Gentlemen in 17th century France had the bad habit of picking their teeth with their knives. The Cardinal de Richelieu irritated with this bad habit asked his cutler to round off the edges of the knives. In 1669 he wrote a law promoting the usage of rounded knifes.
The fork as we know it is also a recent instrument going back only to the 16th century. The story goes that it was Catherine de Médecis who brought a serving fork with her while visiting her son Henri III. He was very intrigued with the instrument. At the time it was still customary to eat with your hands helped only by a knife. The fork which at the time had only two teeth wasn't used for anything else than serving and we still to this day see the same model in some kitchens. It was only at the end of the 18th century that we started using a "fourchette" or "petite fourche" (small pitchfork) to bring food to our mouth.
Clinking of glasses at a toast
Another food related, or rather a drink related anecdote is that of the clinking of glasses. In middle ages adding poison to someone'd drink was an easy way of assassinating them. It left no marks and wine was not only strong enough a drink to mask the taste it also had the right color to hide the poison. The easiest way to prevent this was by pouring some of your drink in the other person's glass and vice versa. If one tried poisoning the other both would now die. The good measure stayed and people now still cling glasses though without mixing contents.
The truth about sabotage
As many of your probably heard the word sabotage has for root the word sabot. Surprisingly for many sabotage as we know it has nothing to do with the footwear but with the other sense of the word sabot. Yet people repeat a story about the wooden footwear being thrown into machinery to break or stop things. The truth is that the second sense of sabot, metal clamps that hold things together is the root of the word sabotage. The word is believed to have been coined only after French railway workers cut the sabot that held the rails together.
Driving on the right side of the road
Until the 18th century everyone drove on the left side. In a violent society made up of mostly right-handed individuals it would be reasonable to do so. Samurais in Japan also followed the same custom. So why the change? It was in great part thanks to Napoleon that a majority of people now drive on the right. Napoleon was left-handed. He also conquered most of Europe at the height of his glory bringing with him much of France's post-revolutionary culture.
Sneeze and chances are someone will say "Bless you". A while back it was thought that your soul could escape through your mouth or evil spirits could jump in. With sneezing sometimes announcing a flu the myth grew in strength as people also thought that diseases were cause by evil spirits or the devil. Because of this fear people also put their hands in front of their mouth even while yawning. Saying "Bless you" was a way to make sure no evil spirit came in.
Soap that floats
If you are scared of germs you'll want to wash your hand and what better than a bar of soap that floats. Ivory soap floats because of a worker's error. He left for lunch without shutting off the machines and tiny air bubbles were mixed into the soap mixture. After careful consideration it was decided that the soap be shipped just the same. A few months later Procter and Gamble received letters asking for more of the soap that floats. After investigation they realized it was the soap that had been mixed longer that had the wonderful property.
The Japanese and photography
Today Japan has a very strong culture of tourism photography. Some jokes are even made about the Japanese taking pictures of almost everything they see. Some say that the reason for this photographic enthusiasm has to do with a law that was passed by a fearful government about one hundred years ago. The law ordered that anyone leaving the country was to bring back pictures proving he had been to the aforementioned place. The pictures being brought back to show the government proof were also shown to friends and family and the culture of photography was born.
As we saw with the sabotage story sometimes a story which isn't entirely true that is perpetuated because it somehow makes sense or makes the messenger look smart. There are lots of false facts today which survive because they are interesting. Drinking 8 glasses of water a day is a marketing lie and is such an instance. No one should drink 8 large glasses of water a day unless they do heavy physical activity in warm weather.
Some of the anecdotes in this compilation will be repeated by some of you and you may actually hear these again by someone else. They are quite popular and make this world a more interesting place. Sharing stories and anecdotes like these is part of our culture and are a defining part of who we are.