Learning thing late in life happens to everyone but the phrase “learned something new today” goes above and beyond in these ridiculous stories of people who learned basic and essential things way to late in life.
These are the funniest and most important things people discovered that changed their lives both literally and figuratively.
Some of these stories are down right unbelievable if you didn’t know any better…
1. Spread Your Wings
When I was 20, I was presented with a really wonderful promotion. It required me to fly to a nearby state for a week of training. I was super ecstatic about the whole thing…until I remembered a friend of mine complaining about her struggles with getting a passport. So, I promptly declined the promotion. My superiors were really stumped as to why I turned down the promotion.
Me: “Unfortunately, I don’t have a passport.” Manager: “Boringberry…you’ve never flown before, have you?” Me: “No. I have not.”
Manager: “You don’t need a passport to fly within the country.” And then it hit me: my friend was going to Mexico. I was just going to a neighboring state. Once the realization hit, my superiors all erupted in laughter.
The story itself followed me when I went to training. My trainer personally greeted me and asked me if I had any difficulties getting a passport before laughing.
2. Can-Can in the Doctor’s Office
You know when the doctor hits your knee to check your reflexes? I honestly thought you were supposed to kick your leg up high. Like you felt it and you kick. It wasn’t until I was 23 and moved to another country and had to do a physical that the doctor was like, “What are you doing?!”
3. The Baby Carrot Lie
I’ve taught quite a few adults that “baby carrots” are not grown to the small rounded shapes popularly known for being in packed lunches. They’re whittled down from “normal” carrots, in case you are unsure.
4. An Innocent Question
When I was a young boy I had a black football coach (I’m white). I asked him, “Hey coach, do black people get hotter in the sun than white people?” And he responded, “Well I don’t know, I’ve never been white.” And, then it hit me…”Ohhhhhh.”
5. Sorry, Wrong Martha
Martha’s Vineyard isn’t just some land owned by Martha Stewart that rich people go to.
6. Really Makes You Think
When I was a little kid, this other kid came up to me on the playground and said, “Did you know that when you’re a baby they cut off part of your wiener?” I told him he was wrong, he was crazy, he didn’t know what he was talking about. He insisted he was right. I walked away thinking how gullible this other kid was that he could possibly believe something so ridiculous.
Only years later did I learn what circumcision was and think, “Wow, that kid was right.”
7. Well, Guess I’m a Redneck
I learned that I grew up in a white-trashy family around 10 through television. One night, I was watching TV and Jeff Foxworthy came on. I was a very content only-child who, to the best of my knowledge, got everything they ever wanted and had no idea about how things could/needed to be otherwise. Well, ole Jeff was well into his skit and I was avidly listening.
“If you watch TV on a TV that sits on top of a broken TV, you might be a redneck.” Wait, what? I’m watching tv sitting on top of a broken TV. “If you have a broken-down car sitting in your front yard that hasn’t been moved in years, you might be a Redneck.” We have five of those, WTH, this isn’t normal? “If you have appliances in your yard… If you’ve got shacks in your yard… If you live in a trailer next to a house… If… Etc… You might be a redneck.”
I looked around and painfully realized that I was living all of those things. So, that was the day I found out I was a redneck.
8. That’s MY-thology!
The proper way to say mythology. It was my favorite subject and I talked about it all the time and not one person told me it wasn’t MYthology. Found out when my teacher corrected something I read out loud in English class as a senior in HS. I still cringe.
9. A Sad Perspective
I didn’t know that dusters were used for cleaning dust off furniture until I was in middle school. When I misbehaved, my mother would beat me with a duster so I assumed its only purpose was to be a beating stick. I figured the fuzzy part of it was to provide comfort for my mother’s hand as she hit me.
10. JT? JT? JT?
Just talked to a coworker the other day who didn’t know his name was Jason until third grade. His initials were JT and his family called him by that, and so he thought that was his name. During roll call in class, the teacher was asking for a “Jason” and he just sat there thinking, “Some sucker is late for class.” Then the name JT was never called, and confusion ensued.
11. No Litter…but Money Would be Cool
I wasn’t too old when I found out the truth to this, but it is kind of funny. When I was a kid, I didn’t realize there were two meanings to the word “fine.” I thought it just meant, “Okay.” I didn’t know it could mean a monetary fee for doing something wrong. So, I saw signs everywhere that said, “No littering. $200 fine.”
I thought it meant, “You can’t litter. But if you feel like leaving $200, that’s fine.” And I thought, “Who the heck would do that?” I was probably in fifth grade before the lightbulb went off.
12. Coincidence? I Think Not!
In a prime example of kid logic, I was sure that Ray Charles was Stevie Wonder’s dad. They were both black, both blind, they both played piano. Clear genetic lineage to a five-year-old.
13. The Pointy Thing
It’s hard to explain this one and I can’t google it to find pictures. Everyone has bought a tube of “cream” at some point (antiseptic/steroid/eczema for example). On some of these “creams,” have you noticed that the lid is circular but in the center of the lid it has a sharp pointy end? Typically, these tubes of “cream” have a seal and I used to remove the lid and break the seal by finding anything sharp and pointy nearby (pen maybe).
It took me 23 years to realize that the pointy end in the center of the lid has a purpose.
14. A Little Dinosaur-y Tasting
Learned that the ribs my siblings and I ate as kids were not from velociraptors. My dad and mom had always called them velociraptor ribs for some reason, and I guess we just figured our dad was so big and awesome that it made sense that he would often go out and kill dinosaurs for us to eat. I don’t think I found out until I was in junior high that they were just regular ribs.
15. Leave a Message After the —
I didn’t know that “leaving a message” was YOU listening to someone tell you what the message was, and then relaying it… So, when I was 14, my mom’s coworker called home. I told her she wasn’t home, she asked, “Can I leave a message?” I said, “Sure.” And hung up. I figured she’d just call back and I’d let it ring and go to the answering machine. I’m sure it made my mom’s coworker furious.
Made sense in my ninth-grade brain.
16. The Importance of Self Control
“Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.” Seriously, I used to use every opportunity that my parents weren’t home to smoke weed/mess around and just generally be a worthless piece of crap. After I went to school I had that type of freedom all the time. Luckily I had this epiphany before my grades dipped too bad, but just because it’s possible to do whatever you want at a given moment doesn’t mean you should.
Learning willpower and motivation as well as self-control apparently didn’t come until I was an adult but I’m glad I was able to grow the heck up and get my act together.
17. Harvey Dent: Best Teeth in the Game
I was a few months away from turning 17 and The Dark Knight was coming out. I checked IMDB to see what actors and characters would be in it, and that’s when I learned that Harvey Dent’s evil nickname is Two-Face, not Toothpaste as I had always thought. I never saw the name written down, in the animated series half his face was white and the other half was blue, and I just never really questioned it.
18. A Fear of Doctors
That you’re supposed to get anesthesia when you get your split chin stitched. When I was in grade school (fourth grade? Eight years old?), I propped myself up between two tables and swung my legs back and forth. No idea how it happened, but I ended up falling and splitting my chin open. Apparently, school couldn’t reach my mom and called my dad (parents were divorced).
Dad was an OB/GYN. He took me to the hospital and put stitches in my chin without giving me anything for the pain. I remember crying and screaming the whole time. He said stuff like, “Should I put another stitch here?” and needless to say, I sobbed “Noooo!” (He put it, of course.) Afterward, the nurse gave me three lollipops because I was a “good girl.”
I knew I wasn’t a good girl because I bawled so much. Somehow I rationalized that dear ol’ dad didn’t give me anesthesia because you’re not supposed to when it’s an injury on the chin. It wasn’t until college, when someone talked about his experience with getting his chin stitched, that I realized that my dad was a jerk.
19. Free Blood!
I was 18, at Uni after studying HUMAN biology at A level…when I learned there isn’t just free blood in our bodies. You know like internal bleeding. I dislocated my shoulder, and the cartilage got messed up so it kept falling out. I had some keyhole pics taken to investigate and when looking at them with the doc, I said, “Oh weird it looks so dry, where is all the blood?”
The doctor just looked at me like I asked, “Why fire hurt when try hold?” He slowly replied, “In…in your veins” with a polite doctor chuckle. I mean, I knew what veins and arteries and yada yada were, but for some reason the child me thought I cut my skin, and now some blood is leaking out of my “skin sack.” I never got the update as I grew up, and for some reason assumed there was just free blood everywhere under the skin.
20. Probably for the Best
When I was in fourth grade I was in love with Chris Brown. He was 16. I told my mom when I was 16 we would start dating…she proceeded to inform me that when I was 16 he would no longer be 16. That’s when I realized everyone was also getting older, not just me lol.
21. Be Zen
Letting go of anger. You’ll have fights with your family, friends, and coworkers. You’ll get angry at politicians or ideologies. You’ll get angry at something somebody said on Reddit. But in the end, it’s all useless. Anger doesn’t accomplish anything. I’ve realized anger is just my own unresolved BS.
22. Santa Claus: Home Wrecker
I always thought the song “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” meant that the mother was having a torrid affair with a fat dude in a red suit, not that it was the father dressed in costume…
That the deja-vu phenomenon is common for all people. Until 19 years old I believed that I am the only one who experiences glimpses of events I have already lived. I realized my mistake when I shared this with my girlfriend and she stared at me, cringey expression on her face, and didn’t say a word. I was confused so I looked it up the day after and was shocked to see Deja-vu is fairly common.
I felt embarrassed.
24. 12 Words for the Struggling Millennials Out There
You don’t need to recreate your parent’s standard of living at 22.
25. Mmm, Toilet Treats
I was 23 on a trip with my girlfriend in San Francisco. We were both getting ready for the day in the bathroom and I needed my hair gel, so I asked if she could hand me my toilet treat bag. She seemed confused, I again asked, “Can you please hand me my bag of toilet treats!?” She ran out of the bathroom laughing.
26. Equal Planes
Pilot and co-pilot actually have the same hierarchy. I thought that the co-pilot was some kind of assistant to the pilot. I guess to clarify my first statement, I thought that co-pilot would be promoted to be the pilot. The revelation that I experienced was when both the pilot and co-pilot of my flight addressed themselves as Captain (they both can have the same rank).
27. Velcro Needs a Comeback
How to tie shoes. When I was little, and my mother tried teaching me, I simply said I didn’t feel like it. This charade continued, until she just gave up. Years of Velcro shoes ensued.
In the seventh grade, my older sister sat me down and said something along the lines of, “You need to freaking know how to tie your shoes.” And that’s when I learned to tie my shoes.
I still suck at it. I take a good 30-45 seconds per shoe. It’s bad.
28. Funny Words Exist Too
Did you know spleens actually exist? I swear, until I was 22, I just thought it was a word someone made up because it sounded funny and visceral, like “gibs.” Edit: YES, OKAY GIBS ARE REAL TOO. I’M SORRY.
29. Culture Shock
Up until I was about 11, I was convinced that I lived in the USA. Honestly, I’m not really that embarrassed by it, growing up I was bombarded with US TV, film, movies. I went on holiday to Florida regularly, I spoke English, I didn’t know the difference between England and New England and to top it all off, as a kid coming from the North East of England, I fully thought I lived between Washington (DC) and (New) York.
I went to York loads as a kid, but it never clicked that I never saw the wall or castle on the TV and there was a distinct lack of skyscrapers. It never clicked until I actually went to New York at about 11 and it took an eight-hour airplane ride rather than an hour’s drive. I was real dumb as a kid…still am, to be perfectly honest.
30. Cloud Crash
That thunder is the sound of lightning far away, not clouds crashing into one another. Realized this last year. I’m 30.
31. Comparisons Kill
Stop seeing others’ success as your own personal shortcoming. Also, comparison between two people isn’t very healthy, because there are so many different factors that create the opportunity for an individual to reach something. Hard work is an important factor, but there are people who drill basketball fundamentals day in and day out and they never make the varsity squad in high school.
Furthermore, if you do practice comparing yourself to others, remember to always compare down, too. Know that your notion of your own failed personal success could be a fantasy for someone else. Appreciate your own gains, and yourself.
32. Landlocked Blues No More
That the state of Georgia (US) borders the Atlantic Ocean. I always thought it was landlocked until about six months ago…I’m 25. I grew up in Michigan, didn’t really travel out of state much when I was younger, and I haven’t taken a US Geography class since like fifth grade. I guess I thought South Carolina bordered Florida, and that was that.
For all of you Georgians, I promise I’ll visit the underrated beaches and islands.
33. Don’t Wait…Just Do!
To stop waiting for the “right” moment and just go for the things I want. I cannot tell you how many times I put off starting something or pursuing something because I was worried about the timing, or maybe I thought I needed to pre-plan every detail so I’d be “ready” or wondering how I would figure out the small things.
If you have something you are passionate about and you’re worried it isn’t practical or worry that it won’t work out, set those concerns aside and just see what you are capable of. Worst case scenario you will have learned a lot and will now have the confidence that comes from trying.
34. Make it Snappy!
That snapping your fingers at a waiter was very impolite. Grew up watching movies where people would do it and I thought it was cool. Went to a classmate’s birthday party, her parents were rich so ended up in a very nice restaurant. Everything was going well until a girl spilled something and I thought I would be cool so I walked over and started wiping everything with my table napkin.
Everyone seemed to think was gentlemanly, and then I immediately stood up straight and snapped my fingers very loudly and signaled across the room that I needed a new napkin. The birthday girl was not thrilled since her family came all the time and knew nearly everyone that worked there. Nobody explained to me what I had done until much later when we were back at her house.
Still makes me cringe when I think about it.
35. The Importance of Friends
How to make friends. I grew up alone. I had a few friends, but most of the time I was alone. I spent entire summers alone, but out of the house because I wasn’t allowed to be in the house. I was the kid no one could be seen with so no one would talk to me and when they did, they didn’t treat me well. If someone became my friend, it didn’t last long.
With not being able to see them outside of school and the crap they had to go through to be my friend, people just couldn’t handle it and would turn on me to save themselves. I don’t blame any of them for it. When I went to university I was completely messed up. I didn’t know how to talk to people or have a conversation.
I actually learned from a Reddit post and started practicing on the people I wanted to be friends with. You know what happened? It freaking worked. People started asking me to hang out with them and do things. I learned how to joke around and when to come in with funny comments, learned when to talk and when not to. What I could and couldn’t talk about.
Turns out I seem to be pretty fun to be around as I have a solid group of friends now who ask me to hang out and do stuff constantly. This weekend we’re all going to a food festival, then out to the cinema to see IT, bouldering and doing the cycling event. Some of us played games over the PS4 last night. It took me until my late 20s to get here though.
I just never got to learn this stuff growing up like my peers. I still struggle interacting with girls. They have this specific way they interact, and I’ve never been able to figure it out. It’s frustrating. I have a few female friends now so it’s not a big deal, but I would like to understand it. I could go weeks without saying a word to anyone.
I remember when I was 16/17 and I just stopped trying to talk to people one day. Nothing in my life changed. Mum still screamed at me and had her one-sided arguments with me, kids in school were still huge jerks. The only difference was, me refusing to answer questions in class stopped the class from devolving into them all yelling at me and making stupid noises.
No one noticed I had just given up.
36. Too-White Wedding
Not to wear white to a wedding. I HAD NO FREAKING IDEA, I’M SORRY! No one ever told me, I’d never heard it, it wasn’t common sense for me. I didn’t learn this until after I had already done it TWICE! Once at 18, again at 20. I didn’t learn until years later, on Reddit of course. No one mentioned it when I was getting ready for the wedding, or during the wedding, or after…
No one told me, ever. I read it on some AskReddit etiquette post one day years later and had an, “Oh crap,” moment. I still cringe at myself to this day. I’m so sorry to my friends, I hate that I did something so rude. I swear it was out of ignorance!
37. It’s Okay to Say No
Sometimes you have no choice but to hurt someone’s feelings in personal relationships. I was a people pleaser for a very long time. Never told anyone no and always put off making choices because I was afraid of hurting someone. The worst bit is, that kind of thinking also inadvertently turns you into a serial liar. You learn to lie with a high level of skill in order to spare feelings.
What you really end up doing is procrastinating the hurt in such a way that, when it finally arrives, it is so much worse for everyone involved than if you had simply been honest upfront. That personality flaw blew up right in my face, and I lost the person I loved most so far in life because of it. It was a painful lesson that came at the dearest cost. But I’m doing better now.
Recently started dating again and told someone who is getting very attached, “I like you very much, but I am not in that place right now and don’t think I can reciprocate your strong feelings.” It was a hard, hard thing for me to say—totally against my nature—but the relief after was palpable and the person was very appreciative of my honesty.
Don’t be afraid to say no if you need to. And don’t avoid hurting feelings if you know you cannot avoid it without consequences.
38. The Grapes of the Citrus World
I learned that limes are not, in fact, unripe lemons at age 18. I mean, unripe bananas are green and they turn yellow. I also assumed they were more sour. I also learned that pistachio ice cream and mint ice cream are not the same thing around age 15. I thought, “Surely you can’t make ice cream out of pistachios; they’re just calling it that because it’s also green.”
39. Eighteen Ain’t Adult
That the word “teenager” comes from the “teen” in the numbers 13 to 19. Maybe I’m a moron, I don’t know, but I’d never made that connection before. I found out when I asked my friend, aged 20, “When do you stop being a teenager?” You will not guess what his reaction was.
40. The Cloud Factory
When I was little my Dad told me the big cooling towers that are often found beside electricity generating plants were in fact cloud machines and the prime minister of the day had a switch on his desk to turn the big machine on when it got too hot. This made complete sense to me, as they did produce big clouds of white cumulus-like exhaust when operating.
Fast forward to when I was around 11 years old and the teacher asks if anyone knows why some days are dry and some days it rains, some days have blue sky and some days have clouds. Of course, at the mention of clouds, I knew immediately where clouds come from and stuck my hand up to tell everyone about the prime minister and the cloud machines.
Luckily the teacher picked someone else for the answer and I was most confused to hear someone go on about evaporation and rainfall and so on.
41. The Magnificent Rainbow Fish
I re-named a goldfish “Rainbow” when I was seven because it kept changing color every few months. I told friends about this fish for years like it was some mystical kaleidoscope fish. It hit me in the face a couple months ago that the fish wasn’t changing color…my parents were just replacing it when it died without telling me.
42. Am I Being Haved?
I have some friends in their 30s who think behaving means “being haved.” That’s “haved” pronounced like “shaved.” They will ask their own kids “Are you being have?” like have means good. I want to correct them. But I don’t.