Saturday, October 30, 2010

CBRII (book 48): Carnal Knowledge by Charles Hodgson

Sounds perverted, doesn’t it? Especially after the Double the Disturbing I just put you all through. But the rest of the title goes as follows:

A navel gazer’s dictionary of anatomy, etymology and trivia.

Ahh, so much better. This is a factual book about the origin of words related to the human body. Not at all embarrassing when you take it at work, and your co-worker asks where you left something and you say, without thinking, ‘I think it’s under the Carnal Knowledge book.’
I spent the first week I had this book at work absolutely slamming my co-workers with random facts about words related to the body. Although, there’s a lot I have learned from it. Among others:

– Look at your wrist. See the little bump on the outside edge of it? It’s actually not one bump, it’s the two ends of the ulna bone, one called the head and the other, more creatively, the ‘styloid process’. It depends on how you’re holding your wrist which part of the bone is protruding. However, there isn’t a word for the bump in the English language, Yangloa is a term used in Chinese acupuncture, and it’ll probably get you about a thousand points in scrabble.

Christina Hendricks is bathycolpian, that is, she has deep cleavage. Cleavage, for that matter, started out as a trade term used by the Motion Picture Association of America during a 1940’s freak out over how much boobs should be visible on screen (which all came about because the clothing in a British period film apparently showed way too much – according the Hodgson, the Brits weren’t affected because they’re all Legs men).

JK Rowling used a LOT of old words in her Harry Potter books. Dumbledore, for instance, is an old word for bumblebee, and Snape used to mean ‘to be hard upon’. My favourite is Quiddiative, which means ‘obscure and full of quirks’, rather like a certain game.

It turns out that when you have breast implants, while they’re settling in to their new home, there’s a lot of sloshing and gurgling sounds. One of the sounds is so unique that plastic surgeons have actually named it: bourdonnement, which was described as ‘a squeaking, rubbing, humming or vibrating sound that is so intimate that it is almost a feeling instead of a sound’. So, as it turns out, a rarely-mentioned side effect of implants is musical, vibrating boobs.

Winner of the longest word in the book award: Sternocleidomastoideus – that’s the muscle that runs from below your ear towards your chest, and it’s most visible when you turn your head to the side and tilt it back (and in really beefy body builders).

Most mammals need a bone to get a hard on. It’s called the baculum or the os penis, and according to Hodgson, you can buy the bones on the internet. He even provides a web address, which isn’t accurate anymore, so if you’re interested, head to and do a search. When I looked, the 24 inch walrus baculum was right next to the 1cm vervet monkey baculum, which is just mean.

The back of the knee is called the ham. It’s just one of those things I’ve always wanted to know.

Hodgson is witty and his knowledge is incredible. I will say though, it’s not really a book you can read in one sitting. It’s taken me weeks to get through it, not because I wasn’t entertained, but all the words blended together after a while. I found the best way was short bursts; then you can freak out everybody in the vicinity with the new words and factoids you’ve learnt.

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