Home Columns Anantha Narayan The anatomy of gibberish

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    MOST people are born with a visceral hatred of mathematics. I was clearly off kilter. I abhorred the sight and sound of biology. The thought of endlessly dissecting frogs and capturing their inner beauty with gruesome pencil sketches in coloured cellophane sheet-wrapped record books didna��t particularly appeal to me.

    What ticked me off further was the hospital smell-inducing scientific nomenclature that felt stupefyingly unintelligible. I swore to myself that someday, when I grew up, I would learn enough Greek and Latin to figure things out. That day, my dear reader, has arrived. Please anaesthetise yourself before you subject yourself to the contents below. Leta��s begin with the much reviled anus. It doesna��t have any malodorous basis.It gets its honourable name from the Latin word for a�?ringa�� due to the ringed musculature surrounding the terminal
    orifice of the bowels.

    If that didna��t feel sufficiently biological, leta��s plunge into the heart of the matter. Remember inferior and superior vena cava? Translated, they just mean a�?hollow veinsa�� labelled according to their order of appearance. By the way, the heart chambers, ventricle and auricle, were named for their shapes. Ventricle means a�?little bellya�� and auricle decodes to a�?little eara��.

    Duodenum, the first part of the small intestine,has an interesting origin. Ita��s around 25 cm in length. But that wasna��t the measurement
    used in those days. So the Greek physician Herophilus counted it as 12-finger-widths or duodenum.

    The shape of the organ or bone often played a part in the naming. The pelvis is literally a�?the basina��. The shin bone tibia is Latin for a�?flutea��.
    Cornea, the reason for two-thirds of the eyea��s optical power, is a horn-shaped tissue. Those who know cornucopia (the horn of plenty) will be able to work out the corneal derivation. Likewise, thyroid or the Adama��s apple as we know it, owes its roots to the Greek word for a�?shield-shapeda��.

    The meaning of some other vital organs will crack you up. The male pecker also known as the penis is a�?the taila�� in an ancient language, a
    diminutive form of which gave rise to the word a�?pencila��. Incidentally, the female sex organ vagina is from the Latin word for a�?scabbarda�� a�� the sheath that holds the sword. Now wasna��t that one hell of an eye-opener?

    Anantha Narayan


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