Coccyxes at the bottom of the bottle




Sometimes this column just writes itself. Or, more properly put, it is ghostwritten by someone doing publicity for a certain alcoholic beverage, who offers at least this paragraph for this week’s edition of The Fifth Column:

“Happy International Cat Day from Hendrick’s Gin, however, we are not only celebrating this fluffy day today. We do not find it coincidental that this day falls one day before National Women’s Day.
It’s an opportunity to celebrate to honour our feline friends who we have developed a deep bond with over their insatiable, illogical fear of the cucumber, as well as one of the most important figures in the history of our brand. We would not be where we are today were it not for the most ingenious and most unusually fascinating woman, Lesley Gracie, Master Distiller at the Hendrick’s Distillery.”

Okay, under the extremely strict conditions of The Fifth Column, there are several errors in the above that should be, er, I believe the correct word is “extirpated”. Our revised version, under these strictures, would be:

“Happy International Cat Day.”

There are some nice pictures of a cat or two, though not unfortunately in the same frame as either the master distiller (no caps) or those great big brass pot things they stew the gin in. Is it gin in there? I grow confused. Perhaps it is the result of all the alcohol I’ve been sent by the unnamed publicity agency not quite mentioned above, which has sent me several bottles, in various fascinating forms of packaging (metallic cones, magnetised boxes — yes, magnetised). I am hoping that after this week’s column I will be sent at least a magnum of something fizzy.

In a purely gratuitous mention, I would like to add that Gracie, the aforementioned distiller, has an amazingly impressive ponytail, as is visible in one of the images sent. The ponytail is corroborated by the press release, which describes it as “coccyx-length”. This is surely the first use of the word “coccyx” in a non-medical press release, and it receives our celebratory affirmation. It is, after all, Women’s Month. (Upper case? Lower case?) We hasten to note that not only women have coccyxes, and not only this month.

Coccyxes, a word that is a delight to type, has an alternate plural form in American English, we are told: coccyges. This is nice, too, and matches well the adjectival “coccygeal”. In humans, the coccygeal vertebrae are fused into the coccyx (or tailbone), which is attached to the sacrum at the bottom end of the backbone by something that is called the sacrococcygeal symphysis. And, as humans, we must always be grateful for symphyses.

Shaun de Waal

Shaun de Waal

Shaun de Waal has worked at the Mail & Guardian since 1989. He was literary editor from 1991 to 2006 and chief film critic for 15 years. He is now editor-at-large. Recent publications include Exposure: Queer Fiction, 25 Years of the Mail & Guardian and Not the Movie of the Week. Read more from Shaun de Waal

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