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Old 05-10-2002, 12:15 AM
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Swallowing String and Death


Hi,
This is my first post, and I was compelled to comment on Cecil's classic response from the Straight Dope email I got today.

It seems a yoga afficionado wanted to know if you could swallow a long piece of cloth and pull it out the other end. While it might be an ingenious way to floss your butt, I'm here to tell you it can lead to a painful death. At least in the case of household pets.

Here's the gruesome tale. When i was about 11 years old we had a cat. A pretty nice cat overall...Amelia was her name. Well, Amelia liked to play with things like the cords on the draperies and blinds, so one day my Mom gave her a long piece of yarn to play with. Of course we've all seen those sickeningly cute posters of kittens batting around a ball of yarn, or sticking their heads out of a knitting basket half entangled in bunches of yarn. So what more natural toy for a cat to play with? Or so we thought.

We watched Amelia play with the yarn a bit and then left her to her own devices and didn't give a second thought to that piece of yarn. Until a few days later that is. Amelia seemed a little disconcerted, and upon inspection my mom noticed a piece of yarn sticking out of Amelia's butt and went to grab it. When Amelia felt my mom grab hold, she took off like a bat out of hell...my mom still holding on to the yarn. In about a second there was 10 feet of cat-poop-covered yarn on the floor and the cat was howling in some distress.

Since she was obviously in pain my mom took the cat to the vet who put her down immediately. If it's not already clear, this is what happened. Some time after becoming bored with batting the yarn around, Amelia found one end of it and began chewing. She swallowed a little bit and couldn't really figure out how to spit it back out, so she just kept swallowing until she had consumed the entire length. Instead of balling up in her stomach like Cecil suggested it might, it managed to work its way through the folds and coils of Amelia's intestines until it peeked out enough for my Mom to grab hold. When Amelia took off away from my mom, the yarn - which was folded in Amelia's intestines - straightened out, but her intestines did not. The yarn essentially sliced through her intestines in a straight line from her stomach to her anus. It would have been nearly impossible to repair all of the damage done to her intestines, so Amelia now rests in peace.

I still feel bad about this even though I know my mom was just trying to give her something to play with. So if any of you cat lovers out there want to give your cat a piece of yarn or string make sure it is short, and that you tie both ends to something.

Sorry to hit you all with such a gross, sad, cat death story. I'll try to find something a bit cheerier for my next post.

Last edited by Arnold Winkelried; 05-11-2002 at 11:04 AM.
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Old 05-10-2002, 01:26 AM
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Um...of course that should have been "Swallowing String..."
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Old 05-10-2002, 06:18 AM
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similarly, but more happily, i once had a cat that swallowed a used condom (i guess it tasted nice). again, saw it protruding from said cat's butt and removed it (eugh!). no harm done, perhaps the lubrication helped (and of course, size)!

just thought i'd share!!
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Old 05-10-2002, 08:28 AM
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I'm sorry Torus, I just don't believe your story.

Try cutting some meat with a piece of string, then we'll talk.

(I am NOT saying that tugging harshly on a piece of swallowed string protruding from a cat's anus couldn't cause some damage (possibly even fatal), but "your" description is just too pat.)
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Old 05-10-2002, 09:01 AM
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Check the movie "Crumb"...


I'm almost certain that R. Crumb's brother in the movie engages in exactly the type of complete cleansing ritual you're talking about--where (after several days of fasting, I believe) he swallows the end of a long piece of cloth, and ends up tying it in a closed loop after he passes the lead end out his back end, as it were.

Does anyone else remember this detail?
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Old 05-10-2002, 10:25 AM
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I don't, but it sounds like BS; that cloth would have to be 30 feet long ls that how long it looked in the movie?

BTW, could someone post a link to the original article?
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Old 05-10-2002, 11:56 AM
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Great Unwashed


I don't particularly care whether you believe it or not, as I know it it the God's honest truth, because I saw it happen to my pet.

By the way, I didn't say it cut through her leg or any other meaty part of her body, in fact it didn't damage her anus at all. It was the soft tissue of the intestine that was damaged.

So your suggestion of trying to cut "meat" with string doesn't apply. Although I enjoy the idea of you sitting in your kitchen trying it.

I have a better experiment to test the veracity of my story. Why don't you swallow about 70 feet of yarn. That would be the proportional equivalent of what Amelia swallowed given the probably differences in your size. Then when it starts to come out, call your Mom and say, "Mom, I need you to pull something out of my butt, again." Then have her grab one end while you sprint down the street.

Let us know the results of this experiment.

Then we'll talk.
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Old 05-10-2002, 12:56 PM
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I can't believe people are so skeptical in this forum. Speaking of string, this really happened. I swear it's a true story:

A piece of string goes into a bar and orders a drink.
The bartender says, "We don't serve string in here."
The string walks out, dejected. Then he has an idea. First he ties himself into a bow and ruffles the top of his head, leaving stray bits of string waving about.
He walks back into the bar and orders another drink.
The bartender asks, "Hey...aren't you that string I just kicked out of here."
With a shake of his head the strong replies, "No, I'm a frayed knot."
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Old 05-10-2002, 12:59 PM
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Original subject from 1980


http://www.straightdope.com/classics/a1_050.html
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Old 05-10-2002, 01:40 PM
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Re: Check the movie "Crumb"...


Quote:
Originally posted by LairBob
I'm almost certain that R. Crumb's brother in the movie engages in exactly the type of complete cleansing ritual you're talking about--where (after several days of fasting, I believe) he swallows the end of a long piece of cloth, and ends up tying it in a closed loop after he passes the lead end out his back end, as it were.

Does anyone else remember this detail?
I saw the movie of which you speak (movie description at IMDB.) Yes, one of R. Crumb's brothers does claim to engage in that exercise in the movie, but we never see him actually do it.
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Old 05-10-2002, 01:44 PM
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And welcome to the SDMB Torus. Please include a link to the Straight Dope column at the beginning of the thread when you post in this forum. Thank you for posting it later after it was requested.

Was the yarn that caused the death of your cat Amelia made out of wool?
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Old 05-10-2002, 01:57 PM
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Wool or not


I'm afraid I don't really recall what the yarn was made of. It was quite a while ago and I don't think I even knew what it was made of at the time. My guess is that it was probably a partly wool blend. Knowing my Mom as I do, it certainly wasn't an expensive wool.

Not that it helps, but I can tell you that I remember distinctly that is was green.
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Old 05-11-2002, 12:04 AM
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Google, "cat swallow string anus". Hit #1.

http://www.hdw-inc.com/safety.htm
Quote:
If you see a piece of yarn, audio tape, string, tinsel, etc. protruding from your cat or kitten's mouth or anus, do NOT attempt to pull it out! It could be wrapped around your cat's intestines and by pulling, you might inadvertently kill kitty!! Instead, take your kitty in to your vet IMMEDIATELY!!
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Old 05-11-2002, 01:35 AM
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As disgusting as this is, I feel compelled to comment. I once owned a very stupid cat who liked to eat pretty much everything in sight. At Christmas she would always play with the ornaments and such on the tree. One year around the holidays I noticed something shiny stuck to the fluff around her butt. I went to pick it off, but it turned out to be not so much stuck to her buttfluff as stuck in her butt. Well, you can probably guess what happened - I quickly pulled about 2 feet of tinsel out of her ass. Much freaking out occured at this point - both from the cat, who was in a sort of frenzied panic, and from me, who had just been engaged in innocent cat fur mantainance and ended up with a giant piece of poo-covered tinsel in my hand.

Anyways, the point of this is that while both me and the cat were emotionally scarred for life, physically she seemed to be just fine. Incidently this cat lived to be almost 20 and died, not of buttfloss, but of old age - which just proves that being stupid makes you live longer.
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Old 05-11-2002, 05:07 AM
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Okay, this is a bit gross, but I can prove that Cecil is wrong that "Peristalsis ... would be ineffective in overcoming all the friction that hauling a string would entail." When I was little (aged 3 or 4), I used to chew all sorts of things, and one of my favourites was this yellow string that my father had. It had a kind of nutty taste that I loved. So one day, I swallowed a piece of this string... The next day, imagine my relief when there was the string, along with "some other stuff" hanging out of my bottom! What Cecil doesn't take into account (and I'm posting this only for the sake of scientific research) is that faeces of the right consistency might well adhere to the string or cloth, and thus allow peristalsis to do its job.

How's that for a first post?!
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Old 05-11-2002, 08:20 AM
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monterey86 said:
Quote:
I can't believe people are so skeptical in this forum.
Hello, and welcome to the Straight Dope, where skepticism is a virtue. That's right, the denizens here tend not to take things as true just because someone else says so. The wilder the claim, the less likely to be believed. We want evidence, not just anecdotes.

It's funny. The X-Files made popular the phrase "The truth is out there," but all the while promoting the most unsubstatiated paranoid delusional nuttiness. They should have said, "The truth is out there, 'cause you'll never get any from us."

But Unwashed, I don't find Torus's description that unbelievable. I cite is nice (happily supplied by DDG - thanks!), but if the description is too pat, perhaps it's just your visualization of the effect.
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Old 05-11-2002, 11:06 AM
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Quote:
Originally posted by Torus
Um...of course that should have been "Swallowing String..."
Fixed.
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Old 05-11-2002, 11:14 AM
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My vet, Richard Chaille, DVM, told us about a patient of his. This cat owner (whoops, I meant this cat's staff) embroidered as a hobby. The cat apparently ate a piece of embroidery floss, starting with both ends. Later, when the cat was found to be vomiting blood and choking, the vet found the floss looped under the critter's tongue, inflaming the mouth. Fortunately, the piece was not very long, and the vet was able, during surgery, to recover it from the esophagus, stomach, and small intestine.

Scarier yet, says Dr. Rick, is the cats who eat a length of tough button thread, only to find a needle on the end. Never, he says, should a cat's home contain a threaded needle where the cat can get to it.
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Old 05-11-2002, 09:33 PM
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Meyer, I'm nominating this for some kind of SDMB writing award, as soon as I figure out which one.
Quote:
Much freaking out occured at this point - both from the cat, who was in a sort of frenzied panic, and from me, who had just been engaged in innocent cat fur mantainance and ended up with a giant piece of poo-covered tinsel in my hand.
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Old 05-12-2002, 04:56 PM
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Originally posted by Duck Duck Goose
Meyer, I'm nominating this for some kind of SDMB writing award, as soon as I figure out which one.
Thank you, thank you - this makes it worth reliving the kitty butt-tinsel incident, no matter how emotionally trying it was for me.
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Old 05-13-2002, 01:42 PM
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My brother in law while in medical school volunteered for a weekend research experiment to earn some extra money. The research was for dysentery medications (the volunteers where well rewarded) and part of the research involved having a small string secured to a tooth and the capsule containing the rest of the string was swallowed. Once the end of the string had passed all the way through the subject it was the researchers then pulled the string back up through the subject’s mouth. (Did I mention they where paid for this.)
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Old 05-13-2002, 02:02 PM
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All right...now it's my turn to be sceptical


Well, scepticism is a virtue here so I'm told, and even though I was a bit miffed at being doubted at first, I unfortunately find myself questioning the story about your brother.

You said "the capsule containing the rest of the string". So the capsule held the string and the string was released from the capsule as it moved through the intestines? Was there some sort of medicine on the string? If not, what was the purpose of the experiment? Why did they pull the string back out through the mouth instead of letting it pass through? Did the string have some sort of coating to allow it to sense the conditions of the gastro-intestinal tract? How long did it take them to pull the string back out? God I can't believe I'm so wrapped up in this.

Don't get me wrong. I don't think you are lying about this. I just suspect there is more to the story.
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Old 05-13-2002, 03:40 PM
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The "string test" is used to diagnose certain conditions of the small intestine, as in the clip from Johns Hopkins: http://pathology5.pathology.jhmi.edu/micro/v15n31.htm
"Duodenal and jejunal contents can be sampled by aspiration, or by using a string test. The string test involves having a patient swallow a gelatin capsule containing a nylon string, the free end of which is secured at the mouth. The capsule dissolves in the stomach, and the string continues through the duodenum to the jejunum. After a number of hours, the string is retrieved and material absorbed by the string is examined..."
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Old 05-13-2002, 03:53 PM
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There sure is a "string test"


Here's a description of the string test from MedLine's online dictionary:

http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/e...cle/003735.htm

What is baffling me now is that there is no mention that care should be taken in removing the string. Perhaps the instance of injury and death is so rare that it is not worth mentioning. That would mean that my experience with my cat was just a stroke of bad luck.

Well I hope that is the case.
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Old 05-14-2002, 04:31 AM
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I recall reading the biography of Errol Flynn which described him as an unpleasant child who delighted in the following. A piece of lard was tied a length of string and fed to a duck. Shortly thereafter the lard was excreted by the duck, string still attached and fed to a second duck and so on, allowing Flynn the young monster to connect several ducks together.
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Old 05-14-2002, 10:02 AM
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Nametag and Torus,

Seems both of you where able to find more detail then I can offer. This happened to my ex –brother in law, so I am unable to inquire further. Thank you for the links.
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Old 05-14-2002, 11:37 AM
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Sutra neti noodle


Regarding Cecil's account of the floss-nosesnort-hack-it-out-and-rub-away, I know I'm not the only one who's seen guys do this with spaghetti noodles. Forget Cecil's disclaimer, "...it is claimed..."--this really happens, and the guys I've watched say it's pretty easy to do.

Noodles are a little slimy, too, which may make it easy to snort & hack your way to party popularity.

I'm a sutra-neti noodle, neti noodle do or die...


>>you are genuinely desirous of probing your innards with twine, however, I can suggest an alternative yogic exercise called sutra neti, which involves a dampened, waxed string that you snort through one nostril. After a few days practice, it is claimed, you should be able to inhale the string with such velocity that you can fish the far end out of your mouth. With both ends in hand, you can then engage in the practice of gharshana-neti, or string rubbing, which apparently is something like playing the Jew's-harp. Picture it: nasal floss! I guarantee, it'll be a day the gang in the car pool won't soon forget<<<
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Old 05-16-2002, 02:44 PM
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Quote:
Some time after becoming bored with batting the yarn around, Amelia found one end of it and began chewing. She swallowed a little bit and couldn't really figure out how to spit it back out, so she just kept swallowing until she had consumed the entire length. Instead of balling up in her stomach like Cecil suggested it might, it managed to work its way through the folds and coils of Amelia's intestines until it peeked out enough for my Mom to grab hold.
I am content to believe this. As we have previously established, cats have much shorter intestinal length than humans - see http://www.straightdope.com/classics/a3_087.html.

Regarding the "string test," please note that "the string continues through the duodenum to the jejunum." The jejunum is the upper part of the small intestine. This is consistent with the comment in the column that "you might be able to coax a string through the stomach and maybe a short distance into the small intestine." As this illustration shows, however, the jejunum is merely an intermediate step on a long journey (http://www.yoursurgery.com/Procedure...m?BR=1&Proc=49).

I'll have Little Ed update the column.

Last edited by Cecil Adams; 05-16-2002 at 03:32 PM.
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Old 05-16-2002, 03:58 PM
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Well Torus, your first thread has been blessed by the Perfect Master himself. Something to tell the grandkids about.... or maybe not.
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Old 05-16-2002, 10:19 PM
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I am nearly speechless. Cecil has actually linked to this thread from a classic column. I suppose it is all downhill from here. Then again, how much further downhill can you go after spilling your guts (ouch) about the accidental death of your childhood cat.

I'm very happy to have contributed in some small way to Cecil's fight against ignorance, but if this is my moment in the sun, I'm going to cry myself to sleep tonight.
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Old 05-17-2002, 03:07 PM
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Vroom


Quote:
What is baffling me now is that there is no mention that care should be taken in removing the string. Perhaps the instance of injury and death is so rare that it is not worth mentioning. That would mean that my experience with my cat was just a stroke of bad luck.
I imagine that feline intestines aren't as thick and durable as those of larger mammals. Also, I don't know how fast your cat runs, but if it was anything like my cat, a doctor performing a string test on me would have to attach the uningested end to a Corvette to achieve a properly scaled speed
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Old 05-18-2002, 06:51 PM
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Just try removing your belt rapidly while wearing it to hold up your jeans. It's almost impossible to do without damaging something. Try pulling electrical wire through a conduit with two 90 degree bends. Be sure to tell me how much insulation you strip off the wire.

The fact that the intestines are a series of S-curves and loops, any attempt to pull a string out would meet with great resistance. Enough force in pulling would eventually force the string or yarn to cut into intestine somewhere along the line (groan) causing peritonitis, and eventually death if untreated.

Perhaps peristalsis would have allowed the cat to pass the yarn harmlessly, but that is like playing russian roulette. It might, and it might not.
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Old 05-20-2002, 05:03 AM
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Re: Sutra neti noodle


Quote:
Originally posted by akambe
Regarding Cecil's account of the floss-nosesnort-hack-it-out-and-rub-away, I know I'm not the only one who's seen guys do this with spaghetti noodles. Forget Cecil's disclaimer, "...it is claimed..."--this really happens, and the guys I've watched say it's pretty easy to do.

Noodles are a little slimy, too, which may make it easy to snort & hack your way to party popularity.

I'm a sutra-neti noodle, neti noodle do or die...
I knew a guy in my military tech school who would undo his dog tag chain, snort one end in one nostril, cough a couple of times, and spew it out his other nostril.

Why, yes! It DID hurt just looking at him!
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Old 05-20-2002, 09:19 PM
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Hey, did he go to college with DaveORad?

http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/...hreadid=116092
  #35  
Old 05-23-2002, 08:00 PM
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Strings of death...


I am a veterinarian and have seen incidents very closely related to the idea of 'passing the string thru' as put forward by the questioner. Cats in particular are prone to playing with and therefore swallowingstrings. This can be a major risk if it becomes anchored, either around thebase of the tongue or in the stomach. The string propagates down the intestines much better than your team seems to think, especially if there is
something on the end or the end just gets rolled up into a ball. The risk is that the intestines become 'plicated' or accordianed between the forward end of the string and the anchored end. I usually describe this as the same thing that happens with curtains when pushed to the end, getting all bunched up there. This can lead the excessive pressure and loss of bloodflow to the
intestines, causing them to die in areas. A second major risk is that the string can saw thru the intestinal wall leading to peritonitis and other severe infections. Any animal showing the signs of a linear foreign body is a candidate for immediate emergency surgery.
I most also say that this is not the case for every piece of string or other foreign body swallowed. I have seen a needle and thread pass completely thru without causing any damage. But as always, better to be safe than sorry and to not allow your cats to play with strings. Also, the description of the cloth used by those practicing yoga would likely be to large to pass out of the stomach and therefore would carry very little risk of something like this happening.
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Old 06-20-2002, 09:24 AM
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A stray compliment


Dear Torus,

I am, admittedly, a big fat nobody and it is none of my business, however, judging from you intelligence and pithy writing style, I predict great things. Way to go, Kid.

"Let us curse while we may for in heaven swearing is not allowed." Mark Twain
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Old 09-11-2002, 12:31 AM
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Mom's a little too quick on the draw


What is it about cat owners that has you IMMEDIATELY grabbing unexpected things that come out of your pets' ASSES? All of these shocking tales have a similar "I saw...then I grabbed" rhythm. If you need to get your hands on something when kitty produces a UBO (unidentified booty object), pick up the damn telephone and call a vet.
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Old 01-05-2003, 01:56 PM
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My cat Flash (named for his propensity to sniff lit candles, thereby losing his whiskers in a pretty, pseudo-magnesium flare) loves to eat string, balloon ribbon, yarn, anything that might act as tummy floss. He has passed such materials safely more than once - and I found it very touching of him to leave me a cat-poop in the box freshly wrapped in colorful ribbon.
His latest obsession is the cellophane on cigarette packages - a dangerous snack which, fortunately, makes a lot of noise when chewed. He has learned that the words "Flash! Drop it!" are the predecessor to a serious butt-smack if he doesn't spit out whatever he's mouthing.
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Old 01-05-2003, 05:06 PM
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I totally believe that a piece of string can do serious damage to anyone's tender insides. When teaching a unit on ceramics I've often used string to cut through a tough chunk of clay as much as a foot in diameter, with ease. And it's a teacher-only activity because I was tired of students cutting their hands open when they didn't hold the string properly. I'm thinking how much more tender the casing (grandma always used the traditional animal gut kind) on a sausage is than a person's hands and have to say how sorry I am for poor Amelia.
  #40  
Old 12-27-2005, 11:56 PM
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I'm a man who has had pretty long hair for the past couple years; right now it's about two feet long or so. With all that hair on my head, it's hard to not accidentally swallow a hair or two now and then. I never notice when I'm doing it, but I know it happens because sometimes they come out the other end: I'll feel a weird tickle down by my drainpipe, and reach down, and pull out a two-foot-long hair. So.
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Old 02-05-2009, 02:46 PM
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Gord lord man. I've got long hair but i've never done that and i wouldn't have thought it possible.

How can you possibly ingest a 2' long hair without noticing?
  #42  
Old 02-05-2009, 02:54 PM
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Kitty-butt-tinsel-gate will now live in the annals of Straightdope fame for ever...or at least a very long time.
  #43  
Old 02-05-2009, 06:28 PM
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Or at least for the past 3 years.
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Old 02-06-2009, 07:46 AM
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There's a new thread about this column, so I'll close this old one and direct further comment to the other: http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/...d.php?t=505260
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