Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Dead Rabbits

Rabbit Test

The term rabbit test dates to 1949 and is a reference to an early form or pregnancy test. In the 1920s, researchers discovered a hormone dubbed human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) that could be found in the urine of pregnant women. Unable to test for this hormone directly, they discovered in 1927 that if a female rabbit was injected with urine containing hCG (don't ask me who first thought of doing this, I don't think I want to know), the rabbit's ovaries would display distinct changes after a few days. Hence, the rabbit test was born, the term following a couple of decades later.

A common misconception is that that the rabbit died if the woman was pregnant. Actually, the rabbit always died as the laboratory had to kill the animal to examine the ovaries (later on techniques were developed to spare the life of the rabbit--after which the rabbit never died). But because of this misconception the phrase the rabbit died entered the vocabulary as a euphemism for a positive pregnancy test.

Modern pregnancy tests still operate on the same principle, testing for hCG. But the use of a rabbit is no longer required.


I’d never heard that expression before in my life until I got pregnant. At my first doctor’s appointment he came in accusing us of killing a rabbit. We looked at him like he was Marvin the Martian.

I heard Aerosmith’s Sweet Emotion this morning. I’ve heard it a gazillion times before, but for some reason that just clicked this morning. “Can’t catch me ‘cause the rabbit done died.” Sounds to me like someone was trying to run from their responsibilities.

Then there’s Elmer Fudd. All that time spent hunting that wabbit. All he really ever wanted was an heiw to his thwone.

And Glenn Close? That rabbit died alright, but she was just psychocrazycruel.


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