Tuesday, Dec. 08, 2009

'Cello Scrotum' as Mythical Ailment

The term referred to an unfortunate chafing injury incurred by players of a certain string instrument. But it turned out that "cello scrotum" was a hoax. Baroness Elaine Murphy, a doctor and member of Britain's House of Lords, admitted to fabricating the ailment when she submitted a paper about it to the British Medical Journal in 1974. Murphy had just learned of "guitar nipple" — apparently a legitimate issue for some guitarists — and decided to parody it with a musical condition of her own invention. "Anyone who has ever watched a cello being played would realize the physical impossibility [of cello scrotum]," Murphy told the BBC in January, when she came clean after noticing that her paper was still being cited in medical literature 34 years later. How did the BMJ feel about being hoodwinked? "It all adds to the gaiety of life," said the journal's spokesperson with a laugh.