Old Wives' Tales
Radio & TV
Toxin du jour
Claim: The cause of swelling in a girl's jaw is determined to be cockroach eggs she got from eating a Taco Bell taco or licking envelopes.
Example: [Collected on the Internet, 1998]
Origins: McDonald's and KFC have long had their special yucky food contamination legends, so it's about time Taco Bell got their own. Although informal versions of this wild tale circulated on the Internet as early as March 1998, it was November of that year before the text quoted above made its appearance in inboxes everywhere. Later versions of the
We're supposed to take this scary
Logistically, though, this one falls down flat on its face. Even if the medical details were correct (and they're woefully wrong), how would the teller know that the roach had come from a Taco Bell taco? Had the poor girl eaten nothing else for the previous several days? There's no mention of her saving the remnants of her meal, much less of anyone's examining them. Even if the victim had retained some taco scraps, since she allegedly ate the roach along with the taco, what evidence would be left behind to
How did the eggs manage to get out of this "pregnant roach" and into the girl's salivary glands? Expectant roaches carry their eggs in a largish brown sac called an ootheca, a firm-walled egg case attached to Mama Roach's posterior. A roach ootheca is about the size of dried bean, not something that could be worked into anyone's gum line.
Did mama fortuitously lay her eggs a split second before the grinding of a hungry girl's teeth shuffled
Our horrific little story also stars a doctor who prescribes a topical cream for a swollen jaw supposedly caused by an "allergic reaction," and who "removes a couple of layers of inner mouth" to get at an obstruction in the salivary glands. Maybe we're wrong to classify this one as a contaminated food or insect infestation legend — it sounds more like a scary indictment of our medical system.
A related "roach eggs" scare that began circulating in 2000 involved envelopes rather than tacos as the means of transmission:
If you lick your envelopes . . . You won't anymore!Everything said about cockroach eggs earlier still applies. This incarnation of the tale is every bit as much a hoax as the taco one.
This lady was working in a post office in California, one day she licked the envelopes and postage stamps instead of using a sponge.
That very day the lady cut her tongue on the envelope. A week later, she noticed an abnormal swelling of her tongue. She went to the doctor, and they found nothing wrong. Her tongue was not sore or anything. A couple of days later, her tongue started to swell more, and it began to get really sore, so sore, that she could not eat. She went back to the hospital, and demanded something be done. The doctor, took an
When the doctor cut her tongue open, a live roach crawled out. There were roach eggs on the seal of the envelope. The egg was able to hatch inside of her tongue, because of her saliva. It was warm and moist...
This is a true story . . . Pass it on
In May 2000 someone thought to add further snippets of implied credibility to the
This is a true story reported on CNN.First of all, the story was not reported on CNN. Pasting such authoritative-sounding taglines into the text of hoaxes circulating on the Internet in an effort to give them credibility is commonplace, and this is just another case of some nameless prankster doing just that.
Andy Hume wrote: Hey, I used to work in an envelope factory. You wouldn't believe the things that float around in those gum applicator trays. I haven't licked an envelope for years.
This is a true story . . . Pass it on
Second, no one knows who "Andy Hume" is, so why give his supposed comments about working in an envelope factory any credence? It ain't all that tough to make up a comment and a name to go with it. If "Andy Hume" works for CNN, it's news to them. Searches of news databases for any reporter of that name turn up one who writes for The Ottawa Citizen, and wider searches turn up a British sports figure who also carries that name. There was also a Washington reporter, Sandy Hume, who killed himself in February 1998. But there's also no reason to assume any of those folks penned the comment circulated to bolster the credibility of the "envelope"
Last updated: 8 March 2005
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