Wednesday, August 1, 2007

From Abdomen to Zygomatic ... and All the Bits Inbetween

CARNAL KNOWLEDGE: A Navel Gazer's Dictionary of Anatomy, Etymology, and Trivia
by Charles Hodgson

I have long been a fan of Podictionary, the daily podcast for word lovers. Charles Hodgson is not so much a definer of a word a day as a mini-encyclopedia of everything connected with a particular word ... that can be given in two to four minutes. He has an engaging style and presents fascinating tidbits of information.

Therefore, it was with delight that I opened a package earlier this week to see his new book, Carnal Knowledge. Similar in style to the podcast, this book focuses on the body of words (pun intended) that define us physically. Grouped in sections (the torso, the face, etc.), this book is perfect for dipping into for a few minutes with your morning coffee or for perusing at greater length, say for some light, bedtime reading. In short, it is perfect for enjoying when you or a word lover you know wants a little dose of information and entertainment in one.
Adam's Apple • What is the connection between that prominent bulge on some people's throat and English tea? The Adam's apple is part of the voice box, or larynx. The larynx is made up of nine pieces of cartilage, the largest of which is the thyroid cartilage (not to be confused with the thyroid gland which helps regulate the body's metabolism). The part of the thyroid cartilage that sticks out is called the "Adam's apple." The term derives from the biblical story of Adam and Eve: imagine Adam getting the apple stuck in his throat just as God caught him in the act of eating it. Some fruits are also called "Adam's apples," and it is in this context that the phrase entered English in 1599: the reference was to a small bitter orange also known as a "bergamot." It is the oil of the bergamot that flavors Earl Grey tea, the most popular tea blend in the world. Earl Grey was one of the titles of Charles Grey, who was prime minister of England from 1830 to 1834. As well as playing the key role in the abolition of slavery in the British Empire, he sent a delegation to China that brought back (among other things) this uniquely flavored tea. Earl Grey liked it so much that he made it his regular choice.

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