Old Wives' Tales
Radio & TV
Toxin du jour
Claim: Dieters used to attempt to lose weight by ingesting tapeworms.
In the 1960s, memories of those ads resurfaced as appetite-suppressant candy came into vogue, prompting curious dieters to speculate on how they worked. By 1970, diet pills were all the rage, and amphetamines accounted for 8% of all prescriptions written that year. Simple reports about various wonder products evolved into appalling whispered-behind-hands tales about women so desperate to keep their figures that they routinely swallowed magic diet pills which were really tapeworms in capsules. Sometimes the tidbits ended there as "Did you
No one has been singled out by this rumor more than opera singer Maria Callas
It's interesting to note many accounts of the Callas rumor spitefully and self-righteously conclude with the news that her indulgence in this ill-advised tapeworm diet fad caused her to lose the ability to hit the high notes. Such flourishes remind us that vanity rumors are often employed to humble women who aren't much liked or are seen as having attained high positions they did not merit. In Callas' case, her well-publicized, long-standing liaison with Aristotle Onassis caused some to belittle her talent by ascribing her success to her having a powerful benefactor; others wanted to find additional justification for disliking a woman who openly consorted with a (then) married man.
Sometimes a rumor will meld with a folk tale to form a new entity:
[Baker, 1982]Other versions of how to draw out a tapeworm include placing milk, cookies, and a hammer near the afflicted person's anus for a few nights and letting the tapeworm gorge himself into complacency on the treats. Once this has been accomplished, the cookie is withheld. When the worm comes all the way out to demand, "Where's my cookie?," whoever is stuck with worm-watching duty that night bashes it with the hammer. An alternative vermifuge calls for
A few years ago there was a company who put out sure-fire diet pills, guaranteed to lose weight in no time. People began to take these pills, and in no time the people were losing weight. After a few weeks these people began to lose too much weight. So the government investigated. They opened the pills and found the head of a tapeworm. Tapeworms are hard to get rid of. They had the person starve himself for days. Then they set a bowl of hot milk in front of the person. He had to keep his mouth open. After a while the tapeworm began to come up his throat 'cause he smelled the milk. They kept moving the bowl further away until the tapeworm was completely out.
Barbara "T-bone voyage, sucker!" Mikkelson
Last updated: 8 July 2006
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