Cute Tips

I find it interesting a horse has its eyes on the sides of the head, not on the front like us humans.  If a horse wants to “look you in the eye” he or she needs to turn its head ninety degrees one way or the other.  On the other hand (or hoof) a horse has a clear advantage here in that it can see in two directions at once.  If you think about it (er, “listen about it”) it’s the same setup as human ears.

Last week, my sister-in-law came home from an acupuncture appointment to discover a few needles still stuck in her ear.  Can’t blame her for not being aware, since those tiny needles are painless once they’re in.  But removing them must’ve been tricky, either by pure feel or with the help of a mirror.  You can’t see your ears.  It’s kind of like a backscratcher for those places you can’t reach.

So it is with ears.  Just because they can’t be seen doesn’t mean they don’t need occasional attention.  The phrase has been lost on younger generations but parents used to double-check their kids’ hygiene by saying, “Did you wash behind your ears?”  I did, and I still do.  I also wash in my ears.  With cotton swabs.

We’re all built differently, which means some of us need cotton swabs for the ears and others can get by without them.  For me, it’s two a day, every day (that’s over 700 a year for you counters).  I’m an earwax factory and if I don’t attend to my canals regularly, I’ll be heading to the doctor for a rather awkward “irrigation” treatment.  So I swab.  Not like a sailor swabs the decks but you know what I mean.

I’m also built to collect water in my ears (the dreaded “swimmer’s ear”).  It’s not too bad after a shower but I can count on it after a dip in the pool or the ocean.  Sometimes swabs don’t do the trick and I have to resort to alcohol drops to dry things out.  It’s messy business, this cleaning of the ears.

Cotton swabs (or “buds” for you Brits) have a succinct history.  They were invented a century ago by a man who simply attached cotton to toothpicks as a way to clean his infant’s ears.  He gave his product the name “Q-tip” (the “Q” for “quality) and eventually sold the patent to Unilever.  About that time a woman came forward to say she invented the very same thing.  Unilever settled the claim with her, and a hundred years later they’re selling $200 million in cotton swabs every year.  That’s a lot of “cute tips”.

Cleaning ears with Q-tips, by and large, is discouraged by the medical community.  Most of what you’ll read suggests you’re putting your hearing at risk by inserting anything into the ear canal.  Common sense, yes, but there was a time Q-tips were marketed specifically for this reason.  Today the advertising is for anything but, like dabbing makeup or sanitizing computer keyboards.  The last thing a company wants is to promote a product that can potentially damage the body.  Like the person who forgot they had a Q-tip in their ear and then whacked the side of their head.  Ouch.  That’s a trip to the ER if I ever heard of one.

Q-tipping also feels good (to which those ER doctors say, “don’t try this at home!”)  It’s like a tiny massage inside the ear and it’s addicting.  You’re stimulating nerves that are hypersensitive because they don’t get much attention.  For some, it generates an itch-scratch cycle that is difficult to stop.

But enough about cotton swabs.  Enough about ears.  You can re-forget you have a pair on your head.  Except if you’re me and they itch a lot.  Or you live in the South, where gnats are attracted to them (a serious annoyance).  Just remember to wash behind them.  Use cotton swabs very carefully.  And be thankful you’re not an elephant.

Some content sourced from Wikipedia, “the free encyclopedia”.

Author: Dave

Three hundred posts would suggest I have something to say… This blog was born from a desire to elevate the English language, highlighting eloquent words from days gone by. The stories I share are snippets of life itself, and each comes with a bonus: a dusted-off word I hope you’ll go on to use more often. Read “Deutschland-ish Improvements” to learn about my backyard European wish list. Try “Slush Fun” for the throwback years of the 7-Eleven convenience store. Or drink in "Iced Coffee" to discover the plight of the rural French cafe. On the lighter side, read "Late Night Racquet Sports" for my adventures with our latest moth invasion. As Walt Whitman said, “That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.” Here then, my verse. Welcome to "Life In A Word".

17 thoughts on “Cute Tips”

  1. OMG that sister/n/law still had acupuncture needles in her ear. How did she realize that? dangerous for sure!! Funny advertisement on Q-tips, I’ve never seen that before. We sure have come a long way for those kind of ads. LOL

    Liked by 1 person

  2. so you’re saying that horses aren’t using cute tips because they can see you coming?
    We use a lot of cute-tips here, some on our ears and some in various craft projects and sometimes to apply polysporin to those millions of little annoying cuts I get in my workshop.

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  3. The commercial is delightful. I must ask, do you keep a box of Q-Tips in every room around the house like the commercial suggests? I didn’t know their origin story– from toothpick to fame.

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  4. I do love using Q-tips after my shower. I was at the doctor a few weeks ago and she looked in my ear and I joked I hope they’re clean, and she actually said one of them was a little waxy. Guess I missed a spot, but I don’t think I’m as bad as Shrek making a candle from his ear wax. This also reminds me of the story about the lady having like 20+ contacts in her eye and having no idea.

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  5. Our refrigerator drawers have hard-to-reach U-shaped corners in the front, and the only thing I could think of to get out the bits and crumbs was to use Q-tips. Such a nuisance. Whoever designed our fridge never had to clean one. P.S. Loved the commercial–do you know the year it was used? Late ’50s perhaps?

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    1. I’m surprised Q-tips aren’t marketed for uses like what you describe, Nancy because almost everyone seems to have a similar story about hard-to-get-to places. Couldn’t tell you when the commercial was made but it sure looks like the 1950s, 60s at the latest.

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  6. Squirrels also have superb vision because they see in front, have excellent peripheral vision and can see up over top of them as well. I didn’t realize the acupuncture needles were so small. I’ve never seen any photos or videos of acupuncture being performed. I like the Q-tips commercial; don’t think I’ve never seen that one. When I was young, I don’t remember us having Q-tips in the house, however, my mom had a box of sterile cotton batting. She would take a small bobby pin, then pull off a thin piece of cotton batting and twirl and tighten it until it resembled a Q-tip for cleaning ears. I don’t when we switched to the “real deal” but I haven’t thought of those type of ear swabs in years.

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  7. Hi Dave,
    I am still trying to figure how your sister in law was allowed to leave the doctor’s office with needles still on her ear. I would imagine they count how many they put it, so they know how many to take out.
    As far as cleaning the ears with Q-tips, I do it every day after my shower, and still the doctor said I need to go to an ENT doctor and have my right one cleaned 😦 Thank you for the reminder.


    1. I can’t explain it either, Ana. If a doctor left needles in my ear that’d be my last appointment with him/her forever. And I’ll be using Q-tips until my dying day. Can’t imagine my morning routine without them.


  8. Another Q Tip family here. We buy them in monster sized packages from either Sam’s or Costco. They really do feel good after a shower.

    The ad you feature has mid to late 50s written all over it. And they wrote new lyrics to the song “It’s So Nice To Have A Man Around The House”. I hope Marianne doesn’t get asked to decide between me and Q Tips – I could be in trouble. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m feeling better about my Q-tip habit after reading yours and other comments, JP. The doctor opinions had me second-guessing putting them in my ears, but I’m careful about it, I swear 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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