Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Bread dildos and other NSFW topics in this very special Wiki Wormhole

Loaves of bread
Photo: Neilson Barnard (Getty Images)
Wiki WormholeWe explore some of Wikipedia’s oddities in our 5,664,405-week series, Wiki Wormhole.

This week’s entry: Quick hits

What it’s about: Lots of things! Over the years, we’ve come across Wikipedia articles that fascinated or amused to some degree, but were too short to write a full column about. So for the next few weeks, we’re going to shake up the format and move through our 6,198,555-part series a bit faster by tackling multiple subjects in brief. This week, we’re getting a bunch of not-entirely-safe-for-work topics out of the way all at once.

Small penis rule: While the best writers of fiction are able, through some alchemy, to turn words on a page into original characters that feel as alive as you or me, many more are lazy hacks who just write about people they know and change the names so it seems like they created something new. When this technique is especially blatant, it can open the writer up to cries of defamation, and even lawsuits over libel. But there’s one clever way to get around it: the small penis rule. When a writer creates an unflattering character that’s perhaps a little too close to their real-life inspiration, to avoid libel, they might give the character a small penis. The reasoning is that no one would come forward saying, “Hey, that guy with the small penis is based on me!” Billy And The Cloneasaurus author Michael Crichton has used this strategy. When journalist Michael Crowley gave a bad review to Crichton’s novel State Of Fear, Crichton had some petty revenge by naming a child rapist in his next book a journalist named Mick Crowley. In order to protect himself, Crichton was sure to go out of his way to mention the character’s small penis.

Mozart and scatology: Sure, Wolfgang Amadeus is one of the most brilliant and admired composers of all time. But he’s considered a genius by 10-year-old boys everywhere not for his music, but for his devotion to poop jokes, which was significant enough to merit a separate page on Wikipedia. The page quotes a letter to his cousin that includes this poem (which rhymes in the original German):

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Well, I wish you good night
But first shit in your bed and make it burst
Sleep soundly, my love
Into your mouth your arse you’ll shove

He also wrote music with scatological lyrics, and while he often composed throwaway pieces, he filed his musical poop jokes alongside his masterpieces. One piece, “Leck mich im Arsch” (“Lick Me In the Ass,” the German equivalent to “kiss my ass”), was published as “Let Us Be Joyful” with completely new lyrics. (“Lick me in the ass nice and clean” was changed to “Nothing refreshes me more than wine.”)

Wikipedia being Wikipedia, the page carefully categorizes how many scatological letters he sent to various friends and relations, and presents and then dismisses several theories that claim Mozart suffered from some mental illness or another, when in fact people just can’t deal with the fact that one of the most brilliant composers in history also liked a good poop joke as much as the rest of us.

Kynodesme: NSFW! Before we even get into this one, be warned that the linked Wikipedia page contains not one but two pictures of a penis. That’s because the kynodesme was a leather strap that ancient Greeks used to tie their penis closed. Ancient Greek athletes competed au natural, and actors sometimes appeared nude, and while male nudity was common and accepted, exposing the glans of the penis—and only that part—was considered dirty and shameful. The solution was a thin leather strip that tied up the foreskin and kept the glans under wraps, so to speak. There were two different, uncomfortable-looking ways to tie up one’s foreskin; around the waist (holding the penis aloft) or around the base of the shaft. And, again, there are full-color photos, so avoid or enjoy those, depending on your priorities. And if you want more, there are links to a few other cultures’ penis-specific articles of clothing as well.

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Peter Filandia: Quick shout-out to this Australian rules footballer, who was suspended for 10 games after biting an opponent’s scrotum during a match.

Bread dildo: We’re not actually sure if a dildo made of bread is a real historical thing or just a double entendre based on the shape of a loaf, and frankly, the evidence offered here seems pretty thin. Ancient Greek (yes, them again) writer Hesychius uses the word “olisbokollix,” which combines the words for “bread” and “dildo.” While the three surviving paintings that purportedly portray bread dildos involve women carrying a basket or vase full of phalli (the ancient equivalent to the proverbial bag of dicks), it’s not at all clear that they’re in any way baked goods.

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Far more interesting and credible is the side note about the Babylonian Talmud. Fourth-century rabbi Rav Yosef bar Hiyya was asked how to deal with an obstruction of the urethra, and the suggested remedy was to “bring warm barley bread and place it upon his anus, and owing to the heat he emits semen.” The ejaculation was intended to make the extent of the blockage clear. While we’re neither a doctor, nor a rabbi, nor a baker, we feel like there are easier ways to make that happen than barley bread.

Further down the Wormhole: While bread makes for a questionable sex toy, it’s been a staple of cuisines across the world since the dawn of agriculture. An early method of leavening bread involved steeping it in wine as a source for yeast. Wine is nearly as old as bread, dating back to at least 7000 BC in ancient China. As the cause of—and solution to—all of life’s problems, wine has been getting people into trouble for millennia, with modern society adding driving under the influence to the list. Drunk driving kills thousands of people every year, as automobile-related problems go, but it still manages to be less controversial than the parking chair. We’ll look at this time-honored practice, which is either an inalienable right or an affront to the laws of God and man, when we run down more quick hits next week.

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Host of the podcast Why Is This Not a Movie? His sixth book, The Planets Are Very, Very, Very Far Away is due in early 2021. He tells people he lives in New York, but he really lives in New Jersey.

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