Roy Blount Jr.
I guess you saw the headlines: SO YOU SWALLOWED GEORGE'S WOODEN TEETH? GET THEM OUT OF YOUR HEAD--DENTAL HISTORIAN. There is no way, historians now agree, that George Washington could have had wooden teeth.
Okay? First the cherry tree, now the teeth. Another old chestnut tossed onto the fire by the spoilsport, or "No, Virginia," school of historiography.
The trouble with historians, they don't like a good story. Or a good line. "You know what Sherman said . . . ," you begin to say, and they interrupt: Sherman didn't really say "War is hell." Actually he said either "Well, well" or "Well, hell"; there is no telling what he had on his mind. And Babe Ruth didn't really call his shot in the 1932 World Series. He was actually signaling to a vendor in the bleachers for a frank. Several years ago, I remember, a couple of French historians declared that there was no Joan of Arc. Never was one. Best just forget her.