Wordly Wise

merkin – a pubic wig (usually for women).

The Oxford Companion To The Body traces the merkin back to 1450, a time when the bidet was a distant prospect and personal hygiene fell well short of the mark. Pubic lice were common – so some women, fed up with the constant itching, just shaved the lot off and then covered their modesty with a merkin.

Prostitutes, too, were frequent wearers. In the days before penicillin, it didn’t take long to become infected with sexually transmitted diseases. They knew it was no work, no pay, and didn’t want to scare the customers off with their syphilitic pustules and gonorrhoeal warts. So the merkin was used as a prosthesis to cover up a litany of horrors.

The Oxford Companion recounts an amusing tale of one gentleman who procured the disease-riddled merkin of a prostitute, dried it, gave it a good comb and then presented it to a cardinal, telling him he had brought him St Peter’s beard. *

Today’s Wordly Wise is inspired by a bit of Twitter fun.  Yesterday @boasas re-tweeted a message from @Beard_of_Cloud – folks who follow @boasas figured out instantly what was going on. @boasas is Steven Cloud, author of Boy on a Stick and Slither; @Beard_of_Cloud is his beard’s Twitter stream (or micro-blog , if you prefer).  I loved the idea – thus @Beard_of_Doc_H was created.  While basking in Cloud’s reflected glory, I was saddened to think of the 51% of the population who are shut out of the fun. “Not so fast”, thinks I, “there are some possibilities…”

One definition of beard works logically, but not practically. @Beard_of_Tina_Vitale is another person – Danny Rose. On we go to another sense of beard – from there it’s an instant connect to a favorite old word.

Two famous merkins:

Del’s Merkin – a Permit and Bonefish fly, meant to imitate a crab, tied with Aunt Lydia’s Rug Yarn.



Merkin Muffley, last President of the US


“My fellow merkins…”

1 thought on “Wordly Wise

  1. The Del Brown permit fly is a good one, in my limited experience with bonefish. It’s also pretty easy to tie, which is a big plus. If I recall correctly, the original listing of the pattern in the Orvis pattern book didn’t include the name.

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