Opacity of the week: all pills $11.95

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That's the sign on the door of a gas station that I saw in Media, Delaware County, Pennsylvania.  It had pictures of four different packages of pills, but the lettering on them was so blurred that I couldn't see what types or brands of pills they were.



That was the only sign on the door, and it was very prominent:  right in the center of the door as you entered.  As I stepped inside the store, I was wondering mightily:  why are they selling you pills when they don't tell you what kind of pills they are?

After going inside and paying for my gas, I asked the two female attendants, who were all dressed up in holiday attire, what kind of pills they were, both of them said in unison, "male enhancement", as though they had rehearsed the answer hundreds of times.  I was embarrassed and so were they, so I got out as fast as I could.

That reminded me of a PETA advertisement I had seen just two days earlier.  I think it is the best PETA ad I've ever seen.  But, also like the sign on the door of the gas station, I didn't understand what it meant until an explanation was given.

It showed two handsome, virile men lying on a bed next to each other and staring vacantly — and somewhat frustratedly — at the ceiling.  At first I didn't even notice that it was a PETA ad.  But when I saw the lettering of the organization, my suspicions were aroused. 

When I looked at the ad again, I saw something that escaped my attention before (maybe it wasn't even there the first time I looked):  an innocent seeming chicken right between them.  Then a voice informed the viewer something to the effect that meat gums up the works.

Maybe something is in the air concerning male dysfunction which makes it such a common syndrome that pills for it currently are the default for pills in general.



"on / taking the pill"

"blue pill"

"red pill and blue pill"

"horny goat weed"

Epimedium, also known as barrenwort, bishop's hat, fairy wings, horny goat weed, or yin yang huo (Chinese: 淫羊藿; pinyin: Yínyánghùo; Wade–Giles: Yin²-yang²-huo⁴), is a genus of flowering plants in the family Berberidaceae. The majority of the species are endemic to China, with smaller numbers elsewhere in Asia, and a few in the Mediterranean region.

The species used as a dietary supplement is Epimedium grandiflorum. It contains icariin, which is a weak PDE5 inhibitor, in vitro. Its clinical effects are unknown. While there is little clinical evidence to date, as sildenafil, vardenafil, and tadalafil – sold under the brand names Viagra, Levitra and Cialis – are all based on (stronger) PDE5 inhibitory action, it is thought to have erectogenic properties and is found in some men's sexual health supplements


A phosphodiesterase type 5 inhibitor (PDE5 inhibitor) is a vasodilating drug that works by blocking the degradative action of cGMP-specific phosphodiesterase type 5 (PDE5) on cyclic GMP in the smooth muscle cells lining the blood vessels supplying various tissues. These drugs dilate the corpora cavernosa of the penis, facilitating erection with sexual stimulation, and are used in the treatment of erectile dysfunction (ED). Sildenafil was the first effective oral treatment available for ED. Because PDE5 is also present in the smooth muscle of the walls of the arterioles within the lungs, two PDE5 inhibitors, sildenafil and tadalafil, are FDA-approved for the treatment of pulmonary hypertension. As of 2019, the wider cardiovascular benefits of PDE5 inhibitors are being appreciated.



Selected readings


  1. Mark S. said,

    December 22, 2023 @ 10:04 pm

    For a moment I wondered if they were somehow offering their entire stock of pills to one customer for just $11.95.

  2. DJL said,

    December 23, 2023 @ 9:32 am

    Curiosity killed the cat

  3. Jichang Lulu said,

    December 26, 2023 @ 8:06 am

    And beyond pills, Language Log — more copious than Vyāghra — has snake (or lizard) oil to oil the gummed-up works with.

  4. Daniel Barkalow said,

    December 27, 2023 @ 4:10 pm

    "Oh, I get too much mail as it is."

    The thing I find interesting is that PDE5 inhibitors were originally being researched for the cardiovascular benefits and patients reported some unmistakeable side effects.

  5. Don said,

    December 29, 2023 @ 1:11 pm

    I do not understand the PETA ad.

  6. Victor Mair said,

    December 30, 2023 @ 10:57 am


    You can have the benefit of seeing the print ad.


    I only saw a fleeting online version.

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