Just now, I was reading an article that referenced snakes-in-a-can, and I had a visceral reaction.
I can't recall ever having had snakes pop out of the can in question. My only experience with the gag as a child involved reading about it in a comic-book advertisement. The ad had a cartoon drawing of the colorful snakes springing forth, and copy that ended with, "You'll laugh till it hurts!"
Well, I misread that last part. Maybe it was because I thought they were real snakes, or I didn't know how hard and fast they'd spring out, or because I was an ignorant child, but I read it this way: "You'll laugh...till it HURTS!" Meaning, it won't be funny anymore after the snakes start causing you pain. And I thought to myself, "That's a mean prank to play. Why would you want to hurt people?"
No amount of seeing this toy in TV shows, movies, commercials or among friends — or, for that matter, realizing I was wrong not even that much later — ever completely shook me of that misconception. So to this day, I wince a little when I read about snakes in a can. But only for a split-second or so. It hurts. Then I laugh.
I guess I can expect to get snakes-in-a-can any day now. This happens more than you think when I write stuff like this. You know else I'm scared of? The Nintendo Wii.