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C. Everett Koop

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You can’t talk of the dangers of snake poisoning and not mention snakes.
On the need to discuss sexual conduct as part of AIDS education in schools, 1986.

C. Everett Koop

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“The woman is the subtlest beast in the garden,” said Papa Moose, “now that snakes can’t talk.”

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Snakes are very misunderstood. Snakes, I suggest, may be the oldest victims of bad press.

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I can deal with functionality on a practical level. And I still have this relationship with this imaginary snake. My imaginary pal. If I’m going to be dealing in totally imaginary territory, it struck me that it would be useful to have a native as a guide. So I can have my imaginary conversations with my imaginary snake, and maybe it gives me information I already knew in part of myself, and maybe I just needed to make up an imaginary snake to tell me it.

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However obvious these facts may appear at first glance, they are actually not so obvious as they seem except when we take special pains to think about the subject. Symbols and things symbolized are independent of each other; nevertheless, we all have a way of feeling as if [...] there were necessary connections. For example, there is a vague sense we all have that foreign languages are inherently absurd; foreigners have such funny names for things, and why can't they call things by their right names? This feeling exhibits itself most strongly in those tourists who seem to believe that they can make the natives of any country understand English if they shout loud enough. Like the little boy who was reported to have said, "Pigs are called pigs because they are such dirty animals," they feel that the symbol is inherently connected in some way with the thing symbolized. Then there are the people who feel that since snakes are "nasty, slimy creatures" (incidentally, snakes are not slimy), the word "snake" is a nasty, slimy word.

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