Legend: Advice columnist answers letter from reader concerned about her godson's interest in "camel toads."
Q: I hope you can help me with a problem I have with my godson. Last summer he visited me for two weeks and plans to return in July. When cleaning out the room he stays in, I found an unfinished correspondence to a chum of his in his hometown. In it he says he [is] going to our local pool to "scout out some camel toads." (I believe that's what it said, he had spilled iced tea all over the desk when writing it, and it damaged a lot of papers.) I'm concerned he is doing drugs.
I tried to look for camel toads in a drug book, and I didn't find them, but I found references to some type of frog or toad that people in another country lick to hallucinate. I don't want to approach him on this until I have more information.
He is a good boy in middle school whose parents do not even drink. Please let me know what camel toads are and how I might be able to tell if he is smoking, taking, or licking them.
Perhaps I should have talked to his parents, but I don't want to jump the gun. Is this something the local authorities need to be alerted to in order to protect other patrons at the pool or surrounding area?
A concerned and uninformed reader A: The iced tea did a number on the toads, so my younger, hipper coworkers tell me. What he undoubtedly wrote was "camel toes," a crude euphemism for, well, too-tight pants worn by females.
The good news is that the expression has absolutely nothing to do with drugs. It has everything to do with why teenage boys go to the pool in the first place.
Origins: The amusing question-and-answer exchange quoted above came to us when what appeared to be a scanned image of a newspaper advice column began to circulate via e-mail. Just in case some of the references aren't familiar to everyone, we'll point out that the
humor in this item stems from the advice-seeker's puzzlement over a cryptic phrase in a letter written by her godson, and her confusion of cane toads (amphibians whose skin is supposedly licked or even smoked by thrill-seekers who believe the toad's secretions produce hallucinogenic effects when ingested) with "camel toads" as well as her apparent unfamiliarity with the term "camel toes" (a slang term for the visible outline of pudenda produced when women wear tight-fitting lower garments, so called because it resembles the shape of a camel's foot).
Naturally, this item prompted a flurry of "Is this true?" queries from our readers. As with many such entries, there are multiple levels of "truth" to be considered:
Was this question-and-answer exchange published in a newspaper's advice column?
Did the question come from a submission received by the columnist (rather than being something she made up herself)?
Was the letter on the level, or did the submitter simply fabricate a narrative for humor's sake?
The answer to the first question is yes — this exchange appeared in the 15 June 2005 installment of "Ask Leslie," an advice column written by librarian Leslie Potter for the Hays Daily News in northwest Kansas.
The answer to the second question is also yes, as Ms. Potter told us:
There were several staff members at the library's front desk the morning the "camel toads" letter arrived. When I opened and read it, I was thoroughly puzzled, as I had never heard of either camel toads or camel toes. But when I read it aloud to the staff, they practically started rolling on the floor. And their explanation is almost word-for-word what I used in my answer. I kept the original letter as a memento — and to show people who didn't believe it could be real!
As for the third question, we'll have to leave the answer as undetermined. Ms. Potter told us she had no reason to doubt the letter writer's sincerity:
I recognized the handwriting on the envelope as being from someone who writes in frequently, if anonymously — always legitimate questions, so I have no reason to suspect this particular question was a fraud.
Personally, we think the set-up is too perfect, the tone of the letter too amusingly tongue-in-cheek to be anything but a deliberate attempt at humor, but that's just our opinion. We're not about to let such small details get in the way of a good chuckle.
Unfortunately, the "camel toads" column was one of Leslie Potter's last, as she and her husband moved out of Kansas the month after it was published.