Sometimes you hear something that makes you question your own bank of knowledge... that makes you wonder whether something you've always held as a fact is actually nothing of the sort.
Some time ago I went out with someone who didn't know that emus were real. She'd reached adulthood under the impression that 'Emu' was just the name of Rod Hull's puppet rather than an actual factual type of flightless bird. Then one day, we were sitting around watching TV and a nature documentary came on featuring emus.
I could sense some kind of mild panic in the room as my companion tried to work out what was going on. She looked at me suspiciously as if the whole thing was some kind of elaborate practical joke... as if I'd somehow managed to make a fake documentary and get it broadcast on TV... just to con her into believing in these so-called 'emus'. Slowly it dawned on her that emus were indeed real, that this wasn't an over elaborate plan to make her believe in a fictional bird and that all it was, was a strange and hard-to-explain gap in her knowledge. Emus were real... and somehow they'd avoided her radar for more than 20 years of her sentient life.
Well... there was a day this week when I found myself racked with self-doubt, convinced that I had stumbled upon a glaring hole in my own store of general knowledge.
It started as I was cycling to Genius HQ a few mornings ago. I found myself caught up in heavy traffic and stuck behind one particular bus for longer than normal. Every now and then I'd get ahead of the bus - or it would motor ahead of me - but somehow, at the next set of traffic lights it would end up in front of me and there wouldn't be a channel wide enough for me to edge past it while we were stuck on a red light.
There was a poster on the back of the bus that caught my attention. It was telling people to be Cervix Savvy... to have their cervix screened in case of cancer. What made it odd was that the face on the poster was categorically the face of a man: a vaguely hunky bloke wearing a beard and a green t-shirt. I didn't have a camera to hand at the time or I'd have taken a snap but I've just googled it and while this isn't the exact same ad, it is the man I'm talking about:
The ad I was looking at - and that kept appearing in front of my eyes at every set of traffic lights - was basically a picture of that chap with the slogan 'Be Cervix Savvy' written across it in big letters. Why on earth were they using a man to tell people to be cervix savvy?
Honestly, as I found myself confronted by the poster for the third or fourth time, I was starting to wonder whether I actually had a cervix. At the age of 37 I was cycling through London and genuinely wondering whether I'd spent my entire adult life wrongly believing a cervix to be a specifically female thing.
Surely, I thought, it's the lower end of a womb. Isn't it? Isn't it? It must be. But if it is... why would they be using a chap in the advert? I mean, you could use a man to tell women to have their bits checked... but... but... but you just wouldn't. It just didn't make sense. For that advert to make sense, a cervix has to be a man-bit. Doesn't it? Or maybe a unisex-bit? Either way, that means it can't be a part of the womb. Because men don't have wombs. (Well, this man does but he was born female so that doesn't count.)
Had I really spent years of my life not knowing what a cervix was? Was I really so cervix unsavvy? It's not as though I often sit around talking about cervices but I'm sure they've cropped up in conversation once or twice. How embarrassing were those conversations? Had people walked away thinking it was odd that I kept bringing the conversations round to wombly matters when they were trying to have a serious conversation about cervices? How had I got the wrong impression? Who'd told me that a cervix was a lady-bit? What had I mis-read? What joke had I failed to grasp?
And what else was floating around in my bonce, masquerading as fact but really just an embarrassment timebomb waiting to go off.
By the time I got to Genius HQ it was really troubling me but I didn't bring it up with any of Team Genius because I didn't want to have an emu moment. I didn't want to reveal my ignorance.
It was only when I got home that evening that I decided to look it up for myself. I went to a dictionary and looked up cervix to see what it really meant.
cervix: n. the narrow neck like passage forming the lower end of the womb.
So I wasn't having an emu-moment after all. I did know what a cervix was. That was a relief. (And how nostalgic: I was a mere slip of a lad when I last used a dictionary to look up a gynaecological term.)
So does the ad make sense? According to the website (www.BeCervixSavvy.co.uk) there are a few ads out there... and they all feature men. Here are the five men they chose:
I'm very confused. But at least I'm confused about an ad agency's decision-making processes and not basic anatomy.
Of course it goes without saying that if you have a cervix it's probably something to be savvy about. So do visit the over-manned and under-womanned site.
[I've nabbed the pictures from the site so clicking on them here won't take you to the pages they mention... but the first picture is meant to go here... and the second one, here.]