A story claiming that a Colorado man had his thumbs surgically whittled to sharper points so he could dial his Apple Inc. iPhone was a joke, the suburban Denver monthly that ran the piece admitted this weekend.

The North Denver News' story of last Wednesday told the tale of Thomas Martel, 28, who decided he needed the help of a plastic surgeon to handle the increasingly decreased size of modern technology. "From my old Treo, to my Blackberry, to this new iPhone, I had a hard time hitting the right buttons, and I always lost those little styluses," Martel was quoted as saying in the article.

The piece went on to recount the procedure - which involved both thumbs and some bone shaving - and quoted Martel's purported surgeon. "We're turning plastic surgery from something that people use in service of vanity, to a real tool for improving workplace efficiency."

Martel, the surgeon, and the whole enchilada were only figments of the monthly's imagination, the publication confessed Saturday. "Strangely, while many readers have grasped that "Surgically alters thumbs" represents satirical social commentary, many on the internet, alas, have not," said editor Guerin Lee Green. "Careful reading of the piece makes it clear to any critical consumer of information that the piece is pure humor and not news or reported as fact."

Several Internet publications failed Green's self-imposed test by reporting on the report without the required wink-and-a-nod.

The story has already made it into the listing of Snopes.com - under the heading "Thumbs Down" - one of the internet's better-known urban legend/hoax/rumour debunking sites.