Crying baby photo credit: Little boy kissing a girl holding a doll by simpleinsomnia CC by 2.0

Definition: (noun) An imaginary communicable disease or parasitic insect suffered by children

Example: Until he met Sandy in junior high school, Bob thought all girls had cooties.


“Kissing Brad (Pitt) was so uncomfortable for me. I remember saying in interviews that I thought it was gross, that Brad had cooties. I mean, I was ten.”
- Kirsten Dunst, remembering her childhood performance in Interview with the Vampire

Cooties used to be something pretty specific - body lice or head lice. The term came into use around the time of the First World War, when many soldiers undoubtedly suffered from them. But this meaning was lost over time.

Many decades later, when I got to first grade, no one knew what cooties really were. We just knew that they were really bad and that many undesirable people, especially members of the opposite sex, were infested with them. Getting to close to someone who had them was a serious social risk, as they were easy to catch.

Girls invested (and still invest) a lot of time in making cootie catchers out of folded paper, which were apparently used at one time to catch cooties as they fell from someone's head. This custom had also died out by my school days and cootie catchers were used exclusively for telling fortunes.

The primary cure for cooties is adulthood. While being interviewed by a cow this spring on Nickelodeon, Brad Pitt was asked about the horrors of getting cooties from kissing his film costars. He responded by saying, “"Cooties are all right. I don't know where this myth started. Cooties are okay." Or perhaps he just thinks they're okay because Kirsten Dunst said he had them.

by A. C. Kemp | July 31 , 2003

<Back    Index    >