Here are two famous-but-false language anecdotes that we Esperantists might easily succumb to, because they are supportive of our position about the perniciousness and pervasiveness of the language barrier which, as Lee Miller has recently pointed out, is still our default publicity posture (as opposed to the person-to-person outreach posture that he suggests). These two anecdotes are well-known, because they are widely cited as international marketing mistakes, and any language-related mistakes in the international realm are immediately scarfed for Esperanto propaganda purposes, right? Almost certainly you have heard them. One is the “bite the wax tadpole” anecdote, and the other is the “no va” anecdote. They are both debunked at Snopes.com. Here is the link to the debunking of the “bite the wax tadpole” one, which itself contains a link to the “no va” one. Since both anecdotes are false, I’m not going to repeat (and thereby reinforce) them here.
The importance of not using false examples to support a correct position consists of the effect that they have on morons. Scholars splitting some hair (or atom) among themselves need not be concerned about this, but as soon as you go public with something, you have to take morons into account, not simply because of their numbers (they are legion), but also because of the devastating impact that a single moron can have (examples leap to mind, but will not be cited here). So, the problem with the falseness of anything attached to a given object is that when morons finally find out the falseness, they are very likely to dismiss the given object as false also. This phenomenon is well-known, and when implemented against a rival’s position is called “the kiss of death”. (That is, I can marginalize you if I can persuade/trick some reviled individual or group to publicly endorse you.)
I suggest that we overload the expression “bite the wax tadpole” with the meaning “to uncritically accept a proffered anecdote because it is confirmatory of your position”. Here I am using the expression “overload” in the computer programming sense, that is, “to give additional meaning to, the appropriate meaning being resolved by context”. I further suggest that we also immediately implement what in lexicography is called the “back formation” of the expression “wax tadpole”, with the meaning of “a false anecdote, whose falseness is not obvious, that is supportive of your position”.
In regard to the kiss of death, it is highly relevant to remember that in formal logic a false statement implies anything. This is called “material implication”, and is usually the first real difficulty students have when studying formal logic (within a course of Philosophy, in college, for example). A common example given is something along the lines of “If 2 plus 2 is 5, then the moon is made of green cheese.” Students have difficulty in accepting that this is a true statement, because they are confuse implication with entailment. In ordinary language implication and entailment are taken as synonymous, but there comes a point (i.e., in symbolic logic) where it is useful (and customary) to consider a binary relationship between two propositions such that the binary relationship is false if, and only if, the first is true and the second is false. This binary relationship is called “implication”. fyi.