Body Language

By Mark Skoultchi

January 12, 2011

So I’m reading Gray’s Anatomy now. Long story. Discovered a discoloration on my leg and got a little carried away with the self-diagnosis.

Incredible that Henry was a mere 34 when he died in 1861. He probably wasn’t very well rounded though.

You should check out the chapter on the muscles of the scalp. Seriously. I was tempted to make a joke about that, but it’s completely fascinating. For instance, check out this excerpt:

The skin of the scalp is thicker than in any other part of the body. It is intimately adherent to the superficial fascia, which attaches it firmly to the underlying aponeurosis and muscle. Movements of the muscle move the skin. The hair follicles are very closely set together, and extend throughout the whole thickness of the skin. It also contains a number of sebaceous glands.

Wild, right?? I would’ve guessed the skin on the bottom of my big toe was the thickest, but who am I to argue with Henry Gray?

Anyway, as I’m flipping through this treatise, it’s occurring to me how interesting some of our body part names are. Even if I don’t know my Palatine Bone from my Zygomatic Bone, I can appreciate that some of our internals are just sexier (or funnier) sounding than others.

Some that really get my catecholamine racing:

Spleen
Squama
Frontal Eminence
Medulla
Basal Ganglia
Thorax
Vas Deferens
Groin
Vulva (which, by the way, has a great safety record)

And my favorite by a long shot (even if it is an embryonic reference), with a regular Tuesday night gig at The Mercury Lounge, please give it up for:

THE NEURAL GROOVE!

Equally fascinating and fun is the number of body parts named for people. There are at least 150 anatomic eponyms. A few of my faves include:

The Great vein of Galen (Galen of Pergamon)
All hail the Great Vein of Galen! Abundant drainer of the cerebrum and all around good blood vessel and friend.

Bundle of His (Wilhelm His, Jr)
More specificity, please.

Anal Crypts of Meera (Meera Shah)
I’m not goin’ in there. No f-in way. You go.

Canal of Schlemm (Friedrich Schlemm)
It may be a channel in the eye that transports humor into the bloodstream, Orrrr, it’s a long, sticky body of mucous.

Sideburns (General Ambrose Burnside)
Yes, Sideburns! It’s a 19th century corruption of the original burnsides, named after American Civil War general Ambrose Burnside, a dude known for his rockin’ burns. Talk about a hipster! Check this guy out:

Circle of Willis (Thomas Willis)
Okay, everyone gather around. We’re gonna create a circle of Willis. Yes, Thomas, you can be in the middle. Uhh-Ghen.

Ampulla of Vater (Abraham Vater)
The journey to Vater was fraught with dangers. Pancreatic enzymes and seething bile ducts. Rumor had it that the Duodenum trail alone had claimed the lives of 10,000 men in search of the Ampulla.

The Zonule of Zinn
Really?? Really??? C’mon. The Zonule of Zinn?? Seriously?? That can’t be real.
Except that it’s named for Johann Gottfried Zinn. So I guess it’s real.

And others that caught my oog:

Pouch of Douglas (named for James Douglas)
Space of Disse (named for Joseph Disse)
Fallopian Tubes (named for Grabrel Fallopius)
Gerdy’s Fibers (Pierre Nicolas Gerdy)
Houston’s muscle (John Houston)
Howell-Jolly Bodies (William Henry Howell, Justin Marie Jolly)
McBurney’s Point (Charles McBurney)
Schatzki’s ring (Richard Schatzki)

All of this begs the question, who gets a body part named after themselves, and what sort of vetting does the name undergo? Certainly, scientists, doctors, members of the medical community who discover the body part. They get parts named after them. That makes sense. But can anyone have a body part named after themselves? And who gets priority when two individuals discover the same body part at the same time? I suppose it probably doesn’t happen often (if ever), but is there a medical body (pardon the pun) that adjudicates these conflicts?

Lets face it; the most exclusive club isn’t the US Senate or (God forbid) Soho House. No, it’s being a member of the fraternity whose members have a body part named after themselves. Q ratings? Hell, Jennifer Aniston WISHES that some body part were named “the anniston”. Part of every single human being? Now that’s staying power.

Unless of course evolution breeds that part right out of us.

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