The Straight Dope | The Straight Dope | Chicago Reader

News & Politics » The Straight Dope

The Straight Dope


Sign up for our newsletters Subscribe


What do the Queen's Guards or the Black Watch or whatever really wear under those kilts? And if the answer is nothing, like my boss claims, would the desire to follow such pure tradition really result in inspections at the lineup by sergeants or officers with mirrors attached to their shoes to ensure compliance? I could buy the naked bit, but am sure the inspections part (can you just picture a foot thrust between a guard's legs?) is just some weird man thing. Please tell me the truth. --Yvonne Walton, Londonderry, New Hampshire

You'll want to sit down for this, Yvonne. Just make sure you're not sitting directly across from a kilt-clad Scot. Apparently they don't wear anything under there, or at least they're not supposed to. I know because I posted this to the Net (soc.culture.celtic) and got numerous replies such as the following: "Me wears the scotty-skirt and I can assure you that correctly there is nowt unner it, however we 20th century derivatives feel the caul a bit and so unless it's a formal occasion, I actually (NO! No! I can't admit anything . . . not in writing anyway!)"

You're thinking: so what does one weirdo prove? Nowt, I suppose, but when you hear from half a dozen weirdos you have to figure something's up. Here's another. "It is actually true. Underpants or whatever are strictly out. Which reminds me of an old story. American lady: Is anything worn under the kilt? Scotsman: No madam. I can assure you it's all in perfect condition." Are these guys a laff riot or what? One more. "Traditionally Scots do not wear anything under their kilts, but the shirts (known as a blouse) have a long tail that [may] be tied between the legs. There are many "standard' answers a kilt wearer could give you when you ask them [The Question], [including] "The Glory of God' or in the case of a female questioner, "Would you care to look for yourself?' . . . As for what I wear under my kilt, 'I Gird my Loins with the Holy Spirit."'

Enough already. But what about the inspections? This from Seamus: "The stories you mentioned have some basis in reality, as I have seen a swagger stick equipped with a mirror for just that purpose." I am willing--nay, eager--to believe that said swagger stick was manufactured as a joke. I mean, come on, at least gynecologists do their exams indoors.


First off, as a loyal fan I acknowledge your omniscience, so this is not meant to be taken as a correction at all, since you are truly incorrigible. However, you may want to reassure the reader looking for advantages of smoking [February 3] that a form of inflammatory bowel disease called ulcerative colitis is thought to be prevented by smoking. Relapses of this disease, marked by weeks of bloody diarrhea, are frequently provoked by suddenly giving up smoking. Not that this would make a good ad campaign for the folks at RJR, since ANOTHER form of inflammatory bowel disease called Crohn's disease, with only slightly different symptoms, occurs mostly in smokers. --Anonymous, Chicago

Bummer about the Crohn's disease. The thought of writing those ads makes me drool:


Look sharp, feel sharp

. . . and avoid weeks of bloody diarrhea

Anonymous also sent me a reference to a medical-journal article titled "Beneficial Effects of Nicotine" (Jarvik, British Journal of Addiction, 1991) that summarizes the many positive aspects of this wonder drug. "When chronically taken," it says here, "nicotine may result in: (1) positive reinforcement [it makes you feel good], (2) negative reinforcement [it may keep you from feeling bad], (3) reduction of body weight [by reducing appetite and increasing metabolic rate], (4) enhancement of performance, and protection against: (5) Parkinson's disease, (6) Tourette's disease [tics], (7) Alzheimer's disease, (8) ulcerative colitis and (9) sleep apnea. The reliability of these effects varies greatly but justifies the search for more therapeutic applications for this interesting compound." Yeah, and what other medical miracle lets you blow smoke rings?

Is there something you need to get straight? Cecil Adams can deliver the Straight Dope on any topic. Write Cecil Adams at the Chicago Reader, 11 E. Illinois, Chicago 60611, or E-mail him at

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Illustration/Slug Signorino.

Support Independent Chicago Journalism: Join the Reader Revolution

We speak Chicago to Chicagoans, but we couldn’t do it without your help. Every dollar you give helps us continue to explore and report on the diverse happenings of our city. Our reporters scour Chicago in search of what’s new, what’s now, and what’s next. Stay connected to our city’s pulse by joining the Reader Revolution.

Are you in?

  Reader Revolutionary $35/month →  
  Rabble Rouser $25/month →  
  Reader Radical $15/month →  
  Reader Rebel  $5/month  → 

Not ready to commit? Send us what you can!

 One-time donation  →