Merkin [mur-kən] noun – false hair for the female pudenda(1)
Well, despite popular disbelief, there was a time when humans had to think to survive. Mercifully, this period landed and floated away long before the births of penicillin, the NEA, and personal injury attorneys. Nonetheless, there did exist a period, commonly referred to by many historians as A Long-Ass Time Ago, when your village wouldn't feed and massage you if you were a member of an enemy tribe, mentally retarded, or just a fucking retard.
So what's a semi-honest, 15th-century, syphilitic working girl to do when she finds out she's carrying a brand new baby boil in her... office space? Well, seeing as how medical science still has 250-odd years to grow and improve before it thinks phrenology has some merit, and considering how easy it is at first glance to confuse oozing scabs with disclaimers that read, "DO NOT FUCK", the only prudent course of action available is to demonstrate those crack performing chops, camouflage that shit with a carpet swatch, and keep right on doing that thang you do. Git that money, girl!
An English cloak-du-prostitution, circa 1488.
The first merkins that we know about were invented around 1450 and used mainly for the aforementioned utilitarian purposes--namely, to make Renaissance-era men think sex with a half-dead prostitute was significantly wiser than this:
Astonishingly, it was nearly 500 years before some ahead-of-his-time visionary noticed their aesthetic qualities.
Nowadays, the merkin usually takes more of a supporting role in the extended drama that is genital flattery. In one somewhat famous example, when Kate Winslet signed on to play Hanna Schmitz in the 2008 film The Reader, she agreed to wear one of these toupees on her sexer--extra bushy, please. It seems director Stephen Daldry, in a fit of patriotism all-too rare in Hollywood, wanted to smell the American Roses for this WWII period drama and leave all that Bonzai nonsense to those damned Japs.
Sadly, high fashion seems reluctant to jump onboard. "I know a bit about merkins, but I don't know anyone who wears one and won't be designing one myself," says Wayne Hemingway, founder of designer shoe company, Red or Dead. "I can't see them making a comeback, but it is a bloody good word." Hear, hear, dear Hemingway. Hear, hear.
Here's the thing. Most people don't know what merkins are. As a result, those select few who do, have been able to come together and fareynikn like a group of witty refuJews in a hairy genocide, and make undercover references here and there for the giggles of their peers. With their help, merkins have--aside from the above-mentioned realism enhancement in movies and outright rejection by the closed-minded fashion world--found their ways into a wide variety of awkwardly unexpected places--much like the warts they were invented to hide.
Perhaps the best-known example of this is undoubtedly the reason 20% of this Topic's readers read past the Summary. In 1964, Stanly Kubrick directed a cult-classic black comedy entitled Dr. Strangelove or:(sic) How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. In this counter-cultural satire about how hilarious and exciting a nuclear holocaust would be, the president of the United States, played by Peter Sellers, is tastefully named Merkin Muffley. Another off-center movie, made around the same time, incorporated the artificial groinal mop more prominently into its Austin Powersesque title: Can Hieronymus Merkin Ever Forget Mercy Humppe and Find True Happiness?
We here at Cracked think it depends on which of these characters' names is Mercy.
Like illegal downloading and gay sex, merkins are every day making strides toward being the socially acceptable part of every American's life that they can be. At this rate, it should only be a few short centuries before merkins are flaunted by the fashion-conscious masses, thanks in large part to a number of forward-seeing catalysts:
(1) - pudendum [pyoo-den-dum] noun, plural, -da - the external genital organs, esp. those of the female. Originally a Latin word meaning, unsurprisingly, "thing to be ashamed of".