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Little Bits of Body Latin and Their Relatives

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In anatomical nomenclature, a bursa is a fluid-filled sac that helps cushion a joint. Bursa is the Latin word for “purse,” the source of English purse itself, as well as the bursar who controls the purse strings in a college, plus disburse meaning “to release funds,” and reimburse, “to pay back.” In France, the related term Bourse is applied to the French stock exchange. Next to your knee is a bursa called the pes anserinus, which means “goose foot” in Latin, a reference to the way tendons from three different leg muscles attach to the shin bone there, then spread out in three directions like a webbed goose’s foot. Pes in Latin means “foot,” and its genitive form pedis is the source of such English words as pedestrian and pedal. Anser in Latin means “goose,” and anserinus means “gooselike,” from which we get the English adjective anserine, which describes something “silly or stupid as a goose.” In German, Gänsefüßchen, “little goose feet,” is a slang term for “quotation marks.” Another English word inspired by a bird’s foot is pedigree, from French pied de grue, or “foot of the crane,” recalling the shape of the forked lines in a genealogical chart. This is part of a complete episode.

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