OK, the topic above is a pun.
I was amazed to learn, when researching this topic, how many different words name specific familiar parts of the body. Let's look at some of them, planning to revisit this topic from time to time. For this week, we'll focus particularly, though not exclusively, at the hands and their ten digits.
dactylion – the tip of the middle finger
...making us all double-dactylic! (or perhaps amputees)
Mr. Logophile has reminded me of the mnemonic for remembering the bones of the wrist: Never Lower Tillie's Pants, Mother Might Come Home:
navicular, lunate, triquetrum, pisiform, greater Multongular, lesser Multongular, capitate and hamate
Now, I looked the mnemonic up on the Web because I couldn't remember all those bones, and they called it an acronym site, rather than a mnemonic site.
Consider the flap of skin on your ear. We all know the word "earlobe" for one part of it, but who would have thought there was a separate word for one of its bumps?
The fleshy bump on your ear, between the face and the ear cavity, is called the tragus. It has surprisingly many google hits, many pertaining to tragus-piercing.
The sources claim that 'tragus' comes from Greek 'tragos', means billy goat. Pending research, I fail to see the connection.
Mrs. Bryne's Dictionary gives a different definition of "dactylion." She says, "1. a finger-exerciser ofr pianists invented in 1835 by Henri Herz. 2. webbed fingers or toes." In the face of this conflict, I suspect she's mistaken.
But is there a word for "webbed fingers or toes?"
Mr. Logophile has sent me this in reference to today's word:
"Dactylion Display" = "giving the bird"?
Syndactyly. Dorland's Illustrated Medical Dictionary (Merck Source) defines dactylion as syndactyly. That last link takes a while to load.
Polydactyly is the condition of having extra fingers or toes.
[This message was edited by tinman on Tue Nov 11th, 2003 at 22:13.]
thenar – the fleshy mass on the palm of the hand at the base of the thumb
(some sources add: relating to the palm; sometimes applied to the corresponding part of the foot)
I'm embarrassed, but I know another name for that part of the hand from palmistry. (Yes indeedy, I do know that palmistry is on par with tea leaves, phrenology, consulting the Oracle at Delphi, and divination from the innards of a goat. I read this long ago.)
It's also called "The Mound of Venus". Here's a link that shows some names.
(I was young and dumb, ok? I hadn't even heard of James Randi back then.)
I am familiar with the works of Pablo Neruda!--Bart Simpson
gular - pertaining to the gula or throat
gula - the upper part of the throat; the front part of the neck
(Recall our previous word of the day "gula", one of the seven deadly sins: the sin of gluttony or, more generally, excess.)
The word "gullet" is obviously related - yet it means the tube below the throat, connecting throat to stomach. How did the meaning descend from the throat itself? I cannot say.
A fun word - but how would one ever work it into a conversation?
lunula (plural lunulae) – the white crescent-shaped part of the fingernail at the base of the nail
[Latin for "little moon"; akin to lunar]
oxter – the armpit
Two examples, each by by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Frank McCourt:
Oxter pipes are bagpipes, as their bellows are held and squeezed under the armpit. (Robert Smith, Buchan: Land of Plenty)
The word for the crotch where a leaf meets a branch, or where a branch meets the trunk of a tree, or even where the individual seeds of a pine cone meet the center is the axil.
(scroll way down; X is toward the end of the alphabet.)
The standard medical term for the armpit is the axilla.
Axilla <==> Oxter ? Which came first?
[This message was edited by haberdasher on Sat Nov 15th, 2003 at 14:20.]
Axil, 1794, from New Latin axilla.
Axilla, 1616, from Latin, diminutive of ala wing, upper arm, armpit, axil.
Oxter, 15th century, from Middle English (Sc), alteration of Old English Oxta; akin to Old English eax axis, axle.
minimus – the little finger (or the little toe)
This word also has other meanings related to "small size", and is one of many words from Latin minimus least.
You would think 'miniature' comes from that source, but actually it does not. Its history is Latin minium red lead, --> minaiare to color red --> miniare to illuminate a manunscript. This, by confusion with minimus = small, came to mean a small illustration in a text, hence a tiny picture, a 'miniature'.