Is there a word or phrase for when something real is thought to be mythical because it resembles or is related to a known myth?

For example, the myth of unicorns makes many people think that narwhals are mythical creatures as well, when they're actually real. Another example is that the myth of Santa's reindeer make some people think that regular reindeer are mythical as well. Is there a term that would describe this?

To clarify: I'm not talking about things like creation vs. evolution or global warming's existence vs. lack thereof, where one side genuinely believes that A is a myth and B is a fact, and the other side genuinely believes that B is a myth and A is a fact. I'm talking about a situation where everyone knows that A is a myth, but A's similarity to B causes some people to erroneously conclude that B is a myth as well.

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    What you're talking about would seem to be summed up in the idiom "tainted by the same brush." – Robusto Mar 12 '15 at 13:56
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    As an argument construct this is a false analogy – blgt Mar 12 '15 at 14:30
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    @Robusto: More commonly, tarred with the same brush. But I'd certainly go for tainted/undermined by association. – FumbleFingers Mar 12 '15 at 15:25
  • @FumbleFingers: Yeah, my mind went for tarred and got tainted by association. Meaning my associative powers were distracted for the moment. – Robusto Mar 12 '15 at 15:28
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    If you can't find a better answer, there is a trope exactly for this from tvtropes.org: Eskimos aren't real. It also has the exact examples that you gave under "real life" tab. There are general concepts like "false association" but there doesn't seem like a phrase for this specific situation. I tried searching "false mythology", it is promising, but I couldn't find a strong evidence. – ermanen Mar 12 '15 at 17:01

In rhetoric, this is the 'weak analogy'. I quote:

"(1) A and B are similar.

(2) A has a certain characteristic.

Therefore: (3) B must have that characteristic too." See http://www.logicalfallacies.info/relevance/weak-analogy/

To apply this to your first example: Unicorns and narwhals both have horns and I've never seen one. Unicorns aren't real. Therefore narwhals aren't real.


I think the term you are referring to is mythologize:

  • to construct or relate a myth.

  • to make into or explain as a myth (TFD)

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    This does not carry the sense of false analogy ("A's similarity to B" [where A is known to be a myth]) asked for by OP. – Edwin Ashworth Mar 12 '15 at 14:58

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