Friday, February 13, 2004

The world of the wet willie

Well, that title is a little ambitious - I have a few blanks to fill in yet. But the latest installment in NWA's "Explorations in Popular Anthropology" series has begun. (You missed the first one?)

It started yesterday. I was restless and one of my Indian coworkers walked by. Like many Indians, he speaks several languages - his native language is Telugu, but he can speak Hindi and Tamil too. Terrific - what with his being heir to three great cultures, I'll ask him if he's ever heard of a "wet willie".

He hadn't. I explained that this consisted of licking or otherwise wetting a finger, then sticking it in someone's ear. He immediately started laughing - yes, they do that where he comes from too.

Is this something that arose spontaneously around the world, or is it all traceable to Cro-Magnon or even pre-human times? Perhaps that fountain of philology Dr. Weevil can tell us if there is a Latin or Greek word for this phenomenon. Could it have impacted history? - could, say, Socrates' death sentence have been a consequence of one-too-many wet willies? Is there a question less worthy of investigation than that? If there isn't, then where do I sign up for my government grant?

Perhaps some of you have suggestions for further explorations in cultural anthropology. Failing that, I might have found a roadmap here.

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