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Hey:

Does sucking on a penny really help you beat a Breathalyzer?

-- A Boozehound, the net

Matt:

Somebody sent me one of those Internet lists of interesting "facts." Is Susan Lucci really Phyllis Diller's daughter? I can't get my mind around that one.

-- Gullible George, the net

I guess summer's made everybody's brains soft, judging from what's been in the mail bag lately. Even Team Matthew Alice has let standards slip; as I recall, we swore off urban legend questions not too long ago. But some cry out to be aired in public, like Susan Lucci and penny sucking. I wanted to ask Boozehound if he's ever actually known someone who beat a DUI with a mouthful of Lincolns, but he appears to be sleeping it off in a corner. At least he's not behind the wheel. And only a drunk would believe that the copper from a penny stuck under your tongue would interfere with a Breathalyzer test. Apparently there are plenty of drunks out there, because it's become part of our body of "common knowledge." But just to make it officially official, there is no chemical reaction between the minuscule amount of copper coating on a penny and your booze-riddled spit that will make a Breathalyzer go haywire. It's been tested several times by chemists with a lot of time on their hands, so it has the final scientific seal of disapproval. Though in a state of inebriation, you could conceivably inhale the coin and create a medical emergency that distracts everyone momentarily while they send for paramedics. And to short circuit another factoid that circulates among drunks, eating a raw potato won't help you either. (Who carries around an emergency potato anyway?) But both legends illustrate our level of frantic desperation when we see those flashing lights in the rear view. Grandma Alice wags her finger at all of you and asks if you have ever heard the expression, "Don't drink and drive." The only sure-fire way to beat a breath test.

Was it also a drunk who decided Susan Lucci and Phyllis Diller are related? They're not, of course. No one seems to know where this urban legend began. It resurfaces every five years or so to the usual round of denials, then goes away until a new crop of suckers revives it again.

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