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Syphilis Masterclass

The eminent progenerarium, Professor Wynkyn de Worde, talks to Dr. Septimus "Clodagh" Phut on this most shameful of unmentionable diseases and how it has mutated into an alarming new strain in the second millennium.

Dr. Phut: Professor de Worde, let us start with an historical perspective on this most feared yet most ancient of diseases.

Professor de Worde: The diligent student of this morbus mundi has etched upon his brain the Siege of Naples in 1495, for it is whence that Syphilis began to rummage through the loins of Europe. From here, all manner of evasive action has been taken to disown its provenance, lest opprobrium should be heaped upon a nation, and at present I fear it is known in some quarters as the Welsh disease. Before this, we are uncertain. Deuteronomy alludes to the dastardly 'emerods', Psalms 38 ponders the 'loathsome disease', whilst Jeremiah (31:29) laments the notched teeth of the unfortunates. All are hasty in pouring forth calumny upon this malady. Like the dinner guest whose sartorial elegance stretches only to Lycra, no-one wishes to acknowledge Syphilis as his bedfellow.

Dr. Phut: Quite. Could you tell us, Professor, of the symptoms by which one might recognise the beginning of such an infirmity?

Professor de Worde: Suppurating chancres are a bit of a clue here. And modern medicine has it that these highly infectious lesions can now be transmitted through an ill-chosen ring-tone that may have been down-loaded through a viralled source. This worrying transmutation causes the spirochaetes to be transmitted not merely through the old-fashioned method of sexual contact and lavatory seats, but has now become an air-borne virtual infection whose site of entry is no longer in the nether regions but may now be located in the ear. It is important to mention here, however, that, as yet, there is no scientific evidence to suggest that either spoken language or texting are carriers of spirochaetal organisms; at this present moment, this applies only to internet ring-tones that are placed in close contact with the ear.

Dr. Phut: This is an extremely worrying development, Professor. Are you saying that certain kinds of resonances that emanate from a mobile phone can actually infect the ear?

Professor de Worde: I'm afraid so. Moreover, once the spirochaetes move from the phone into the Eustacian tube, they have the capacity to become blood-borne. From here, the route to the brain is tragically short and the grey cell count can become drastically reduced by up to 62% over a short period of time. However, the subsidiary indicators of this new phenomenon are by far the most interesting, and indeed alarming. The secondary symptoms of cerebellum atrophia can, paradoxically, include an obsessive and addictive use of the phone, often in inappropriate public spaces, which provides a regular conduit for the spirochaetes to further invade the body, thus accelerating progressive senility.

A further symptom called morbid glans dementia, a less subtle, tertiary form of the disease, has been observed in the unhappy alacrity with which sufferers have been known to behave erratically. Hitherto known as Obsessive Compulsive Purchase Disorder (OCPD), we can now locate this particular phenomenon to a superfluity of non-dormant spirochaetes in the brain, with resultant cognitive atrophy. A recognisable off-shoot of OCPD is the recently named Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), where the patient believes he is entitled to be the object of admired attention. Possibly the most extreme form of this delusion has been the recent rise in the purchase of SUVs, where the sufferer believes himself to have a grandiloquence that the rest of us know is sadly lacking. This particular trend can indeed be traced to its pre-transmutational format. It is now thought, for example, that morbid delusional grandiloquence, rather than plain syphilitic insanity, may have been the root cause of Hitler's sponsorship of the Bayreuth Arts Festival, Herod's Kintergartenverfremdungseffekt, Peter the Great's marshland clearances and Pol Pot's dubious taste in socks.

Dr. Phut: Gosh. Pray, Professor, is there cure or respite at hand for this most dreadful of developments?

Professor de Worde: Learning to read and to drive has been found to be the best prophylactics against such a disorder.

Next Week: Leprosy