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My Fair XX

Dramatis personae

Narrator
Dr. Henry Higgins, professor of molecular biology
Dr. Pickering, another such professor
Eliza Doolittle, ecology undergraduate student
Man
Freddy, an impressive postdoc
(Non-speaking role: old professor)
Chorus of molecular biologists

Scene 1:

(A market outside of the International Molecular Biology Conference. Higgins and Pickering meet.)

Higgins: I say, sir, do you know where the International Molecular Biology Conference is?

Pickering: Indeed, I do. It's right over there. But you look familiar. May I ask your name?

Higgins: I am Dr. Henry Higgins, of Higgins' Every Base Pair Mutation Ever Seen in Drosophila.

Pickering: Higgins! I had hoped to find you here. We have much to discuss! I am Professor Pickering of Pickering's Every Base Pair Substitution Ever Seen In Yeast.

Higgins: Pickering! Why, I came to this meeting in the hopes of finding you here!

Eliza: Save the Biome! Reduce your fluorocarbons! Support ZPG!

Higgins: Heavens what a noise!
(Begins recitative)
This is what the general population
Calls a biological education!

Pickering: Come, sir. Perhaps you've picked a poor example.

Higgins: Did I? (Tune: "Why Can't the English")
Hear them talk of finch's beaks,
Linnaean names when each one speaks,
Pointing at some bird or something green. (Man walks by. Higgins stops him.) Did you, sir, take biology?

Man: Yes, I can name each type of tree.

Higgins: No one taught him nucleotides or genes?
Hear mycologists—or worse
Hear bryologists converse!
I'd rather hear a bomb on my PC!
Chickens—or a bunch of quails!
Just like this one:

Eliza: Save the whales!

Higgins: It's biomes and whales that keep her in her place.
Not her wading boots or dirty face.
Why can't biologists teach their students how to speak?
This verbal class distinction, by now should be antique.
If you spoke as she does, sir, instead of the way you do, why
You might be saving whales, too.

Pickering: I beg your pardon, sir!

Higgins: A biologist's way of speaking absolutely classifies her
The moment she talks he makes some other biologist despise her
One common language I'm afraid we'll never reach.
Oh, why can't biologists learn to
Set a good example for scientists whose language is painful to your ears.
Evolutionary psychologists will have you close to tears.
There are even some places where language completely disappears:
The mathematicians have avoided it for years.
The chemists learn their jargon with the speed of bonds abreakin'
And the physicists speak equationsobut perhaps they're only fakin'
But talk in mol. bio., and they'll treat you like a geeko
Oh why can't biologists learn to speak!

Pickering: I am told, Dr. Higgins, that if anyone can teach molecular biologese, it's you. I'm told that you can get beautiful jargon from the mouths of art history majors.

Higgins: It's what I do best and enjoy most. Why, I bet I could take that miserable wretch (points to Eliza) and pass her off as a molecular biologist at next year's Mol. Biol. meeting! (To Eliza) How would you like that, young lady, to talk like a real biologist!

Eliza: I don't know what you mean, sir. I've always been told that I talked right proper.

Higgins: You poor thing. I could give you the language that Watson writes in. I would make you a grad student worthy of Nobel Prize winners. CEOs would listen to your every word. I could make you a genetics professor, or even a laboratory technician—since they have to know the language even better. (Drops a business card). Pickering, let's get on with our more important business.

Scene 2:

(A month later. Higgins and Pickering in a study, pipetting)

(Eliza knocks on the door, carries the business card in her hand).

Higgins: Who are you?

Eliza: I'm Eliza.

Higgins: What a delicious name. Enzyme Linked Immuno Sorbent Assay.

Eliza: What?

Pickering: Enzyme Linked Immuno Sorbent Assay. That's what ELISA means.

Eliza: Well, I'm Eliza Doolittle, named after the man who speaks with the animals.

Higgins: No, after the man who constructed the first protein database.

Eliza: You said you could teach me to speak like a molecular biologist.

Higgins: I did?

Pickering: Yes, you did. I distinctly heard you say that you could take her and pass her off as a molecular biologist within a year.

Eliza: I'm looking for a job, and I was told that I couldn't have one unless I spoke like a molecular biologist. I wouldn't have to know any of it, mind you, but I would have to speak it correctly.

Higgins: Well let's begin with the basic jargon. Say after me:
"We PCRd the lambda-Zap Bam fragment."

Eliza: We CPRd the lamb and sap-bound bagworm.

Higgins: Pickering, this may take more time than I thought.

Higgins: Try this: At Harvard, MIT, and Stanford, misalignments hardly happen.

Eliza: At Haverford, USD, and Hartford, misalignments 'ardly 'appen.

Higgins: Not good. Try:
"My Blast-N search finds homologues."

Eliza: My bass and perch find homes in logs.

Higgins: Pickering, we've got our work cut out for us!

Narrator: After several months, Eliza's getting a bit frustrated.

Eliza: (Tune: Words, words, words))
Cells, cells, cells. I'm so sick of cells.
I'm so sick I suppose
I can exocytose
All the puke
That the Nuc-
leus holds.
Don't talk of probes, don't talk of gels
Don't talk of cells, show me.
Show me a dog
Show me a bog,
And a whole frog
Show me.
Never do I want to see another gene.
There isn't one I haven't seen.
SRY, Pax6, HoxA, and c-mos: name one more gene and I'll toss!
I want some smells
Leaves and car-pels
Not bands on gels! Show me!
Show me some pails
Full of mud snails
And clam entrails
Show me!
Never do I want to do another search
for homologues. Just give me birch.
I can get expression vectors oozing RNAs,
And make great microarrays!
Show me some guts
Show me some phloem,
Read me no tome
Show me.
Show me,
Show me some herds,
migrating birds,
beetles on turds of a sow!
Show me now!

Narrator: More months still, and the meeting gets closer.

Higgins: (tired) We PCRd the lambda-zap Bam fragment.

Eliza: (hesitantly; Tune: "The Rain in Spain"):
We PCRd the lambda-zap Bam fragment.

Higgins: By George, I think she got it!

Eliza: (Exuberantly) We PCRd the lambda-zap Bam fragment.
In Harvard, MIT and Stanford,
Misalignments hardly happen.
My Blast-N search finds homologues.

All: We PCRd the lambda-zap Bam fragment.

Higgins: So tell me what produces beans:

Eliza: It's the genes! It's the genes!

Higgins: And what's the genes' insides?

Eliza: Deoxyribo nucleotides!

All: We PCRd the lambda-zap Bam fragment.

Higgins: Let's try her out! She could give... a poster.

Pickering: Are you sure she's ready.

Higgins: Of course she is. There will be plenty of grad students and post docs there, all as nervous as she is about speaking the language correctly. There will be no problem, I can assure you.

Scene 3:

(The poster session at the International Molecular Biology meetings.)

Chorus: (Precisely. Tune: Ascot Gavotte)
All the folks who stain their flies are here.
Those who won the Nobel Prize are here.
It's the hottest, I-have-got-a-lottist
Meeting of Molec. Biology
At the posters, post-docs
Greet each other
And assess all their colleague's work.
Hoping they have more consistent data
And their colleague acts just like a jerk.
(Looking at Freddy's poster)
Exons meeting
Introns fleeting.
Modules enhancing.
This poster is most entrancing.
Any second now, questioning will start.
That post doc will try to satisfy that grand old fart.
(Animated silent chatter)
What a splendid moment! He's much smarter
Than that well-known old prof could see.
Such a thrilling, positively chilling
Poster at Molec. Biology!

(Move stately to another poster)

Freddy: Hello. My name is Freddy. Frederick Calvin-Hill. I see you work with Professor Higgins. That's very good. I hear he runs a great lab. What do you do?

Eliza: (Precisely) I PCRd the lambda zap Bam fragment.

Freddy: (looking at her poster) Yes, so you have. Did you find anything close in the data base?

Eliza: My Blast-N search finds homologues.

Freddy: Good for you. Did you get confirmation?

Eliza: In Harvard, MIT, and Stanford, misalignments hardly happen.

Freddy: Of course not. I'm sorry. Yes, you put me in my place. Sorry about that. You speak so well.

Eliza: Thank you. And I trust that you do excellent work.

Freddy: Yes, I do. I've worked out a computerized tunneling electron microscopic way to visualize each base in the double helix. I can now even show you the patterns of the double helix.

(Crowd gathers)

Eliza: I've seen that before. That's nothing new.

Freddy: No way possible. You could not have seen a double helix.

Eliza: I've seen it with my own two eyes, and I didn't need no fancy microscope either. Just walked out in the field, and there they wereo(loudly) two copulating snails, clear as day. And if that ain't a double helix, nothing is!

(Crowd faints.)

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