Dear Sybil, I’ve heard that you have a foolproof cure for hiccups among your amazing bits of household wisdom!! Is it true, or is this just another superstitious urban myth?... and what really causes them in the first place?? Sincerely, Gasping-for-breath!
Dear Gasping, I DO in fact have a scientifically proved cure for hiccups, tried ‘n’ true, and handed down from one generation of great stage actors to another, family to family, dynasty to dynasty. It was used by the Booths, the Barrymores, Ellen Terry, Mrs. Fisk, Laurette Taylor, Filbert Dirndl, and even Sarah Bernhardt and Sandra Bernhard (who may actually be the SAME person, since they are never seen at the same party at the same time! ….but more on that later!). The actual science of the hiccup is this; the vagus nerve which runs from the brain down the neck and into the abdominal area, branching out into the various organs, becomes irritated through common digestive problems, emotional upsets (known as “vapours” to the Victorians), blows to the head (sometimes with hatchets!), extended performances of ventriloquism (with or without dummies!), poor accessorizing at luncheons, and over-indulgence in alcohol (usually through so-called “ladies aperitifs” with paper umbrellas!). Hiccups are little more than a reflex, a misfiring of the nerves leading to the diaphragm!. And they're usually more a nuisance than anything else…unless of course, they’re fatal! (My poor great-uncle Wilbur, but that’s another story for another time!). Most home remedies involve two strategies: 1) Overwhelm the misfiring responses of the vagus nerve with other “information”. The vagus nerve informs the brain that something much more dire is happening, and the brain, as the so-called “corporate headquarters” of the body, issues other directives that supersede stupid hiccuping!…or 2) Or interfere with the breathing, as in increasing carbon dioxide levels, which again causes the brain to focus on more dire matters than hiccuping. My cure, which I have inherited from great actors, performance artists, interpretive dancers, contortionists, ecdysiasts, and highly provocative animal acts is the following: Simply take two spoonsful of ordinary white sugar, or two sugar packets if you’re on a stock tour and loitering in a diner in Akron! Place the sugar under your tongue and hold it there until it dissolves on its own. No cheating! Don’t chew it, roll it around, or move it in any way…. Just let it completely dissolve slowly on its own. As it vanishes, you’ll notice that your hiccups have magically vanished as well. For those of us on nitro-glycerine (or recreational drugs taken orally), we know that the area under the tongue is one of the most highly absorptive places in the body both in completion and speed. The sugar goes instantly and completely into the blood stream and overrides the misfiring signals to the diaphragm, essentially misfiring the misfiring!! I have never known this to fail, and it was the classic cure for hiccups for people who couldn’t afford to be hiccuping in front of the public at the most serious times; Edward Askew Sothern yodeling in OUR AMERICAN COUSIN, Martin Van Buren accepting the presidential nomination of the Know-Nothing Party, and Pinky, the balloon clown at the Lucas County 4H Jamboree making his poodle-balloons make rude sounds! There ARE, of course, other so-called cures which I will list here in descending order out of journalistic integrity, although I wouldn’t trust any of them on my coleus! Don’t say I didn’t warn you! 1) You’ve heard of “See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil”?? Well forget the 1st and 3rd, and play “Hear No Evil”! Supposedly, plugging your ears energetically can stimulate the branches of the vagus nerve which run nearby, and by stimulating the nerve endings there, the vagus nerve goes into action. Of course some people take home-cures too far and end up “over-medicating” themselves by putting pencils, oblong vegetables, and even power tools into their ears! Please! Don’t let this happen to YOU! 2) There is the age-old Scared-to-Death cure! Truly ridiculous, unless of course, you have a rich old Aunt Petunia with a severe heart condition, a castle in Monte Carlo, and you’re her favorite nephew! Then have at it! Hiccups or no!! Scare the crap out of her! If she survives and is cured, she’ll put you in her will! If she dies. Make sure all her paperwork was in order before you….um…”cured” her.3) Gulp water! Lots of it! NO REALLY!!! LOTS!! …and upside down!!! I assume that’s what Dick Cheney was having the military do at Guantanamo Bay…. “curing POW hiccups”….. this particular cure is infinitely more gentle than the old tried ‘n’ true “shotgun-in-the-face on a hunting trip” cure which can have harmful side-effects. 4) Speaking of torture, here’s a suggestion from the Inquisition; take hold of your tongue, and pull it out in front of you for 10 minutes! With pliers….This actually doesn’t cure hiccups, but it keeps you from complaining about them any further to your friends, and that alone is a kind of peace …for others!!! 5) ON a lighter note (but only barely!) tickle them away; You can tickle the roof of your mouth with a cotton swab or other …ahem…object. Or you can ask someone to tickle any other sensitive parts of your body, inducing laughter….etc. Paying a professional in a roadside motel room for this service is optional…. As is nudity…. And other paraphernalia. 6) Hold your breath….. or have someone hold it for you. See cure #5 again…. Specifically items “professional” and “paraphernalia”…. Apply as needed. Try to avoid pillows at all costs though. 7) Bag your hiccups! Breathe into a tightly applied paper bag very rapidly and deeply until either the hiccups are gone…. Or you wake-up two days later on the floor. Please do NOT try the Jerzy Kosinski version of this with a drycleaner bag and a bubble bath! (“Calgon Bouquet! Take me away!” indeed!!!!) There are other cures that have been handed down through the ages and from many different cultures, but I think that as modern people we should avoid shaking gourds, reading sheep entrails, and setting bonfires for a simple case of hiccups! I’m sorry, but drinking and eating too fast and too much strikes me as a much more likely cause for hiccups than witchcraft or Halley’s comet! Just my opinion! And, as MY old Aunt Petunia used to say, “Sybil dear, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cured bacon!”….. (I know! I had NO idea what that meant either!!). XOXOXO! Sybil.
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