with these examples of medieval hybrid dueling weapons. Youtuber Marcus Vance talked about this post and showed off more examples of how this sort of weapon was not far off from what medieval european duelists were known to actually use, due to their multi-functionality enabling more options during a duel when participants were permitted to only bring one or two weapons into a fight.

Alternative Title(s): Aluminium Christmas Trees



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