PART II OF VI
JULY 25, 2005
A REVIEW OF "YOUR DISGUSTING HEAD."
By David Ng
YOUR DISGUSTING HEAD: THE DARKEST, MOST OFFENSIVE - AND MOIST - SECRETS OF YOUR EARS, MOUTH AND NOSE.
By The Haggis-On-Whey World of Unbelievable Brilliance. 64pp. Simon and Schuster $24.50 (Hardcover)
In Norway, you say buse.
As a geneticist, I am a lot more familiar with the concept of snot than one might suspect. And although this may appear to be a sort of an odd soundbite, it can be quickly explained by the simple fact that pure genomic DNA, isolated from any and all variety of natures participants, will actually take on the appearance of the stuff you might see dripping out of an infants nose. I even call it boogery, which delights me to no end as an educator who is privilege enough to impart such wisdom to audiences ranging from scientific Heads of Departments to priests to politicians to graduate students to lawyers and (best of all) to unwary 11 year olds. In fact, Ill leave it to your imagination as to which particular group revels the most in this piece of information.
Anyway, given what tends to be the somewhat international flavor of these audiences, I appear to be an expert of sorts on all things snot or at least in colloquial terms, having compiled an impressive list of foreign ways to say booger.
Of course, the importance of language is steadfast in any discipline, even one as empirical as the sciences. Furthermore, I happen to know this first hand, having once made the mistake of teaching a group of graduate students to be especially "anal" when dealing with certain molecular procedures, a lecture that was met by sincere looks of disgust from my foreign students (asking, why, of all things, do we have to be anal?).
In Ukraine, you say smarkotch.
In Punjabi, you say chewae.
In any event, anatomically speaking, being anal would be the exact opposite of all this nose business. As well, being anal has nothing to do with a really interesting book that is refreshingly titled Your Disgusting Head, The Darkest, Most Offensive And Moist Secrets Of Your Ears, Mouth And Nose. Your nose (and, more specifically, the stuff inside it) on the other hand has a significant role in this book - which considering its wonderful use of language and my particular background, might even make this count as an academic review.
Anyway, this sort of book belies description. Your Disgusting Head, attributed to Dr. and Mr. Doris Haggis-On-Whey and published by the fine folks at McSweeneys Publishing, is the second in the HOW? BOOK SERIES (The first being Giraffes? Giraffes!). I can tell you that it is a very pretty book - think of the luscious retro look of those 60s and 70s childrens science encyclopedias and you have an idea of what Im talking about. But what makes this offering different is that instead of the stoic language of education, you have surreal and often very funny musings written in a tone that suggests scientific conjecture in a Radiohead, Teletubbies, Kurt Vonnegut kind of way (forgive me Radiohead and Mr. Vonnegut). In other words, I think its marvelous, but Im not so sure you will.
In Cantonese, you say baytay.
In Flemish, you say snot.
So perhaps the best way to gauge your level of interest, is to ask yourself whether the following titles make you grin:
WHERE YOUR MOUTH HAS BEEN
THE SICKENING FLUIDS THAT FILL YOUR SKULL
WHO IS THE LUNATIC WHO DESIGNED YOUR EARS?
WHY YOUR BREATH SMELLS BAD?
And of course, my favourite,
WHERE DOES ALL THE SNOT COME FROM?
If so, then I think you too will enjoy this book immensely. In fact, I secretly believe that the underlying intent of this book is to read it to your children. Barring that, it might also work well as a reference in any scientific Ph.D. dissertation. More to the point, its worth checking out, especially for those of us who are naturally scientifically curious.
Oh, and just in case you were wondering my favourite way of saying snot is the very German, schleim; and apparently all the snot comes from Detroit.
David Ng's dad (honest to goodness) once beat up Bruce Lee - but we'll save that story for another day.
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