One day back when my son was a toddler we were taking a stroll around a hilly lake with my in-laws. It was slow going as he had short little legs and we were all enjoying the flowers and water and the lovely spring weather.
Halfway through our walk my son stopped and pointed.
Indeed right there crawling across the trail was a dirty, fat earthworm.
I was just about to join in his excitement when my mother-in-law grabbed his hand and pulled him away.
“Don’t pee on it!”
Don’t pee on it? I don’t know about her kids, but mine doesn’t usually drop trou and whiz on any little thing that comes across his path.
After some questioning and eyebrow raising she finally explained to me that back in her day boys often peed on worms. But when they did, their private parts would swell up and become painful and itchy.
Needless to say I had never heard of such and thing and found it a bit hard to believe. I chalked it up to being one of those old wives’ tales told to keep kids from doing naughty things.
It wasn’t until years later that I caught a TV show about Japanese superstitions, and this one came up. The “reporters” did some research and it was revealed that indeed there is a type of worm that when frightened shoots out a kind of poison that then travels up the urine stream and causes swelling and itchiness and pain. Whaddaya know.
That’s when I did some searching of my own. I found quite a few sites (in Japanese) and blog posts with explanations or testimonies from men unfortunate enough to have had this happen to them. One guy suffered the same fate when he peed on a frog.
What I find even more amazing than the fact that this actually happens — that worms evidently can shoot poison up a stream of pee –is that throughout the ages enough guys have actually done this to make it kind of folk tale. At least here they have.