Cello Scrotum: a rash of humour

Photo by Carey More
Will Pavia reported today in the TimesOnLine that "Cello Scrotum" is a hoax, a supposed mallady that affects cellist with a rash in the genital area.

Never mind that this dermatalogical ailment seemed unlikely, given the posture of the average male cellist, the condition was named in the British Medical Journal, and thereafter in an array of reviews of musician’s aches and pains.

Nearly all such reviews referred to a letter to the journal in 1974 from John Murphy, husband of Dr Elaine Murphy, who noted that he had once come across a case of cello scrotum. But Dr Elaine Murphy, now Baroness Murphy, has now admitted that the letter she drafted with her husband was a hoax, a practical joke that the couple have been "dining out on" ever since.

In May 1974, Elaine Murphy -- now Baroness Murphy -- joined with John Murphy in submitting a hoax letter to the British Medical Journal (BMJ), which often publishes correspondence from doctors about unusual cases. Their letter was in response to a doctor's missive about a condition called "guitar nipple." It described a painful irritation among three young classical-guitar players, which happened when the edge of the guitar was pressed against the breast and eventually inflamed a nipple.

Perhaps there are other illnesses cellists need concern themselves with, but feel secure that their scrotums are safe from harm regardless the hours they play with the instrument between their legs.


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