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Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Fabulous Beasts #7, The Cootie

I have examined many strange creatures in this series but none quite so enigmatic as the cootie. Is it beast or disease of unknown etiology? I learned of the cootie when the scientific community was barely out if its infancy. In fact it was in the first grade. By coincidence, so was I.

The world of academia is a rarefied atmosphere in which scholars conduct methodical, empirical inquiries into existence --in this instance, between the monkey-bars and the sand box. My colleagues were discussing the cootie. I asked what cooties were and was immediately tapped on the shoulder.

"That's cooties. Now you got 'em and I don't!" I was told, and, "If you don't give 'em to another boy before the bell rings, you'll have 'em forever and we have to be mean to you."

My first symptom was excitement that turned into panic and an urge to chase. Who knows how many careers were ruined for scientists who still had cooties after recess was over? Then the bell rang. We repaired to the classroom where I consulted my fiancé, Toni, who promised to marry me when I became Roy Rogers. She was a girl. And it was well known that girls could cure cooties with origami. They knew the secret of folding paper into cootie-catchers.  Here is a picture:

That was my only cootie infection and inoculation. In the intervening 57 years, I studied the incident and developed a theory about the size and nature of cooties. In physics, we learn that we receive no information about the universe smaller than a photon. Photons are quanta --basic, irreducible units-- of light whose size is measured by their charge and wavelength within a Gaussian Field. Here is a hypothetical cootie surrounded by such a surface:
This photograph appeared in scientific journals at a tumultuous time in our history. At the beginning of this millennium, a very large and powerful country went to war against a smaller country and everyone wondered why. After accusations that the little country was part of an "axis of evil", stockpiling "weapons of mass destruction" and trying "to kill my (big country's leader's) dad" were conclusively disproved, most people just chalked it up to cooties. The war consumed over 10 years.

The world needs more paper cootie-catchers.



  1. Omigosh, I actually remember cootie catchers! My daughter is an expert at making those to tell fortunes.

  2. I have no idea if I still have cooties, but I remember being bombarded with rumors and urban legends about them when I was a small child. You've managed to give the common cootie new dimensions (not an easy feat).

    I've made numerous unsuccessful attempts to master the art of origami - - but I never realized that they could be utilized as cootie catchers.

    I used to have an old recording of "Happy Trails" but my father eventually threw it out - along with most of my other vintage stuff.

  3. Do you know we don't have cooties here? I had never even heard of them until I read some American fiction (ok, comics). And had no idea what they could be.
    Has anyone ever drawn them do you know? And I heard a rumour that 'girl' cooties were the absolute worst. Mind you it was a boy that said that...

  4. Boys thought girls had cooties, girls thought boys had cooties and the teacher looked at us all with a wary eye.
    Your cootie bug looks a lot like a set I got for Christmas one year of bug parts you could assemble in any way you liked. That sent me on a trip down memory lane to a gentler kinder time. I'll probably be paralyzed for hours now as I lose myself in wonderful memories.

  5. If only all the world's ills could be cured so easily.

  6. The good thing about cooties is that you grow out of them around the 4th grade (or maybe i was a late bloomer as some had already grown out of them by then, but I had a sister then in the second grade).

  7. Interesting that your fiance was in fact a shaman able to cure cooties. The strain of cooties infesting my school when I was a boy was actually closely related to another pestilence "girl germs", and it would have been unheard of for a member of the female gender to be able to cure either parasite. There was an crucial difference, however, in that a fairly simple inncoculation existed for the the subspecies 'girl germs.'

    When passing along the pestilence to another poor fellow, the incantation "girls germs, no returns" was enough to grant you future immunity.

    No such preventive measures existed for the other sub-strain, the dreaded cooties. Which is perhaps why girl germs quickly died out on the playground, replaced by the more deadly cooties.

  8. Indeed, my friends! Widespread response on this matter has convinced me, cooties are a virulent world-wide problem. Yet, where are the government research grants, the hospital cootie wards, retreats and sanatoriums for sufferers? It boggles the mind. I should probably go lie down.

  9. I had cooties once.... My mum went mad and bought me some special shampoo

  10. Wonderful post!!! I remember cootie catchers, too, of course.


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