Hey, Matt:

My girlfriend and I have a bet about Botox. I have heard it referred to as “pig botulism.” She, who works in a plastic surgeon’s office, claims NPI (no pigs involved). Dinner rides on your unfailingly diligent research.

— When Pigs Fly, via email

Fish out that wallet, Fly. Got a Hamilton or five? Good. You’ll need ’em. Firstly, I’m not sure what “pig botulism” would be. You maybe might on a bad day get botulism from pork, but that’s about the only connection I can see. Secondly, Botox, as all the rest of the world except you knows, is made of a toxic protein complex Botulinum Toxin Type A. It’s produced by a bacterium that is the same one responsible for food poisoning. But in tiny doses, it blocks the action of nerves activating the muscles into which it is injected. The muscles can’t move. No wrinkles are produced. You look smooth-skinned and fetching. So that’s The Botox Story.

Pigs do, however, figure into the beautification of us human beans. One popular type of injectable used to plump up stuff that has fallen flat, like lips and things, is collagen. That’s a natural skin ingredient, totally nontoxic. Medical collagen is obtained from the rendering of either cows or pigs. So there’s the pig-loveliness connection.

But wait. There’s more. How about the Mazola-perky butt story. A sad tale, but a lesson for us all. A beautician in Salinas was charged with second-degree murder because one of her customers died after a series of injections of cooking oil into her behind, intended to round it out into a transfixing caboose.

Less lethal but no less groovy is the story of the South Korean woman who became obsessed with plastic surgery for her face and neck. After 20 years of procedures, she could no longer find a physician who would “improve” her, though she did find one who gave her a dollop of silicone, a syringe, and told her to take care of it herself. And so she did. But — oh, no! — soon she ran out of silicone. Desperate, she grabbed a bottle of cooking oil. By the time she was through plumping her face and neck with the oil, her parents no longer recognized her and she acquired the nickname “standing fan” because her face was huge and her body was very skinny. When she appeared on a national TV show, the audience was so horrified that they sent in money so she could have the oil removed from her head. It took some convincing, since the woman was sure she was alluring just the way she was. But eventually doctors prevailed and removed slightly more than half a pound of the offending salad dressing, and the lady decided she really wanted her original features back after all. The end.

Hey, Matt:

English is my second language, and although I’m pretty much fluent, I’ve noticed that there are certain days in which I just can’t speak it as well as most days. It’s like my tongue goes numb or something. What’s going on?

— @ a loss for words, via email

Today’s your lucky day, @. We have not one answer, we have two. You can take your pick, depending on how you’re feeling that day. But first, I’d like everyone else to think of a time when they were in a foreign country whose language they sorta spoke, dragging along several pals who didn’t speak a word of the prevailing lingo. You were the go-to guy for any and all communication. So how did you feel by the end of the day? Exhausted? Confused? Unable to put together a sentence in any language, let alone this foreign stuff? Vowing to remain silent until the end of the trip? See, @, it’s happened to everyone. You’re not alone.

Sociologists and linguists have identified two types of the confusion you talk about. First there’s cultural stress. This comes from continually operating inside a foreign culture with different rules of conduct and different meanings for words and actions. Simply put, you’re on social overload for the day and you just want to go home where things are familiar and you can relax. Your second language suffers as a result. This is bound to happen to anyone immersed in a new society, and it happens suddenly, even though the causes have been building for a while.

Second, there’s language fatigue. The process of speaking, listening to, and figuring out the meaning of what’s said in a second language is surprisingly hard work. Your brain gets overworked and shuts down for a little R&R. As a result, you lose your second language or mix up both first and second languages. It’s a kind of defense against the overload of decoding an unfamiliar language. And I suppose you might have your bad-language days when you’re just plain pooped from other things.

So, @, there are your choices. Next time it happens, just go home and go to bed and tell everybody you’re suffering from your friends being just too darned American and sometimes it gives you a headache.

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