A naughty French scientist has confessed to slipping rude street slang into arcane scientific papers published in English in a dare with his colleagues.
Denis Duboule, professor developmental genomics at the University of Geneva and the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, has told the Times Higher Education that it began in the mid-1990s when one of his colleagues discovered a new genetics technique.
“As usual when you end up with a nice technique you think people will use, we started to think of an acronym. You have to visualise these French postdocs thinking it over a Friday beer,” Professor Duboule said.
They came up with “Tamere” which supposedly stands for “targeted meiotic recombination”, but in French slang can also be “ta mere” which is shorthand for “nique ta mère”, or “f*** your mother”.
The scientists went on to coin further acronyms, such as “String”, for “sequential targeted recombination-induced genomic approach” and “Panthere”, meaning “pangenomic translocation for heterologous enhancer reshuffling”.
However, taken together the three acronyms could spell “ta mère en string panthère”, which colloquially means “f*** your mother in a leopard-skin G-string”.
Professor Duboule’s “one regret” is that although the first two acronyms were accepted, the last was rejected by Nature Genetics. “I couldn’t explain to the editor why I really wanted it to be there,” he said.
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