I Don’t Got Cooties!

Biohazard warning sign

Whenever I watched American films or TV as a child, I would observe with some confusion the tendency for kids to accuse each other of having cooties. The standard response to this accusation was invariably “I don’t got cooties!” This was all quite a mystery to us British kids. We had no idea what cooties were, nor could we fathom the rather strange sentence construction with the “don’t got” bit. In the end, I decided thatΒ cooties must be head lice because I compared it to British kids accusing each other of having nits. My understanding now is that ‘cooties’ is actually similar to the British ‘lurgy’, i.e. some generic non-specific nasty germy infestation type thing. I’m not sure if head lice could even be included with the other nasties under the general heading of ‘cooties’, perhaps my American followers could clarify? But either way, I didn’t want to include the words ‘head lice’ in my post title because I didn’t want to put anyone off reading it, so I went for the altogether cuddlier sounding cooties, even if they are something completely different.

Anyway, those of you who read my last post will now realise where we’re going with this. That’s right, the head lice won the poll, and so I must now speak of their virtues. Mike Allegra (heylookawriterfellow) will support what I say, and will defend the lice if anyone speaks out against them Β (remember Mike, it was your idea). Believe it or not, I have managed to find four, yes FOUR good things to say about the very misunderstood head lice. Four might not be a huge number, but I bet it’s four more good things than you ever thought there were to say about them, right? Keep reading, I think you’ll be impressed…

1. Head lice have earned their right to be here. They have been around for millions of years, and evidence of them has been found on the hair of Egyptian mummies. They are part of history.

2. Mating attachment between adult lice lasts for more than an hour. Stamina like that deserves some respect.

3. When the female lays eggs, she secretes a glue-like substance to stick them to the hair. Recent studies have shown that this glue is made of proteins that are very similar to keratin. Keratin is a vital component in hair which provides its strength and resilience. Keratin is now a popular ingredient in hair conditioning treatments. That’s right, those lice are conditioning your hair.

And finally, the best one…

4. Head lice may be irritating but they generally cause no real harm, and they do not spread any disease. There is evidence to suggest that head lice infestations are in fact beneficial, and act as a natural vaccine to help you develop immunity to infestation by the far more dangerous body lice, which can transmit serious diseases (body lice can be cooties right?).

Come on now, if nothing else, you’ve got to be impressed by the fourth one yes? And let’s not forget the unique parent/child bonding experience of spending an hour, night after night, in the bathroom, painstakingly going through every section of hair with the nit comb, to the sounds of “Noooo!!! Stop!!! It hurts!!!”

Mike, it’s over to you.


80 responses to “I Don’t Got Cooties!

  1. I used to get nits ALL the bloody time. Honestly, it was ridiculous. However, I used to quite enjoy getting them all combed out of my hair. Yes, I’m weird.


  2. Vanessa, You are both research-savvy and brave for attempting to make us warm to head lice. Just try not to touch your head if someone you know says there has been an outbreak. Just try.

    We get letters every now and then from my kids’ classrooms that there has been a case (or three) of head lice… and I tell my kids: “Don’t lean your head back against the reading chair” and “Don’t roll around on the carpet at school, please.” And then, when I kiss their little heads, I try not to think about potentially putting my mouth on head lice.

    Ick. No, despite your efforts, I still don’t like them. But thanks for trying! ; )


    • For my daughter’s 9th birthday, she had a big sleepover with (if I remember rightly) 14 girls sleeping over (what was I thinking?!). When we were working out which girls were going to sleep where, one of the girls piped up “I have to sleep in a bed on my own because my mum said I’m not allowed to come home with nits”. Haha, I bet her mother would have been horrified if she knew the girl had reported what she said!

      I wasn’t necessary expecting people to start liking them as a result of my post, but just to acknowledge that they have some virtues.


  3. I used to get them a lot, and I’m sure my mum didn’t particularly enjoy the task of combing through my hair constantly. I felt like a mum doing this recently with my flea bag kittens! However, it was oddly satisfying combing out the little buggers!

    Sorry I still don’t like them! B


  4. This post made me giggle – I had to share your #2 fact with my office mates, who had a lovely chuckle, as well, on a dreary Tuesday morning. πŸ˜€

    I personally never had head lice as a child (just lucky? Maybe head lice had something against parochial school kids…), but I am familiar with the cringing-to-crying horror, among my classmates. It’s nice to know the little nits are good for something. (The lice, I mean. Not the kids. Though, they have their redeeming facets, too.)

    “Cooties” is an odd term. Kids at recess would accuse others of “having cooties” if they sat too near this or that girl or boy, but I never understood the reason beyond that. It always seemed you could only “get cooties” if you were too near someone of the opposite gender, though, if that’s any help.

    Thanks for posting, Vanessa. It’s always good to be reminded that even the undesirables of the world have their purpose. πŸ™‚


    • I never had them as a child either, I think there are certain types of hair they prefer to others, or maybe it’s to do with skin pH or something, who knows! Some people are just generally more prone to get bitten by things than others aren’t they.

      Yes, it is good to remember that sometimes…


  5. I’m American, and yes, cooties are head lice – at least, that’s what I’ve always thought! And “don’t got” is very poor colloquial English even in our benighted land across the pond! LOL
    As for insects – I’m not partial to the idea of head lice, but I do like termites, you know! So we insect lovers will have to stick together!


    • I did a little bit more research, and according to what I can find, cooties originally meant either head or body lice, but now has the more general meaning of any nasty infections thing.

      I’m not sure I would classify myself as an insect lover, but I feel a bit more kindly towards head lice after researching this post, and now maybe I should look into termites as I really know nothing about them…


      • Well, you know I write science fiction about extraterrestrial giant intelligent termites!


        • I do! I sometimes pop over to your blog actually and read some of your extracts, I haven’t commented on them, I know it’s a terrible excuse, but because you’re not on WordPress, it’s not so quick and easy to comment! But I have enjoyed them. Sorry, I should do at least a little comment so that you know I’ve visited!


          • Is Blogger really that hard to comment on? I just checked my settings and I’ve made it as easy as possible – anyone can comment, and there is no word verification (I assume they mean Capcha – I hate those things!). If you like, just make it Anonymous and then say, “Hi! Vanessa here!” Anyway, I’m glad you’ve read some of my samples! Does it encourage you to buy any of my books? πŸ˜‰
            Back to “don’t got” – my mother was the original Olde Grammarian and even though I have vaguely southern USA roots, I never grew up saying things like “don’t got.” My mother would never have allowed it! I would say (if I had to say it – LOL) “I don’t have cooties.” A lot less colorful, actually!


            • You’re right, it’s not hard at all. I just went over there and left a comment, and I just had to select ‘WordPress’ from the drop down list for the profile I was commenting under, and then type my WordPress username in. It really only took a few seconds! I know I’ve commented on your site before, but I’ve also commented on other non-Wordpress blogs which have been more complicated and I forgot yours wasn’t too bad.

              I didn’t realise you had written so many books actually, I just had a little browse of them. I shall pick one and add it to my reading list!


              • Lovely! If you prefer a short read to begin with, try the novella “Monster Is in the Eye of the Beholder.” People have generally found that one impressive. If you’re ready for something long, it’s “The Termite Queen.” All are on Smashwords.


                • Ok, you talked me into it! I’ve just bought ‘Monster is in the Eye of the Beholder’. My reading list is so long at the moment that I’m much more likely to get to read a short one than a long one. In British money it came out at Β£1.29, bargain!


  6. Oh, thank you, Vanessa. For singing the praises of this oft maligned and misunderstood creature.

    Head lice? More like head NICE, right?


  7. Funny post. You make a compelling argument. πŸ™‚ Its probably for the best that you decided against a giant close up photo. They hardly look endearing even if they are (a little) impressive. πŸ˜€


  8. You’ve made me feel itchy, Vanessa, though I commend you!!


  9. I always thought cooties meant headlice too.

    Now, to further protect you, I shall give you the cootie inoculation:



    And let’s not speak of head lice again. It brings back all sort of bad “head lights” memories from my childhood. πŸ˜‰


  10. I’m not so sure I even knew “body lice” existed, so thank you for that! Now I have something new to lie awake worrying about in the middle of the night.

    I always thought that the childhood threat of “cooties” was more of an invisible infestation that can’t immediately be seen or detected, but could still infect others and wreak some major damage. Kind of like an invisible, magical plague only children can see.


    • I’m sorry, but the fact that you didn’t know body lice existed shows just how rare they really are. So I wouldn’t spend any time lying awake worrying about them, not when there are monsters under the bed and boogiemen to be worrying about!

      Your description of cooties sounds more like what I was thinking, when I had stopped thinking they were head lice, but now some people are saying that they ARE head lice after all. Hmm…


  11. Every time I read about lice and scabies in my medical journals, I end up itching all over. So glad I can now experience the same thing from your blog. πŸ˜‰

    Can’t believe I’ve made it 15 years now with my own kids and not a single case of lice. Hope I didn’t just jinx myself.


  12. I had a flashback to Happy Days and programmes like that with the cooties references.

    I’m gutted head lice won. I voted for the frogs or was it toads. So good, I’ve forgotten what they were already.

    I don’t think I ever had head lice growing up. Not that I’m complaining. And, my head now itches. πŸ™‚


  13. There might be regional variation in what “cooties” meant. For us, they were some vague “thing” you got from someone else. But we also had specific things to say like, “Ewww, you got boy cooties!”, which makes me think you could pick them up from anyone, regardless of sex (in the sense of gender!). Luckily, I’ve never had lice of any kind. πŸ™‚


  14. Speaking of the British-U.S. translation, the U.S. version of The Office ran an episode last week about lice. They used mayonnaise on their hair for 4 hours to suffocate the lice. Then they washed it out. That sounds relatively easy, but messy!


  15. There were actually kids in my class growing up who used that very phrasing, “I don’t got cooties.” Ah, memories. I never had lice, but I knew a few kids who did and their moms weren’t very happy about the delousing/combing/shampooing/hand-picking process. But now that I know all these wonderful things about them, I’ll try to think more fondly of them.


  16. In Canada cooties are an imaginary ailment


  17. Don’t got sounds like something people say around my neck of the woods, where sadly even being educated doesn’t make us immune to saying things like “ain’t gonna” , “don’t got” , stuff like that. It’s weird, I’m a fairly educated person, I mean I’m not going to build a rocket anytime soon, but what I mean is I know these types of things are “wrong” to say, but they still roll off my tongue because of the colloquialism around the southern USA states.

    My sister STAYED infested with all sorts of cooties. Head lice, once she got crabs in her hair from a kid down the street (shudders), worms…..and she’d have to drink the worm medicine or have to wash her hair with special crab shampoo…,.and so did I. I hated that stuff. And somehow miraculously having grown up with the cootie queen, I never got any of them myself!


    • Don’t get me wrong, we phrase lots of things badly too, but “don’t got” isn’t something we would say here, we’d probaby go for “ain’t got”!

      Oh dear, your sister really did have the cooties then!


      • YES! Oh and how i’d get so mad because they’d subject me to the lice shampoo and worm medicine or whatever she was afflicted with that week just to prevent me from getting it. BAH!


  18. First off, that was a really funny blog.

    Secondly, I don’t know how cooties could have won because I voted personally for dung beetles 137 times myself.

    Next, when you type these blogs please stand back from the keyboard because I don’t want to get your cooties.

    And finally (I think. I never know when I’m done, really!) since you think lice is nice – I wish you very lice new year!

    I have never and would never want to mate with a female head lice even if she could go for an hour (I know I’m certainly up for it) and even if she had a thousand years of experience (cougar that she might be) and she made my head glisten from Keratin and she did not transmit any diseases, no thank you, Vanessa.

    Keep your cutie cooties and flied head lice to yourself…. Thank you



    • Thank you. I’m pretty sure the voting thing wouldn’t let you vote more than once, so 136 of your 137 votes were wasted I’m afraid!

      And didn’t you read the heading? I don’t got cooties! Ok?!

      But seriously, you’re not even interested in the shiny hair no?


      • I’m glabrous ( word that Rochelle Wisoff-Fields from Addicted to Purple and Friday Fictioneers taught me. And I hate a shiny head)

        Thanks, anyways.

        PS – and I’m upset Vanessa. No woman has ever told me before that 136 times of 137 times were wasted. EVER. Votes, times, events, happenstances, nothing.That’s lot lice to say to lanylone



  19. Head lice are weird. Why do they infest some heads and not others? I never had them. My daughter used to get them all the time but my son never did. I never understood that. Then again I didn’t try too hard either. πŸ™‚


  20. I find it amusing that the comments on your head lice post are, in general, more positive than the comments on your seagull post. (But, we are, of course, still waiting for a comment from Robin Coyle.)


  21. Here is a 5th nice thing to say about head lice. They infested the daughter of my snooty holier-than-thou neighbor. 6th nice thing . . . she got them twice in one year. For some strange reason, I took great pleasure in that. And here you thought I was going to say something mean about your beloved head lice, Vanessa and Mike. I am firmly on their side as long as they stay on my neighbor’s kid’s precocious head.

    The great and powerful Robin has spoken.


  22. Did you know, that contrary to popular belief, head lice LOVE nice clean hair. They ain’t stupid! Does this fact make you feel all warm and fuzzy yet? Ha ha.


  23. As an American, I can agree with many of your commenters that cooties are invisible Bad Things that typically inflict boys (if you’re a girl) and girls (if you’re a boy). And highly contagious. I don’t think they had anything to do with head lice. I think they had more to do with this toy:


  24. Fearless post, Vanessa!
    Good for you!


  25. This post reminds me of once when I was on a rant about mosquitoes, the necessity of their existence, and how I would prefer they become extinct. A friend said, “But fish eat the larvae”. I said, “Whose side are you on anyway?”


  26. Interesting facts that do very little to warm me to those lice. But I give you an A+ for effort, my dear.


  27. Pingback: Head Lice are Nice! | heylookawriterfellow

  28. Lice is big business here in America. Mom’s can take their lice infested kids to the ‘Lice Lady’ and she’ll delouse them (for a small fee of course), all in the comfort of her salon. I say no fee is too small for that job. Her motto: Got Lice? I’m just glad, (knock on wood), that so far my 3 kids don’t got lice! Funny post.


    • Thank you. I’m not sure that we have Lice Ladies like that over here! I have visions of parents turning up there with their kids with everyone wearing hats and dark glasses so as not to be recognised going in! Thanks for stopping by.


  29. Pingback: Waffles With Writers: Vanessa-Jane Chapman | heylookawriterfellow

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