A Straight Dope Classic from Cecil's Storehouse of Human Knowledge

How did the moon=green cheese myth start?

July 23, 1999

Dear Cecil:

How did the myth about the moon being made out of cheese start?

That's the problem with being a smartass. You unload some priceless bon mot and 400 years later, out of context, you sound like an idiot. Here's an early green cheese citation from John Heywood's Proverbes (1546): "The moon is made of a greene cheese," greene meaning new, unaged. One can find similar quotes in the works of Francois Rabelais and Thomas More. I'm hearing sarcasm here, but in that era before ;-) one can't be sure. Other citations are clearer: "You may as soon persuade some Country Peasants, that the Moon is made of Green Cheese (as we say) as that 'tis bigger than his Cart-wheel" (Wilkins, New World 1, 1638), the implication being that Luna's non-cheesiosity was not a matter regarding which even the rustics were in doubt.

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