Kim from Osoyoos, British Columbia, Canada, is studying anatomy and wonders why the lower end of one’s sternum is called the xiphoid process. The word process in this case means projection, and xiphoid comes from the Greek word for sword. Early anatomists likened the sternum to a sword or dagger: the top part is called the manubrium — literally handle— the middle part is the gladiolus — which in Latin means little sword — and the tip is the swordlike projection. The scientific name for a swordfish, by the way, is Xiphias gladius. Many anatomical structures have similarly picturesque names, like tibia, from the Latin for flute, and pelvis from the Greek for wooden bowl or basin. This is part of a complete episode.
- One-Armed Paper Hanger (episode #1518) 02/18/2019: The emotional appeal of handwriting and the emotional reveal of animal phrases. Should children be taught cursive writing in school, or is their time better... [more]
- Hair on Your Tongue (episode #1517) 02/11/2019: If you speak both German and Spanish, you may find yourself reaching for a German word instead of a Spanish one, and vice versa. This... [more]
- Train of Thought (episode #1516) 02/04/2019: Chances are you recognize the expressions Judgment Day and root of all evil as phrases from the Bible. There are many others, such as the... [more]
- Colonial English (episode #1515) 01/28/2019: The anatomy of effective prose, and the poetry of anatomy. Ever wonder what it'd be like to audit a class taught by a famous writer?... [more]
- Space Cadet (episode #1514) 12/24/2018: We have books for language-lovers and recommendations for history buffs. • How did the word boondoggle come to denote a wasteful project? The answer involves... [more]