October 25, 2004
Orchids And Orchides

Jeff Jarvis of BuzzMachine provides a handy guide (taken from this site) for decoding the meanings of lapel ribbons of various colors. There are so many more causes than colors that most of the commoner shades have multiple meanings. A dark blue ribbon, for instance, means that the wearer is against child abuse or arthritis or in favor of water quality or crime victim rights. The only common color with a univocal meaning is, not surprisingly, brown, which represents only colorectal cancer. I suppose there is such a thing as excessively appropriate symbolism.

The other ribbon that particularly caught my eye was the 'orchid' ribbon. I gather that that is a shade lighter than purple but darker than lavender. The orchid ribbon represents testicular cancer, which is entirely appropriate, though the appropriateness has nothing to do with the color. Orchís (plural orchídes, three syllables) is the ancient Greek word for 'testicle'. The name of the flower comes from the obscene shape of the bulb. (Hope I haven't offended any orchid-fanciers!)

A few English words are compounded from Greek orchís. Hitler was reputedly 'monorchid', at least according to the wartime ditty (sung to the tune of the Colonel Bogey March) "Hitler has only got one ball". A 'cryptorchid' has testicles that are hidden, i.e. undescended. Finally, 'orchidectomy' is the scientific term for castration: a bilateral orchidectomy would be needed for any man who was not already monorchid.

Whoever picked 'orchid' to represent testicular cancer was indulging in a kind of pun.

Posted by Dr. Weevil at October 25, 2004 06:02 PM

Watched a fascinating documentary on BBC television many years ago, that attempted to locate Adolph's bones by piecing together various odds and ends culled from KGB archives. One such piece in the puzzle was an autopsy report for a mysterious corpse removed from the Berlin bunker: a cadaver who, it was noted, possesed but one.

Everyone in Britain knew where the other one was.

Posted by: Fcb on October 30, 2004 02:26 AM