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The Tell-Tale Swab

Claim:   Students in a biology class are asked to take scrapings from the insides of their cheeks and examine them under microscopes. One student's cheek scraping reveals the presence of a sperm cell.

LEGEND

Examples:

[Collected on the Internet, 1993]

Legend has it that during a biology class/lab. The students in one class (our university) wear asked to take swabs of one partner's mouth and identify the types of cells (i.e. skin cells, blood, bacteria etc). One male/female team was having some trouble identifying a cell that they found in the girl's mouth. After looking through all their notes, they gave up and called the lab assistant over. He looked in the microscope and anounced that it was a sperm cell.
 

The incident goes that this one gorgeous woman in the class (blonde, sexy, the works) found something curious and kept inviting people, including the prof., to come have a look at it since she had no clue what it was. So everybody basically peeked at it and walked away chuckling and she kept getting even more excited — begging all and sundry to tell her what it was — till, of course, the professor told her it was a sperm cell!!
 

A teacher friend heard this story at lunch:

It seems that a science teacher was explaining the wonders of the microscopic world to his avid young students. While saying "everything has microscopic germs, life, and thingies on it," he decided to demonstrate by having a student scrape her teeth with a toothpick, wipe it on a slide and put it up on the overhead. Lo! but what appears but our strong swimmer friend, the sperm.
 

Variations:
  • The type of sample the students are asked to examine (e.g., cheek scrapings, tongue scrapings, teeth scrapings, saliva sample) varies.
  • In one variant students are paired and asked to take samples from their partners' mouths. When a sperm cell is detected in the sample one student is examining, his lab partner flees from the room.
  • In another variant of this legend a sample is taken from only one student and then projected on the overhead for the entire class to see.

Origins:   This
legend dates to the days when male and female students were housed in separate residence halls, contact between the two was carefully monitored by colleges, and premarital sex was frowned upon. The legend combines sexist elements — particularly the unsuitability of women for academic pursuits (especially in such traditionally male fields as science) — with an embarrassment tale in which a female student's scandalous sexual activities are revealed. As colleges liberalized and switched to coed dormitories and sexual relations between college students became more prevalent, the setting of this legend shifted to high school biology classes, where the story could regain some of its shock value among younger subjects.

In some more recent versions of this legend the embarrassed student is a male, indicating its shift away from a salacious tale about the sexuality of female students to one (perhaps with homophobic overtones) in which homosexuals are accidentally "outed." This legend is very similar in structure and theme to another embarrassment legend, Salt of the Mirth.

Last updated:   24 June 2011

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Sources:

    Playboy.   "The Playboy Advisor."
    May 1997   (p. 45).