Everything You Want to Know About Super Bowl Ads But Are Too Embarrassed to Ask

Super Bowl ads are often more entertaining than the game. And they always raise questions, many of which fall in National Geographic’s areas of expertise. Here are answers to burning questions you may have about Doberman-Chihuahua puppies, groin injuries, and more.

Puppy Love

Could a Doberman Pinscher and a Chihuahua really mate and produce a baby? Yes they could! “I have seen it happen, but it’s not an everyday occurrence,” says Fran Smith, a Minnesota veterinarian who is board certified in reproduction. But only if the Doberman is the female and the Chihuahua is the male.  “First of all, it takes a female that really wants to be bred. Obviously the Doberman would have to lie down. And it takes an aggressive enough small dog that he’s going to keep on trying until he gets in the right place. I have seen it happen, but it’s not an everyday occurrence.”

The other option: artificial insemination.

In the ad, the offspring has a Doberman head stuck atop a Chihuahua body. “It’s not going to look like that,” says Smith. “The likelihood is it’ll be much smaller than the bigger parent and much bigger than the smaller parent.” And it probably would not have ears that stand up—a Chihuahua trait—”since Doberman ears don’t stand naturally.”

-Marc Silver

Groin and Bear It

“GROIN HITS” is listed as one of the ingredients of the “ultimate” Super Bowl ad. Sure it’s funny. But … it hurts.

In the major “ouch” department for males, few things are more painful than a kick in the boys. It’s an occupational hazard for any athlete, particularly those in contact sports like football.

The defensive position is to wear a protective cup. George Clooney as Batman wore a bullet-proof codpiece. Knights wore metal codpieces with their armor in the 16th century. But in fact, most NFL players do not. Too restrictive, players told Sam Borden, who wrote about the topic in The New York Times. “Do you see horses wearing cups?” former Cowboys defensive tackle Marvin Austin told Borden. “No. They’re running all the time, and so are we.”

For the unlucky recipient of a low blow, “injuries range from simple and minor to catastrophic—from bruising to rupture of the testicle, which is a surgical emergency,” says physician Matt Levy in the Department of Emergency Medicine at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore.

The pain factor is so intense, he explains, because the genitalia are a nexus of nerve endings. “Any time you have that focal consolidation, anything in the way of pain is going to be perceived more acutely.” The pelvic girdle protects those delicate appendages from the back and side, but not from a head-on full frontal hit.

There’s a psychological factor, too, Levy adds. “There’s a reason it’s called a guy’s manhood.”

-Cathy Newman

The Geography of Yogurt

What is Greek yogurt?  It depends on whom you ask. Chobani and Dannon—whose ads face off on the Super Bowl commercial scrimmage line—maintain it’s a production process and refers to straining the whey out of yogurt, which makes it thick and more concentrated than regular yogurt.

Is it made in Greece? “My goodness, no,” said a spokesman for Dannon, “in the same way that Swiss cheese is not made in Switzerland.”

According to an article in The New Yorker by Rebecca Mead, the strained yogurt we call “Greek-style,” is known in Greece as “straggisto.”

Greek yogurt was the subject of a ruling by a British appeals court early this past week. The court ruled that Chobani couldn’t call their product “Greek yogurt” because it wasn’t made in Greece. Dannon had already faced a similar injunction against labeling its product “Greek yogurt.” In both cases, the injunction was brought by Fage (pronounced Fa-yeh), a dairy that really is in Greece.

“Fage had to prove a convention that existed in the United Kingdom, which is that your average buyer would assume that a product labeled as Greek would be made in Greece,” explained Julia Glotz, the fresh foods editor for The Grocer, a British trade journal, who has been covering the case.  “The convention is very specific to the UK.”

In other words, it’s still Greek to us in the United States.

-Cathy Newman

Llama vs. Lama

The joke about the “Dalai Lama” brings up a question: Are the words “llama” and “lama” related?

In English L and LL are pronounced the same way. Which makes it easy to confuse Lama, the title of a spiritual leader in Tibetan Buddhism, and llama, a camel-like pack animal from the Andes Mountains in South America.

In Spanish, the difference is clear. In the word Lama, the L is pronounced as in English. But llama is pronounced “yama” or “shama” or “zhama,” depending on where you are.

There’s a different confusion in Spanish, though, because the word “llama” can mean two different things. As a noun, it’s the animal. As a verb, it means “is named.”

So in Spanish it’s possible to make up this tongue twister: “La llama llama Lily”—the llama is named Lily.

-A.R. Williams

Human Journey