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A Brief History of Cooties
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4/22/2019 at 3:41:21 PM GMT
Posts: 115
A Brief History of Cooties

By Jane C. Hu ––

“If all the germs kids are exposed to on the playground, there’s one they freak out about more than any other: cooties. The word first appeared during World War I as soldiers’ slang for the painful body lice that infested the trenches. It went mainstream in 1919 when a Chicago company incorporated the pest into the Cootie Game, in which a player maneuvered colored “cootie” capsules across a painted battlefield into a cage. The cooties concept has been evolving ever since.

The most familiar incarnation has features of a real infectious disease even as it says a good deal about what 6-year-olds think of the opposite sex. Every little girl knows that boys have cooties, and vice versa. One catches cooties by—eww!—touching. Shrieking games of cooties tag transmit the contagion rapidly. It can be treated with an origami ‘cootie catcher,’ but it is better to be vaccinated.


To continue reading, visit the full article on Smithsonian Magazine’s website.

Hu, Jane C. “A Brief History of Cooties.” Smithsonian Magazine. (April 22, 2019). <>



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