Anyone for Worms?

It was 1976 and the first summer of my life in Japan.  The incident began in a Japanese pharmacy:

I thought I said to the Japanese pharmacist in Japanese, “I have athlete's foot.  Do you have something for it?”

But what I unwittingly said to her was, “I have worms. Do you have something for it?”  

The pharmacist gave me a started look and said, “Worms?!  Go to the Chinese pharmacy down the street.”


At the Chinese pharmacy, I told the Chinese pharmacist the same story.

The Chinese pharmacist said, “You have worms?!  In your stomach?”

Wondering how the pharmacist could actually believe that I had athlete's foot in my stomach, I clarified myself by pointing to my foot and saying, “I have worms in my foot.  That’s why it’s called worms!”

The Chinese pharmacist politely replied, “We don't have any such medicine.”

Later at home, my Japanese wife told me that I had mistaken the word mimizu (worm) for mizumushi (athlete's foot).  I slipped out of my body and along with my athlete's foot, crawled into a wormhole in the tiny yard of our small house.

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Robert Red-Baer

1950-Went to Tinton Falls Elementary School, N.J.
1962-Went to Monmouth Regional HS, N.J.
1964-Graduated US Army NCO Acadamy, Germany
1971-Graduated University of Hawaii with honors
1973-Red Heart Follies (Hawaii)
1975-Japan Prime Minister's Award (Video), among many
1985-Professor Edogawa University, Chiba Japan
2010-Retired in Japan