Monday, October 2

7 Stupid things asked of Historical Reenactors

As reenactors we work with the public at historic sites and events all over. We invest small fortunes and zillions of hours of research to make sure that we are dressed and outfitted properly in order to teach history to the masses. Sometimes the public will ask really thoughtful, intelligent questions...

...and then, there's everyone else.

That being said, I believe that every question can be of value and that they all deserve to be answered... that's what people attend historical reenactments for, right? So, I take a second to answer even the most goofy questions...

7.) HOW DID YOU GET ALL THOSE FLAGS TO FLY THE SAME DIRECTION?
This is one of those questions I've never been asked personally, but I've heard stories of other reenactors being asked it. Maybe it's a reenactor 'urban legend'... I like to hope that people aren't stupid enough to really ask this sort of thing.


6.) ARE YOU NORTH OR SOUTH? (to any NON Civil War reenactor)
There is always at least ONE of these couples wandering around any historical event of any era at any given time. They wander up to your camp, see you cleaning your 1770s style brown bess flintlock musket while wearing your tricorn hat and buckle shoes to ask this one. They seem to be of the opinion that ALL reenactments MUST be of the Civil War variety.

5.) IS THAT A REAL BABY?
When I first got started in reenacting, my daughters were still quite young. One day I laid my youngest one down for a nap in a cabin at the site so she could get a nap in and not be crabby later. A mom and her son marched into the cabin, stomped over to the cradle loudly and practically shouted, "Hey look! Is that a real baby?" No nap THAT day.

4.) DO YOU REALLY LIVE/SLEEP HERE?
You've crammed your tiny vehicle full of your clothes, canvas, tent poles, coolers, camp furniture, gear, cots and enough blankets to smother an army. You get to the site early because you need several hours, and potentially a few friends to set it all up. Then, not only does the public ask this question of your tented weekend home, they generally wander on in without asking. Hey public, don't do that!

3.) AIN'T YOU HOT IN THAT COSTUME?
I'm wearing a wool coat in Kentucky in July and it's 98° in the shade,  yeah I'm a little toasty.  Aren't YOU a little hot in YOUR costume? Also while we're here... what I'm wearing isn't a 'costume', this is clothing. I only wear a costume on Halloween. If you think of your historical clothing merely as a costume, you're doing it wrong.


2.) ARE YOU REALLY GOING TO EAT THAT?
It never fails that you slave all day over a firepit at an event just to have a group approach and ask this one. This question is usually accompanied by a look of horror or disgust from the asker.  Are the people of the 21st Century so far removed form their food preparation that they don't know it when they see it?



1.) IS THAT REAL FIRE?
It never ceases to blow my mind that human beings in this modern age cannot identify REAL fire when they see or smell or feel it. The same people that ask this sort of question when confronted with a real fire are the same people who are allowed to operate heavy machinery, take care of children and vote! And to add insult to injury, their vote counts as much as yours does!

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142 comments:

  1. I'm wracking my brain, and I can't think of any whoppers that haven't already been covered. Though, at Ft. Mifflin in Philadelphia, people always ask why it's so close to the airport. *Facepalm*

    Though, this might count:
    "There were women in the army/camp/during the war? I thought they all stayed home!"

    In my experience, the dumbest questions are asked at military events and the better ones at non-military ones. I did a Soldier's Christmas Timeline some years ago where everyone asked delightful questions. My favorite was a gent asked what the caloric intake was of a daily ration. I had no idea, but it made me wonder myself!

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    1. invariably we, in the SCA will get the question, "Are you in a play?" if we go to town in garb for anything.

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    2. I love "Is that a real sword?" or "are those guns and swords real?" yes, I can touch it, feel its weight in my hand, and yes it will disembowel you if I so choose. real enough?

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    3. @Bradboda A SCAdian gentleman of my acquaintance likes answering that one, "Yes, 'Death of a Salesman'."

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    4. "Death of a Salesman" - you beat me to it. :)

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    5. Would that rifle kill a deer if it hit one? Doesn't the bullet need a point ?
      While out shooting salutes I've been ask : Where are all those bullets landing? ( my answer is around city hall )
      While playing my fife I've been ask :What kind of flute is that?
      While playing'' Dixie'' at a CW event I've been told that a northerner wrote it. Reply ,Yes that's true and a southerner wrote the'' Star Spangled Banner" and the English wrote "Yankee Doodle"

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    6. We do a weapons demo at a Irish Fair 15 through 16 Century Scots and Irish in So. California and someone said look they have a baby like we were in a cage at a zoo to me that was funny but yes we get the typical dumb questions.

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    7. A middle school teacher asked a cav trooper, "Is that a real horse?" How about that for number 1?

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  2. My daughter, Libby, was just under 2 months old at her first Military Thru the Ages at Jamestown, VA. It was cold and I had her swaddled and carried her in a sling and yes, I got the "Is that a real baby" question. I turned the tables when I answered, "No, it's a reproduction..." My reproduction is now in the Army in Kaiserslautern.

    Last year I had heard "are you really going to eat that?" for the last time. After 25 years, I just couldn't contain myself any longer. I had a beef roast, cooked to near perfection on our unit's tin kitchen. I had babied it in front of the fire for three hours and it was almost done. I told the offender," No, I'm going to take this roast that I spent $50 for and three hours cooking, throw it into the fire; take my cell phone and order pizza for everybody!" She said, "You don't have to be so nasty.". I won't tell you what was going through my mind...

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    1. 25 years shows much restraint!

      At our big SCA demo, it's always astounding to watch people watch our cooks make the coals, and not just for a bit, but like stand there for 15min watching them move coals around!

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  3. I do both 900 center and renn....and the dumbest one so far is.....why do all the men dress so gay....I mean they are wearing dresses and hose with high heels.....don't you have any real men?

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    1. "Real men wear whatever the hell they want!"

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    2. I do Renn as well. My major personality is a Forester so on my hip is an ax. Many times I have people ask "Is that real?" No, it is a figment of your imagination. Then there is always the "Can I play with it?" Followed by a kid trying to pull it out of my belt. Thank God for peace tie. (On a side note I do let younger folks touch and hold my ax, long knives or swords, but only with parents permission and I generally keep one hand on the weapon. I love the look on their face as they get to hold a real sword, makes up for all the rest.)

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  4. You folks should try wearing a kilt at a highland game or on St. Patrick's Day. Now, there are some real interesting questions. And, I have a list of answers that really get some notice. I won't even go into the number of women who just MUST satisfy their curiosity firsthand.

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    1. What does a scot wear under his kilt? Socks and shoes. Yes I wear a kilt and yes I've been asked that before.

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    2. That just annoys me to no end! Regimental is a fairly modern military dress, from what I understand. Medieval scholars have not been able to answer the question of what men wore under their kilts, during the SCA period. And honestly, it's no one's business, and trying to check is just rude!

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    3. Kilts weren't worn at all during the 'SCA period' at least not before the very last decades of the 1500's and then in one extremely remote location. As they didn't exist what was worn under them is pretty academic really ;)

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  5. You forgot is that a real gun and why did they fight the battle at a national park. I think the second guy was kidding... but I'm not 100% sure.

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    1. Because the national permits were easier to get, than state ones.

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  6. You have a misplaced stupid - the one on real baby should be first. We had a middle school teacher "relay" a question from an 8th grader - a reenactor had just arrived at a school day station on his 14 hand tall buckskin horse - the question was "Is that a real horse?" In response to which the horse deposited a supply of road apples.

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    1. I do civil war/ American frontier, and Renn reenacting but perhaps my best story on this note came from the American Royal/Pro Rodeo and livestock show. I teacher walked up to a pen that had a national grand champion herford bull in it and told her kids to "look at the Pretty Horsey" ...... facepalm

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  7. "What is that cologne that makes you smell like wood smoke?"

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  8. The best one we got was at a small camp and someone asked how they got all the gas lines out to our fires.

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    1. Evidently that is a common one, I have heard that one in our camp a few times.

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    2. I had a friend who, when asked how we made fires, went into a very long, facetious explanation of how they dig trenches and run gas lines the week before the event. To his dismay, instead of laughing, the woman said, "Wow, that's amazing!" and walked away... I think he felt a little guilty about that one, but sometimes, it's just soooo hard to keep saying, "Matches, paper, and wood?"

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  9. A lot of "stupid questions" are simply the visitor not knowing the right question to ask for what they want to know. As an example with the fire question they may be wondering if it's a wood fire or if there is a concealed gas feed that's running it. Also, people come from vastly different backgrounds and what might be common knowledge for one group is totally alien for another (as an example low income urban students visiting a historic farm). Remember we do want to encourage the visitors to ask questions. I'm currently working on a class on the topic, I think it'll be short enough that I can do it as a webinar.

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    1. That sounds like an interesting class!

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    2. I agree. The "are you really going to eat that" question isn't stupid either. The reenactors at Plimouth Plantation almost /never/ eat the food they make (they feed it to the animals, instead).

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    3. Just for the record, the interpreters at Plimoth more frequently than not do consume (and enjoy!) the food we make. The animals don't get to enjoy it - they get hay and grain instead. :-)

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    4. Thank you for this. The "real gun" questioner means something like
      a) is that an authentic brown bess or a modern replica? Not everyone realizes the value of antiques, and that you would not likely be subjecting an authentic period piece to the extremes of weather. Unless you are actually handling an antique in which case the answer would be very interesting.
      b) is that a non-firing model of a brown bess? Really? I'm supposed to be able to tell just by looking at it? Of course, this question is less forgivable if they have just watched you loading and firing it.
      Come on, give people a break and don't be so condescending.

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  10. That said, I had someone one ask if the chickens were real. I have no idea what they might have been thinking.

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    1. That one's come up at Jamestown. Which, for that matter, may have been where you heard it...

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  11. One day in Tombstone, AZ, a tourist woman came up to me and asked, "Is that a REAL gun?" I said, "Yes ma'am". She said, "It won't go off will it?" I said, "No, not unless I get I get irritated."

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  12. While cleaning fish for a 50 person diner at one event a LARP-er wanted to know if those where real fish or throwing weapons...

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  13. [Whilst in my my 33 pounds of pirate kit] "Are you a pirate?" "Do you like pirates?" "Are you a lady pirate?" "I thought all pirates were boys." "Where's your treasure?" "Is that a pirate hat?" "Are you hot?" "Can I have...[whatever article of my meticulously chosen kit they happen to fancy, once even my shirt]?" "Are those real boots?"

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  14. I've been asked if I am some kind of special Amish or something. The question was cute and innocent.

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    1. I've gotten the Amish one. Our guys began calling themselves "militant Amish". :)

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  15. One lady came up to my mother at an event and was aghast that we were cooking out of cast iron. She started to comment that cast iron was dangerous and deadly, blah blah. What does she think people cooked out of for centuries?

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    1. This is where you inform her about the possible links between aluminum and Alzheimer's, and Teflon and stomach cancer that are currently being researched...

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    2. If I could like this reply I would! I love my cast iron pan!

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    3. Also, that lady was way wrong. Eating food cooked in cast iron is good for you, especially for women, who often have inadequate iron in their diet.

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  16. At one event, its Sunday at 4pm and we started packing up. I went into my tent, a lady and her two sons were standing about ten feet away. I closed the flap and started undressing into civies. I hear something, and low and behold, that woman and her sons had opened the tent flap and were watching me undress. This is probably the worst ever experience I have had as a reenactor.

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    1. I can't say that I blame the boys!

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    2. On re-reading this, your post reminded me of something I read recently. I will quote the paragraph, from Life in Wellington's Army by Antony Brett-James, Tom Donovan Publishing, 1994. From the chapter entitled Bivouac Life:

      A year later [in 1813], the Gordon Highlanders, serving in Sir Rowland Hill's 2nd Division, bivouacked less than a mile from Salamanca, and were visited by numbers of upper class citizens. Such was the ladies' curiosity that they would pull aside the tent doors without ceremony, in order to have a full view of los Ingleses - a disconcerting habit. (p 103)

      You're in very good company.

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  17. I do 16th and 17th century Scottish and early American colonial. And boy, have I gotten some good ones. The main the come to mind are "Is that a real gun?" referring to my matchlock carbine. "Why are you smoking?" as I'm holding a burning piece of match cord. Often from the young boys, "Can you shoot me?" Sure could, but I don't think your parents would like it very much. "Where are your slaves?". I personally enjoy the confused look when a man comes up with a cigarette asking for a light, and you hand them flint and steel. And yes, we have gotten "Is that real fire?"... I don't know, taste it.

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  18. Once at Gettysburg I was asked "How did the battle happen around all these monuments?"

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  19. Great stuff. Kudos to all you folk that get out there and enjoy and educate!

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  20. One time I was at a McDonalds in my civil war gear, 5 miles away from the event...One lady comes up and asks "Are you some sort of militant Amish"?

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  21. Don't forget the old, "Do you use real bullets?" question.

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  22. Was at a garrison one weekend at Martin's Station and some other reenactor/friends had a little old dog with them in their camp. A tourist came up and asked " Is that a real dog?"
    I've also heard someone at Ft Loudoun last year ask if an infant who happened to be sleeping on a blanket was "a real baby?" People just don't think before they open their mouths!

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  23. I'm an entertainer at the AZ Renaissance Festival...1) Yes, these "boobs" on my chest are real (no, I did not buy them someplace). 2) Yes, I am hot in a multi-layer outfit with a corset underneath it all in 85 degree heat in AZ in March...and no, it is not a costume (as you said) as costumes are only worn on October 31st for Halloween. 3) No, I do not live on-site...get real, this is the 21st century and I live in a house, just like you. 4) And last (I wear Elizabethan make-up): 1) no I do not wear it all week long at my "regular" job and 2) no it is not real white-lead--it is stage make-up.

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    1. Actually, I think the last question about the make-up is somewhat relevant. After all, some reenactors might go to the length of reproducing make-up. Not that I'd recommend anybody to do it with white lead, but the question reveals knowledge about the period.

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  24. My favorite was, when talking to a bunch of 9th Graders about the American Civil War, "Where do you go to the bathroom?"

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    1. This isn't such a bad question - Bathroom is one of the things that is left out of most history stories and books. I have a general idea and I only saw one movie where the stage coach stopped many times along the way so folks could run out into the bush to 'use the bathroom'. It might be a question you could have a honest good answer for next time.

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  25. Maybe Kiwi's are slightly smarter, or just have different queries. i have never had any of the above (well apart from are you hot in that uniform, btw a good answer to this if you do ww1 or ww2 is to remove the tunic, and show them the undershirt drenched in sweat) but some of my favourites i have been asked include: (in a gas station in 101st airborne uniform) Does the New Zealand Army have an airborne division?
    (in SS dot 44s at an airshow in camp with clear signs) Whos camo pattern is THAT? followed by, They didn't actually wear that did they?
    (at another event beside the WW2 New Zealand display) Is that man real, or is it a dummy? (man in question was real, sitting on sentry, moving head, and clearly breathing.)
    and my personal favourite, asked by every child, Are you in the army? (no, i'm not, this is my hobby. i did used to be in the Air Force though)

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  26. Jamestown, Foods and Feasts (Thanksgiving weekend): Are you a Pilgrim?

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  27. Hi from the U.K.
    This may be utterly apocryphal but a very very good Roman group here were doing Roman carpentry. A teacher brought some pupils over and saw the legionary was using hand made nails. Allegedly he said "everyone knows the Romans didnt use nails" whereupon the Roman looked up and said "tell that to Jesus". Allegedly happened in 2001 season in Northamptonshire u.k.

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    1. I heard that the re-enactor who was asked this question, replied somewhat scathingly, "Of course, Jesus was gaffer-taped to the cross!!" The member of the public was 'educating' his young son, telling him, "Of course, they didn't have nails back then."

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  28. More than once, I've gotten "What are you wearing under that kilt?" and "Is that a real knife?" as I'm cutting meat with it. But my absolute favorite question of all time was "Where did you get that realistic chest hair?"

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    1. You should have replied for the chest hair, "From my birthday suit!" Very funny question, btw.

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  29. As a 'retired' ACWHRS re-enactor I was at a living history event where we were teaching people some of the dances of the time. I'm in full period dress, corset and all, when the young man (about 19 or 20) I was dancing a waltz with started to rub his hand up and down my side. I tried to ignore it and proceed with my lesson but finally I was so uncomfortable I ended the dance rather abruptly. That didn't stop him. Finally I looked at his face. He was staring at my side as his hand continued it's course up and down my waist. Finally he leaned in close and, I kid you not, asked me, "Your ribs are going the wrong way; about what year did humans start growing them side-to-side instead of up-and-down?" I nearly wet my pantaloons I was laughing so hard.

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    1. This must be the best story yet!

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    2. I just about spit my coffee over my laptop reading that! Did you manage to explain about corsets to him?!

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    3. Not until about 1910 when the brassier was invented. Humans evolve slowly...

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  30. I do Renn, and we have a lady that brings one of the sheep from her flock every year. Yes, we get the "is that a real sheep" question (standard answer, Yes, the anamatronic one is broken) but the one that takes the cake is "What kind of dog is that?"

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    1. I used to do 15th century (WOTR) here in the UK. At the time there was a group (who shall remain nameless) who, for their 'living history' site had representations of authentic trades of the time. When I say authentic what I actually mean is they would have a loom set up with the yarn but not actually in working order. This went so far as to having a 'shepherd' which consisted of a bloke dressed as a shepherd and a tiny 'sheep fold' with, you guessed it, an invisible sheep. Also look up http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bedlington_Terrier - they may not have been quite so daft as you think!

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  31. I'm with the Fort McHenry Guard in Baltimore MD and do War of 1812 and Civil War Living History, I have been asked 1,2 &3 several times and I wonder if the people are serious or if they are joking. I have another one that gets asked a lot at Fort McHenry and elsewhere is "What are you wearing under that?" I find it funny that you wouldn't ask a woman on the street this question but feel comfortable asking someone dressed in a period uniform this.

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  32. We used to have a shop at a fairly well known Renn Faire in Pa., Along with our pewter feast ware and jewelry we carry a small line of Judeica, (menorah, menezuzahs, havidalah, etc.) So, one school day The Bride and Joy is asked about it by a group of students and their teacher from a Catholic School that is near where we live. After explaining what each item is used for in the religion and the historical place of Jews in Elizabethan England. The Teacher pronounces the following; "oh wow, I didn't know they had Jews back then"

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    1. My social studies teacher, in high school, tried to convince me that the menorah was the symbol of the Jewish religion and that the Star was something Hitler came up with in WWII to demarcate the Jews...Funnily enough, after that, all the other students started coming to me as a Jewish resource for our Comparative Religions unit.

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  33. One of my favorites: we had an overnight group in a cabin with a wood stove. The lady kept asking my husband to 'turn it down'. He tried to explain that he could leave the door open to let in some cold air, or he could put it out, but he couldn't just 'turn it down'. I don't think she ever really got it!
    I have also gotten a lot of the 'is that a real baby?', while my son or daughter were sleeping in their basket. Another favorite is the 'do you have an ambient noise cd going?', at the water wheel, where there are a ton of frogs in the pond croaking away during a blacksmithing demonstration. Then they ask if the dog is dead. No, the dog is sleeping. Do their dogs at home not sleep? Why would we leave a dead dog lying around?

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  34. Not one I experienced personally, but heard someone say he had: "Why did so many of the battles [of the Civil War] happen at military parks?"

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  35. I was a LARPer (Just haven't got back into it yet) and some mundane asked me if my pole arm was real.....Mind you that it was super easy to see the duct tape that covered the thing....some people just have no clue.

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    1. Quoth an idiot to myself, at a demo whilst I was garbed in 14th century English attire which included a wimple: "Are you a Muslim?"

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  37. I used to do third person re-enactment at a native village. We cooked a lot of food with hot stones. You heat the stones, and then put them into the food and the food cooks. Easy peasy. Along comes an older lady and she watches me for a few minutes rolling a stone out of the fire and dusting the ash off, and then putting it into a pumpkin full of bison meat, beans and corn. What are you doing she asked. Cooking I replied. How? By transferring the heat of the fire to the stone and then heat of the stones to the food (btw...if you ever want to cook a pumpkin stew, this is a very fast method of cooking). Are you sure she asked. Yes, I am sure that is what I am doing. Why don't you use a stove she asked. Well, the people who lived in this villiage in the fourteen hundreds didn't have electricity for starters I replied. You are kidding....! Actually, no, I am not kidding. Then how did they power their lights she asked. After going through the whole discussion of when electricity was discovered and harnessed, she left. About ten minutes later, she dragged her husband over to repeat the conversation, at the end of which he turned to her and with a straight face told her she shouldn't believe everything she heard, because obviously they had electricity, otherwise why would the reconstructed long houses have power to operate the security and sprinkler system?

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    1. wow....i think this one is my favorite so far. what complete idiots. and these people BREED and support more of this ignorance

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  38. I broke my femur this past May, and in early October, I was at an event with my period crutches, (French and Indian War) sitting on a stool, panhandling. (Not for real, but I did get a Reese's cup!) Anyway, my back started getting sore, so I positioned my crutches in such a way that I had the handgrips in my armpits, and I could lean back a bit. To my surprise, I actually fell asleep, in this rather odd position, sort of sagging between my crutches. When I woke up, I startled a woman who was looking at out Surgeon's display, because with the extremely slouchy way I was sitting, (and with my head down) I looked like a display dummy! As for the "Are you with the North or the South" question, I always want to grab my coat lapel, shake it, and say "RED! REDcoat! REDcoat!"
    As someonesaid earlier, though, I suspect that most of these questions come up because people aren't sure exactly what they want to ask, or how to ask it. I try to treat even the dumbest question seriously, and see if I can answer the question that WASN'T asked. "Is that a real fire?" "Yes, that's our cook fire; you can see we're cooking a sort of stew, made with our issued salt beef, and a few other ingredients, including some of the onion grass you see growing here in the filed. The wood in the fire is simply deadfall we gathered in the area, and we lit it with flint and steel, using charred punkwood for tinder." "Are you actually gonna eat that?" "Yes! That's our dinner. It may not look pretty, but that's okay. It doesn't taste pretty, either." "Do you actually sleep in those tents?" "Yes, we do. Each tent is issued to a group of six men called a 'mess'. usually, though, there are only five men in a tent, because there's usually one on sentry duty, or some other such assignment." A question like "do you live here all year?", though, depends on whether I'm supposed to stay in strict first-person. When it's strict first person, it helps if there's a guide or docent who can give modern answers, to explain the things I can't.

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  39. My favorite "question" was in San Jose, CA (Alum Rock Park, a June Crown [SCA] if I remember correctly) It was just after 10pm and the park rangers came to the ship where the drummers were doing their shtick for the belly dancers, and requested "Please turn the radio down as it is time to be quiet"... dead silence and the nice pirate replied, "Yes, sir. We'll turn the music down"

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  40. Back in the 80s at the Agoura Ren Faire, one of the members of the court had buttons made that said "Yes, Yes, No." These were the standard answers for women dressed as noble ladies: Are you hot? Did you make that? Are you the Queen?

    They also had one made for the actress who portrayed the queen "Yes, No, Yes."

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    1. Yep, we sure did. And the questions went, like this: "Are you hot, in that?" [Yes] "Did you make that, yourself?" [Yes]....."are you, the queen?" [No] And, the actress, who played the queen, had her answers, as well: "Are you hot, in that?" [Yes] "Did you make that, yourself?" [No] "Are you the queen?" [Yes]! I still have mine. BTW: Women, were not the only ones, asked these questions!

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  41. Now I'm a renn from the fur trade time and had some interesting questions asked the best so far is where I was in the trade room watching over the corn bread. The thing I have to tell people is don't touch the dutch oven its hot. Always someone approches it to check it out and sometimes goes to touch. On that day I was checking to bread and a group walks in and asks what in there so I tell them the first thing out a persons mouth. "How do you cook that without a microwave" anymore I just say carefully.

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  42. As we are floating on the lake I get "Is this a real boat". I even get "Are you sure your not a pirate". We have some Mennonites in my area so we get asked that a lot. My favorite was as a HS aged kid was looking at a flintlock at a gunsmith's display "Where do you put the clip".

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  43. At Kentwell Hall (UK, easy to Google for) we do 1st person Tudor re-enactment plus other bits and pieces. We pick a different historical year each year, and fit our clothes and back stories etc. around that. It happened to be a cod piece year, and mine wasn't huge but it also wasn't tiny. I was a gatekeeper, just inside the front gate, generally being as welcoming as you can be to the public while holding a halberd.

    A retired gent and two ladies got chatting and the conversation included cod pieces. The man in particular was quite fascinated. Eventually he crouched down about 2 feet away to take a photo of it - I thought I should take one for the team so that he could get it out of his system before he got to other people on the site. I warned him that other people might not be so obliging, and I think his companions gave him a suitably hard time for embarrassing them.

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  44. SCAdian here! One of my personal favorites is... "Are you in a cult?"

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  45. Hi from the UK. At a medieval/Viking event a young couple were observing the blacksmith's forge, where the smith had a small crucible of molten pewter, with the embers glowing red to white hot. The young man explained to his girlfriend, "Of course, it's not a real fire - they have a red lamp underneath, and that's not really molten metal - it's mercury, look...." Whereupon he reached over and dipped his finger into the pewter! The blacksmith immediately took his bucket of water and threw it over the young man! .....not sure whether he remembered to retain his hold on the bucket, or whether that headed towards the young man as well!

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  47. SCA here..we get "are you all in a play?" Usually as we are eating at the Chinese buffets where we go after events..the guys in their 16th C doublets/court garb and the girls in Elizabethan gowns

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  48. The worst I ever had was two ladies asking if I needed help use a public toilet, I politely thanked them for their concern and informed them that I am toilet trained.

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  49. Wife once overheard a kid ask his mum "when I grow up can I be a re-enactor".... Mum replied straight faced "Don't be silly dear, you can't do both!"

    Also a friend had an old woman insist the chicken she was spit roasting was plastic... "see, its melting"... No, thats dripping fat....

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  50. My wife was looking forward to the first time she was asked, "Is that a real baby?"

    Her reply was, "No, it is a re-creation... I made it myself"> :)

    We also play "punter bingo". It consists of a list of stupid questions similar to the above. First one to get asked all in a weekend wins.

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    1. Punter bingo... I am SO going to suggest that to my unit!!

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  51. I spent years selling clothes at SCA type things, where there is no "public," unless you go to Denny's for breakfast, or on a Walmart run or something.

    Then I did some Renn Faires, where I was suddenly confronted with questions about how hot I must be and how I got my boyfriend to wear a skirt. KILTS ARE NOT SKIRTS!!! Doesn't EVERYBODY know that a guy in a great kilt is super manly and dead sexy?

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    1. A friend of mine from Australia gave me my favorite answer to the 'skirt vs. kilt' question... He said (with such a wonderfully offended tone) 'You wear something under a skirt!'

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  52. Two years ago at the reenactment of Washington Crossing the Delaware another fellow in my unit was asked "Did the Rebels have trouble getting across the river because the weather was too tough for the engines in the boats?" Being a polite gent, he explained how boats didn't have engines in 1776. I was tempted to tell her that the engines were fine, but the perfidious redcoats had taken all the gas.

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  53. I have all those and so many more from the last 10 years I've spent as a Viking Reenactor. Is that real is a favorite to ask about furniture, jewelry, tents and even WATER.

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  54. A few my husband has been asked (he both reenacts and is a bagpipe player):

    "Do you wear anything under that kilt?" To which he replies, "Yes. Socks and shoes."

    "Aren't you hot in that?" He's dressed in head-to-toe wool in 90-degree weather, what do you think?

    He's also been thanked for his service while wearing a WWI German uniform.

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    1. I heard a reenactor answer "Do you wear anything under that kilt?" with "Your wifes lipstick."

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  55. A friend of mine does off-beat impressions, and as managed to put together a Swiss Army 1939 mobilization impression, head to toe in original equipment. Once, at a public event, a rather smug looking woman came up to him and said: "You're confederate aren't you!"

    To which he replied: "Yes ma'am, I sure am."

    When she walked away he turned and said, partly under his breath; "Yeah, Confederacy Helvetica."

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  56. I am a Viking Re-enactor from the UK. I have had the question about Weapons and Fire many times, both of them have been followed up with "can I touch it?" several times.
    While I try to be helpful and trying to stop kids hurting themselves, when it’s an adult I have trouble stopping myself saying "go ahead"

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  57. My favorite comment is by Re-enactors who seem to be surprised when they are outside their venue in a restaurant, on the street, etc. and have to answer questions as to why they are dressed oddly. To quote from My Cousin Vinny, "What? You blend?"

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  58. My (gentle and kind-hearted) husband points out that even stupid questions might be just their way to initiate conversation, and he's right. We're never critical and try to answer fairly. That being said, I am passive-aggressive, and though we don't say these aloud, I like to answer #2 (mentally) with "Eat THIS? Ohellno. I made it for you." And husband's answer to #1 is "No, of course not. It's merely a collection of incandescent gases."

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  59. Can you really spin straw into gold? and Where did Sleeping Beauty Prick her Finger? -delighted to answer these for kids, but when adults ask the first one I want to bite them (I

    Favorite two "Do you spend all your time living in your Medieval Lives?"

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  60. Most of the "is that real" questions are sincere; you just have to understand what they are asking. "Is that a real gun?" means is that the kind of gun they used and/or is that just a plastic prop. "Is that real food? means is that the sort of food they would have had.

    A couple of my snarky answers:

    Are you Amish? Yes, the 1st Kansas Fighting Amish!

    Did you sleep here last night? Yes, slept like a baby. Wet all night and woke up every two hours to cry.

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  61. I was in my 14th Century encampment with an eagle, 4 peregrine falcons, a white goshawk, and a couple of owls. A lady came up with her annoying fluffy pet dog, (I think part pommeranian, you know the little yappy kind) and starts letting her dog harass the birds. The Eagle, see's this as an opportunity for a free feed. "excuse me, you might want to get your dog away from the Eagle"... "No that's alright, my dog thinks he's human"...

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  62. I am a Civil war reenactor but I spend my summers working in a living history museum as a historic interpreter. It is 1800 to 1880 in era so I get to do a lot of different eras. My top three questions have been:
    3) Who was the king then? I was dressed 1830s at the time and had just been talking about the fashion of that era. This was asked by an adult so I asked what country she was from assuming she was European so something and apparently she's American and had never heard of the revolution.

    2) Are the flies real? I was cooking in an 1850s kitchen and got this question from a man who looked to be in his 40s, I replied "no they're windup when they land you have to rewind them" It had been a long day of the usual is the food real type questions.

    Finally the strangest and most common odd question I get

    1) Are you real?

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  63. These "skirt" commenters must never have been at a Faire visited by Albannach. Long kilts, super-manly (except Jacquie, a lovely lady) and dead sexy indeed.

    I always enjoy answering for my better half when someone asks "So tell me the truth... what is worn under the kilt?" Nothing is worn. It's all in practically brand-new condition.

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  64. My family has been buckskinning since I was a baby, there were many times my mother was asked if my sister or I were real as we were strapped to her back in a cradelboard or a pack basket. My grandfather is a blacksmith with a forge set up in a wagon and every year someone asks him if it is a real fire and how does he keep the wagon from catching on fire. My favorite stupid flatlander moment of all time though is this. We have a few large buffalo hides to keep warm at night. Once after a family of flatlanders wandered into our camp and started making themselves at home a little girl started to pet one that was spread out on the bed. She turned to her mom and asked "what kinda animal is this mommy" her mother looked at it then back at her little girl and said "a rabbit"....seriously?! how big are rabbit where you come from lady?

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  65. My opinion as someone who commanded the VMI at civil war reenatcments for the wcwa about 5 years the worst question i got was " Did children that young really fight in the civil war?" mind you at the time my youngest cadet was a mere 6 years old and my oldest was 11.

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  66. My favorite: While working at a Medieval Festival, I was wandering to another encampment and got stopped by a photographer... In the course of having my photo taken, then photographer stated: "So do always dress up in this 18th century stuff?" *Face. Palms*

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  67. Been asked many a stupid question. Is that real barbed wire? Is that a real sausage your eating? Hell. At one event I told a person the machine-gun in question was a Vickers and he said he didn't know they had guns! -_-

    My all time favourite though, which left me gob-smacked and a friend had to answer, was from a little boy. He walked over and said with a straight face (I do WW2 to put it into context): did you eat people during the war?

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    1. Guessing you're not in russian uniform cos then it depends - in the siege of Stalingrad some ate the 'other' white meat.

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  68. I get asked the same stupid question over and over again "Why would be be in a group where you have to play a slave?" I am part African Amerindian and people always assume that when participating in Civil War re-enactments that I am limited to just playing a slave because that is "what black people back then." I get the same thing being a member of the SCA and playing as Norse woman. :There were black Vikings?!"

    People are really stupid sometimes.

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  69. Dennis from Texas I display firearms from hand cannons through percussion at certain events. I often get the question are these guns loaded ?answer : Of coarse they are I load every one before I come out. Often grown people look down the barrels. My comment: Tell me if you see something shiny coming. Or they will walk up and pull the trigger on a weapon
    my comment :I don't think I would pull the trigger on a weapon I didn't know anything about.
    I finally had to put the weapons out of reach . On a humorous note a woman walked up and quietly listened to me explaining particulars of the guns to a group of folks finally curiosity got the best of her and she reached out and lightly touched the stock of one of the guns ,just as she did a cannon near by went off she jumped and screamed ,I still haven's quit laughing about that.

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  70. When I was Boy Scout leader, we had a Indian scout reenactor spend an afternoon and evening with us (the Scouts loved him). When I asked about whether he'd made his "costume", he asked if I'd made mine. Point taken. Never asked it that way again!

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  71. Anymore when I do reenactments I'm there with my Scottish Highland cows and they're the feature. I can't tell you how many times I have people tell me they're yaks and I cannot convince them otherwise. But my favorite is when they see the animal and assume it's a bull because they all have horns. I was at one show were I had a cow/calf pair and while the calf was actively nursing a child walked into the barn and excitedly yelled"'It's a whole tent full of bulls! And look, that bull has a baby!!!"

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    1. That's because in sets of plastic farm toys and in Baby's First Farm Animals, the boy cow has horns and the girl cow doesn't. That's considered the only age-appropriate way to tell them apart, I guess.

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  72. I do a female soldier impression for ACW (And very well) When I use to do demos where it was announced that I was in fact female, I would often get a partial question of "Well, how do you hide... you know...?" followed by hand gestures around the chest... always interesting to see who makes what gesture motions... lol... A friend of mine answered once, well, there's a rope around each nipple and we just tie em down!

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  73. The one that always gets me, when I explain how, yes, I do camp in my very nice and comfy tent (it really is comfy), I get, "I could never do that! I could NEVER have lived BACK THEN!" as if they are some special kind of cashmere human that can only be hand-washed and dried flat. I always want to say, "Sweetie, everyone back then lived back then. It wasn't optional."

    I did get caught on the "Is that a baby?" thing, though. It was a very, very hot event, so I had taken a 10-lb bag of ice, wrapped it in a shawl, and was holding it in my lap like a baby. I was cool and the ice-baby was pretty convincing. So convincing that a lady walked up and asked to see my baby. I had to confess that it was a bag of ice. :-/

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  74. I'm doing viking re-enactment, and at one time at a viking campement, a tourist came to me and my brother, to ask us if we were real viking, first we thought that she meant if we were historical accurate, but when we replied, she asked again if we were real vikings, she really believed that we were vikings of 1100 years old??? unbelievable...

    another time, at the same campement but a few years later, I was giving a guided tour around the campsite, when I was telling some things about how the vikings lived, the woman I gave the tour too saw a viking climbing over the fence and leaving the campsite... the woman was furious, she was shouting at me and became really angry.. she said that the norwegian gouvernment had given us a terrain to live, within these fences for a reason and she found it dangerous of us to leave this site!!! funny thing, she believed that the vikingre-enactors had gained a reservoir to live in, like some native americans still have in the States...

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    1. That is awesome! (Native Americans are allowed to leave the reservations whenever they want, there are not fences keeping them in - anymore - since around 1934)

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  75. (I'm a woman who plays a breeches role as a British soldier in the Napoleonic period.) I've got a couple.

    My very first event, back in 2003, was at a place called Painshill Park during a very hot summer. We were camping on a hillside out of view of the main house, overlooking a lake. From the edge of the lake to about twelve feet out, the water was covered in bright green pond scum. We also had the cavalry camping near the water's edge.

    I'm talking to a lady in her sixties, and her adult son, who are both facing up the hill as I'm facing down, and a fellow re-enactor brings me a tin cup of water. Naturally (or not!) the lady asks where we get our water from.

    I manage a very convincing flabbergasted expression... "There's a whole lake over there!"

    I WISH I had had a camera - the look on her face was priceless.

    And yes, I have also had the "aren't you hot in that stuff?" (Full woollen uniform on a hot summer's day... Yes, I might be a tad warm.)

    Another one I had - just for the Acastas!

    I was visiting Portsmouth Dockyard with a couple of friends. I was wearing the uniform of a Royal Marine, c 1805, and one of my friends was dressed as a sailor, and we took the tour of HMS Victory. While on the tour, we catch up with a group containing some children, with one of the adults giving a (half-right!) history lesson. And on the lower gun-deck, we heard this gem: "This is where the sailors lived. They spent all their time down here, and didn't even get to go on deck."

    My sailor friend and I took one look at each other and headed topside before bursting out laughing. We couldn't work out who he thought was doing the work of actually sailing the ship...

    I also get the "Did they have women in the army then?" (Yes, they did - but not openly!) and "Is that a real gun? (Yes, it is identical in every respect to the weapons used back then. And if I were to load with ball, it would be just as lethal.)

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  76. Hi, time ago a guy asked me "why all the lead balls in this age were round ?".

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  77. "Is that real food?"
    No, I am just eating a fake piece of fruit.

    We were at a SCA demo, and had a bowl of fruit on the table, and a little boy (about 6 or 7 years old) was fascinated by the peaches. He kept petting them and asking me about them. He did not know that peaches did not ONLY come in a can!!!

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  78. given that i actually shoot a wooden longbow, I am amazed at the number of people who think it would not work, I assume it is because the only form of bow most are familiar with now is a compound and the eternal can i touch it questions, the answer is no, better safe than sorry

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  79. yeah 'Aren't you hot?' is an all-time favourite. And they were utterly shocked by the revelation that once the inner layers of my clothing are drenched through with sweat they act as kind of a cooler and I suffer much less from the summer heat than they do.

    but what we tend to get the most is 'do you drink wine from those jugs?' hell no. we prefer to leave drunken fighting to Jackie Chan. drinking only comes after the audience has gone home. :P

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  80. and I forgot 'North or South'. in Hungary, where I live, the equivalent is 'are you knights?' late 15th century clothes, intentionally modeled after martyrdom illustrations that depict the evil-badguy-mercenaries killing saints. very distinctive style, more civilian-like clothes, not much armor... but no. anyone/anything with weapons and being even remotely medieval-looking=knight.

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  81. I am an Australian, and I did Viking and now Vendel. One event was a celebration for the group I was in, as I had managed to get us back into things after previous group members had acted in ways to get us banished and uninsured. So as part of the celebrations, I was given copious amounts of various meads, and this left me more than slightly unwell the next morning. My group let me sleep it off, with my tent open as part of the display. This led to many questions of "Is that man real?" and "Is that a mannequin?" Only when I moved to throw up was this broken, and then it was more "Is he alright???"

    But the worst question I got was an event this year where a seemingly intelligent person started a discussion that led to the use of power throughout history, and how leaders managed to control people, and how the myths reflected the struggles. I was actually speechless when he then turned and stated "and that's why there's been more UFO sightings in recent decades!"

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  82. On re-reading this, your number 4 reminded me of something I read recently. I will quote the paragraph, from Life in Wellington's Army by Antony Brett-James, Tom Donovan Publishing, 1994. From the chapter entitled Bivouac Life:

    A year later [in 1813], the Gordon Highlanders, serving in Sir Rowland Hill' 2nd Division, bivouacked less than a mile from Salamanca, and were visited by numbers of upper class citizens. Such was the ladies' curiosity that they would pull aside the tent doors without ceremony, in order to have a full view of los Ingleses - a disconcerting habit. (p 103)

    You're in very good company.

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  83. "Are you Robin Hood?" (To anyone is pre, oh, 1700 dress.)

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  84. i don't have answers for all the questions, but I have thoughts, at least, on most:
    How do you get the flags to fly in the same direction? This one, I admit, I just answer by saying the wind blows them that way. no tricks, no clever repartee, sadly
    Are you with the North or the South? I have to bite my tongue, when I really want to grab the lapel of my regimental and say "RED! REDcoat! REDcoat!" Instead, I tell them I'm a French and Indian War Provincial soldier, about 20 years bevore the Revolution, back when we were still British.
    Is that a real baby? I actually once knew a couple who had made a GORGEOUS Ojibway cradleboard, which is difficult, time-consuming, and expensive. Unfortunately, a child can only use it for maybe 6 months, so they went out and bought a realistic baby doll for it, so no, it wasn't a real baby. Actually, I, myself have been mistaken for a fake, one time when I fell asleep on a stool, using my period crutches to hold me jpright. A=woman thought I was a dummy, until I woke up and startled her!
    Are you going to sleep here? Most people, these days, never sleep outdoors, much less in a period tent, so I understand why they think it's just a static display. Once, at a Scout expo, A Scout went behind my back into my lean-to, and I didn't know he was there, until I heard him repeatedly dry-fire my rifle. We were on the grounds of the Washington Monument, and he had the rifle pointed at... you guessed it; the White House! (he wasn't trying to do harm; he was just playing with it)
    Ain't you hot in that outfit? You should see me in a kilt!
    Are you gonna eat that? again, most people never experience what we do several times a summer, so they can't imagine cooking and eating in such a non-sterile environment. chances are, ironically, our kids don't get sick as often as theirs!
    Is that a real fire? the gas line thing is the only explanation I can see for this question, EXCEPT...

    Sometimes, I think they're so fascinated with what they're seeing that they have a million questions, but know so littlw about what they're seeing that they don't know where to begin. they ask whatever comes to mind, even if it sounds stupid, because they have no framework. In that case, "is that a real fire?" gets a response of "This is our cookfire, which we're cooking our dinner on. We started it using flint and steel, like this..." Demonstrate the flint and steel, and they'll watch with rapt wonder, then when they go home, they'll have a new notion of history, and a cool story. They might even sign for the King's shilling, and explore the subject, themselves. Give them a sarcastic answer, and they leave confused, hurt, embarrased, and angry. They truly DON'T KNOW, and if we abuse the situation, they never will, and we have FAILED to do our job.

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  85. one more comment: Once, portraying Virginia Militia at the Claude Moore farm, I mentioned having served with Washington, at Monongahela. A woman in the audience was intruiged that we would actually add something like that to our first-person portrayals. She asked me "What's he really like?", and before I could say anything, my buddy Phil blurted out "Oh, he's a pompous ass!" Anyway, the woman really enjoyed our different opinions on Washington, so at least one member of the public enjoyed our interpretation!

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  86. I have heard most of these. My favorite is when people are so serious and put so much effort into asking the dumbest questions.... I been asked is that a real gun... Where do you buy your costumes... and i think the best one ive heard was after the battle at Old Fort Niagara a lady came up to me and said "so you french did really well out there". Now what makes this the best is im with the 60th royal american regiment. I was still in full kit. Most people know that the "Red Coats" are the British. The French wear white. at least she paid some attention to the announcer and knew that it was the French and Indian war. Ive also been asked if i was amish. and i love the looks when you go into a store or restaurant and people stare at you.

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  87. Please bear with me - a non-reenactor. Sure some of these questions are really ridiculous and asked by people who have no common sense or just don't have a clue. Others, though, while ridiculous and irritating to you are being asked by non-experts. We haven't researched the era like you have and frankly, underestimate how seriously you take these expositions. I consider myself a reasonably intelligent person, but I would actually like to know the answers to some of these questions. Perhaps there is a better way to ask them.

    Take the "hot in those clothes" question. I've seen a few re-enactments and have wondered about this. Not "aren't" you hot. Rather, wasn't there clothing more accommodating for the hot temperature? Or, why are you wearing such heavy clothing in the summer?

    The "real sword" question. Let's face it. We live in a world where entertainment and even education comes in the form of props. A prop sword can look very real but be better at mushing butter than slicing it. Perhaps a better question is whether the sword is preserved from its era or is a recreation.

    The "are you going to eat that" question. Again, I think this is a throwback to props. Not many people would imagine someone going to the store and paying $50 for a roast to cook outside all day. For that matter, they have no idea how long you have been cooking that meal. Is it something that you started fresh that day? Or, in the case of days longs festivals, is it something that is being reused from the day(s) before.

    I respect all you re-enactors do, but please be patient with the rest of us. As serious as most of you take these events, there are confusing discrepancies that make it difficult for the uneducated to learn (props vs recreations vs authentic items) and blurs between history and the present (portapotties behind the tents, a row of SUVs next to the battlefield, etc.).

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    1. You have a good point. However, think about having those same questions asked repeatedly to you in modern day. Like at your job for instance.... how do you react?

      We do try our best to educate, yet when you hear the same exact questions repetitively throughout the course of a day, it can become a trial.
      My pet peeve questions are the clothing ones. I time traveled from 1550 to 1850, and the questions remain the same.... Are you wearing a corset? Are you hot? Aren't you going to fall out? Why are you wearing wool in this heat?....UGH!
      To answer your question- No, there wasn't anything more accommodating to wear since that is the societal dress of that specific era. The weather was a lot different than what it is currently. We were in a mini ice-age until the late 1800s, so it was colder, and also dictated fashion. Wool, Linen, and cotton will keep you a lot cooler in the heat than velvet (poor upper class folks) or polyester (poor hippies). It wicks away the moisture from the skin which cools you down.
      Imagine being a re-enactor of say the 1990s for someone of 2100.... How different would the fashion be then? What function did it serve?
      Instead- ask about the different pieces of clothing and their uses. I've had ladies actually say- Can I ask you a personal question...what do you wear under... And I'll respond with the types of layers I'm wearing and their function.

      If you actually met someone from another time, what would you ask them?
      I like to turn the tables and ask about your technology, because no one thinks about their time. How would you describe a car, a motorcycle, a phone, computer or even a TV to someone who hasn't seen one before? Sometimes, I like to comment on your clothing as much as you comment on ours.

      Swords are for fighting and defense. Blackpowder weapons can shoot real bullets. Knives are for cooking, and butter is made in a churn. It's very difficult to have authentic items due to age, location (museums), or price. Period correct items are just Reproductions of Authentic Items. Props are non functioning items for display (a table vase, a framed picture). Don't worry about what it's called, just enjoy what you see.

      Sometimes it's difficult to hide modern items outside of the area. Modern people like their modern conveniences (loud thumping cars driving slowly by). However, it's an unwritten rule that in the encampment that all non period items must be hidden. It takes away from the magic of event seeing a plastic water bottle instead of a cup in hand just doesn't look right. Or a plastic sword in a sheath (eww). I have yelled "Hide!!!!! Dragon!!!" when seeing a plane or chopper fly over head.

      Rephrase your questions better- What kind of meat are you cooking? How long does it take to cook it? Where did you live before this tent? How do you store left overs? (No, We don't like to waste food.)
      We like knowing that we're interacting with intelligent folks, and have enlightening conversations where we both can learn something. Soak up the experience, and have some fun!

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  88. I've also been asked "Is your gun real?" and "Where do you put the batteries to get the smoke to come out of the guns?"

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  89. (New comment on an old post!)

    One of the better ones I know of - and would've liked to have witnessed! - is retold in the excellent Past Into Present by Stact Roth (a pretty good handbook for doing first-person interpretation).

    On a visitor's pointing skyward to an aeroplane with the query, "What's that?" the reenactor peered up at the errant object and replied, "I don't know. Must be French!"

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  90. XX 4.) DO YOU REALLY LIVE/SLEEP HERE?
    You've crammed your tiny vehicle full of your clothes, canvas, tent poles, coolers, camp furniture, gear, cots and enough blankets to smother an army. You get to the site early because you need several hours, and potentially a few friends to set it all up. Then, not only does the public ask this question of your tented weekend home, they generally wander on in without asking.XX

    Same in Germany (Napoleonics) Except my Wife and I carry our kit on our backs, and use trains, or walk.

    "Are you really going to eat that?"

    We normally have a spit roast pig. When one of these crochet nicker wearing lentil eating women ask that (for it is almost ALWAYS women) I take my knife and gouge out the eyeballs and eat them.

    IF the main meat is already away, I take an axe, cut of the head, split it, take my spoon, and start eating the brain.

    Those that do not run away, normaly end up there, as re-enactors the next year! :-D :-D

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