Bucket List: The Internet Can’t Believe This Mandela Effect

The Internet has been blowing up recently with people who can’t believe this claim: That the phrase “Bucket List” originated with the 2007 Rob Reiner buddy film of the same name. In an apparent “Mandela Effect,” or mass false memory, everyone seems to think they’ve been using the phrase in their lives long before 2007. In this episode, we talk about other examples of the Mandela Effect, and find out the truth about the origin of the “Bucket List.” Then we play the quick quiz with Comedian Lisa Berry!

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When Nelson Mandela died in 2013, thousands of people were confused. Something in their brain – a false memory – told them that Nelson Mandela had died in prison in the 1980s. This was despite the fact that he had gone on to be freed and to serve as President of South Africa for 5 years in the 90s. An American writer and so-called “Paranormal Consultant,” Fiona Broome – called the false memory “The Mandela Effect.” And since then popular culture is quick to point out similar false memories that happen on a large scale.

When Nelson Mandela died in 2013, thousands of people were confused. Something in their brain – a false memory – told them that Nelson Mandela had died in prison in the 1980s. This was despite the fact that he had gone on to be freed and to serve as President of South Africa for 5 years in the 90s. An American writer and so-called “Paranormal Consultant,” Fiona Broome – called the false memory “The Mandela Effect.” And since then popular culture is quick to point out similar false memories that happen on a large scale.

Here are some of the most popular examples:

Tom Cruise never wore sunglasses in this “Risky Business” scene!
  • Rich Uncle Pennybags in Monopoly never wore a monocle, 
  • Sinbad never made a genie movie in the 90s,
  • In Star Wars, Darth Vader never said the phrase “Luke, I am your father.”

Then there are more subtle examples, like:

  • People misremembering the color “chartreuse” as a pinkish magenta, when it’s really green,
  • They misremember a hyphen in the name of the KitKat candy bar,
  • They mistakenly think that Smokey Bear was known as “Smokey the Bear,”
  • Tom Cruise wasn’t wearing sunglasses in the famous underwear dancing scene in “Risky Business.”


There are dozens of these. I could just sit and talk about these examples of the Mandela effect all day. And a lot of these start to get weak. Like how people point out “Forrest Gump never said ‘Life is like a box of chocolates.’” Okay, no he didn’t. But he said “Mama always said like WAS like a box of chocolates.” So I don’t see that as much as a Mandela effect. Because it’s clear that as people quoted the movie and didn’t add the “mama said” part, it adapted to make more sense when people used the quote. But some of these are more bold false memories. Like all of the people who swear the Fruit of the Loom underwear logo had a cornucopia as part of the design. It never did. Never has. Or how Ed McMahon used to deliver giant checks to people as part of the Publishers Clearing House. He never did. He briefly worked for one of their competitors, but he never appeared on camera as part of that promotion.

Well the Internet is going crazy right now with a new one and it’s about the phrase “Bucket List.” As in – here’s a list of things that I want to do before I die. The claim is that this phrase never appeared before the Rob Reiner buddy movie in 2007. And when you hear that – if you’re like me, you’re like that’s absolute B.S. because I’ve used that phrase my whole life, since I was a kid and I’ve always known about bucket lists. 

The film is about these two men played by Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman, who are terminally ill. One’s a millionaire and the other is a mechanic. They become friends and decide to write a list of things they want to do before they kick the bucket. And that’s why it’s called a “bucket list.” So the claim is that the writer of this film, who was Justin Zackham, coined the phrase when he wrote the script. It first appears 30 pages into the script when we see a list with the title and the character explains “I was trying to be funny I guess. It’s a list of things to before I kick the bucket.”

So this was 2007. Think about how old you were in 2007. And think about not knowing or not having used that phrase before then. Does it seem impossible to you? I know it does to me.

I did a lot of research on the internet looking into this. It kept me up way too late when I first read about it. Because everything in me says this phrase existed my whole life. 

It stems from the phrase “kick the bucket” to mean death. That phrase is old. It goes back to 1785. The origin has something to do with either the French word bucquet, meaning a balance, or the literal action of a person being hanged and standing on a bucket before doing so – kicking away the bucket.

So was the 2007 movie, which was written in 2006, the first instance of the phrase “bucket list?”

Well internet sleuths have searched newspaper databases, old archived websites, and google book databases and it seems like this phrase wasn’t widely used anywhere before this film. I’m blown away by this. Now – with that said – it may be that Justin Zackham wasn’t the first to use the phrase. A book called “Unfair & Unbalanced: The Lunatic Magniloquence of Henry E. Panky” by Patrick M. Carlisle contains this sentence: ““So, anyway, a Great Man in his querulous twilight years, who doesn’t want to go gently into that blacky black night. He wants to cut loose, dance on the razor’s edge, pry the lid off his bucket list!” So it’s older! That book is from… oh. It’s from 2004. Not many people have heard of this book. So even if he coined the phrase, no one used it and no one heard of it from his book. There is also a blog post from someone named Kendra Puckett in 2006 called “A Thousand Words” that references the phrase. And it’s being used in the same context – almost the same sentence as the film. And another reference from a blog called “Fong Songs” where someone uses the phrase (all with dashes) “Must-See-Before-I-Kick-the-Proverbial-Bucket list.” That’s from…also from 2006. July of 2006.

And as we’ve stated – that same year a screenplay was written by Justin Zackham. The idea came to Zackham when he had written his own list. He called it “List of things to do before I kick the bucket” and later shortened it to “Justin’s Bucket List.” The first item on his list was get a film made at a major studio. The 2007 Rob Reiner film became Zackham’s first studio film.

Oh my gosh. The Internet says this is true. This is a Mandela effect. Human memory is not good. I can’t believe it. I absolutely can’t believe it. I would have sworn I used that phrase growing up. But it just can’t be true. The phrase bucket list never existed in any sort of popular, widespread way – until a Rob Reiner film used it as its title. In 2007. Wow.

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Sources for this episode:

https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-origins-of-bucket-list-1432909572

http://http//athsndwords.blogspot.com/2006/12/bucket-list.html

https://wordspy.com/index.php?word=bucket-list

https://www.thevintagenews.com/2022/02/23/mandela-effect-the-bucket-list/?safari=1

https://parade.com/1054775/marynliles/mandela-effect-examples/


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Forgotten history, bizarre tales & facts that seem too strange to be true! Host Michael Kent asks listeners to tell him something strange, bizarre or surprising that they've recently learned and he gets to the bottom of it! Every episode ends by playing a gameshow-style quiz game with a celebrity guest. Part of the WCBE Podcast Experience.

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