Things you should know about the human heart

March 02, 1997|By DAVE BARRY | DAVE BARRY,Knight-Ridder News Service

You can say what you want about us newspaper journalists. You can say that we are atheistic, liberal, family-hating, snake-worshiping, Communist perverts. You can say that we dress like the character Ratso in the 1969 movie "Midnight Cowboy" and apparently have our hair styled by angry wrens. But the one thing you CAN'T say about us is that we don't admit our mistakes.

Yes, we have made some doozies. Everyone remembers the famous 1948 picture of Harry Truman holding up a copy of the Chicago Tribune with a huge front-page headline declaring DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN. But what people don't remember is that the very next day, the Tribune corrected that error with a front-page headline declaring DEWEY DEFEATS COOLIDGE.

That is the high standard of accuracy to which we hold ourselves. And that is why, today, I want to correct a statement that I made in a recent column about a police officer in a Finnish city called Espoo who invented a harpoon for cars.

In that column, I stated that Finland is also known as "Norway." Shortly thereafter, I received dozens of letters, and do you know what they said? That's right: I may already have won $10 million!

But I also received a lot of letters, some of them quite angry in tone, stating that Finland is NOT also known as "Norway." A typical statement came from Patty Young, who wrote: "Though Finland and Norway are both within Europe, they are two individual countries." Another writer, Elizabeth Natti, noted that "Finland was the only foreign country that paid off its World War I debt to the United States." She also took issue with my suggestion that the civic motto of Espoo should be "The City That Sounds Like A Person Spitting." She states that "there is no 'Pe' sound in the Finnish alphabet," and therefore "Espoo" is pronounced "Es-BOO."

So I wish to sincerely apologize and issue the following corrections:

1. Finland is NOT also known as "Norway." Finland is, in fact, also known as "Sweden."

2. The civic motto of Espoo should be "The City That Sounds Like A Person Barfing."

3. None of this should be construed in any way as a criticism of Neil Diamond.

Now that we've cleared that up, let's get to the real purpose of this column, which is an alarming medical discovery that was made during valentine season by alert reader Dr. S. Scott Hanan, a family practitioner who apparently has (1) access to medical research materials and (2) a lot of spare time.

Dr. Hanan's discovery, which he backs up with six pages of diagrams from medical books, is that -- prepare to be shocked -- the human heart is NOT shaped like the valentine-style heart that is used in candy boxes, cartoons, tattoos and the signatures of women named "Brandi." By way of proof, Dr. Hanan sent a medical diagram of a human heart; it looks like a member of the mollusk family. Right next to this diagram, for comparison purposes, Dr. Hanan -- who notes, "I am a medical doctor, and therefore more than qualified to comment on such matters" -- has drawn a standard valentine "heart" and written, "I DON'T THINK SO!"

And that is not all. Dr. Hanan has also reviewed the medical xTC literature to see if any human organ IS shaped like a valentine. He found one: It is the PROSTATE GLAND. He enclosed several prostate diagrams, and there can be no doubt: It's a dead ringer.

This discovery has MAJOR implications, and not just for people who play bridge ("I bid three prostates"). It also means that there are thousands, perhaps millions, of hairy men walking around with the word "Mom" tattooed on a picture of a prostate gland. But the biggest impact has to be on the greeting-card industry, which I imagine will have to recall the billions of prostate cards it has sold over the years.

In an effort to gauge the extent of this crisis, I called the Hallmark greeting-card company, which is located in Missouri (also known as "Kansas"). I spoke with spokeswoman Allison Novela and told her about the heart/prostate situation. She checked into it, and, a short while later, called back to read this statement, which I am not making up:

"The doctor is correct about the shape of the human heart. However, Hallmark decided to sacrifice accuracy for sales after the poor performance of the following verse:

Valentine, I'd follow you clear 'cross state,

For you to hold the key to my prostate.

So that settles that. All that remains to be done now is fowhoever is in charge of these things to send Dr. Hanan his Nobel Prize and a large cash award. Speaking of which, I have this important announcement for those nations that have not yet paid off their World War I debts to the United States: It's NOT too late! Send the money to me, and I assure you that will be the end of it.

Pub Date: 3/02/97

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