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"BODY LANGUAGE: It’s bold to give a word book the lip-smacking title “Carnal Knowledge,” and indeed, Charles Hodgson’s new book is more accurately described by its subtitle: “A Navel Gazer’s Dictionary of Anatomy, Etymology, and Trivia.”
But there is ample pleasure, if not titillation, in the lexicographer’s approach to human anatomy. In 1300, for instance, blink wasn’t “to close an eyelid” but “flinch” or “escape” — “the sense blink still has when we say that a soldier or cop doesn’t blink when facing danger.” Wisdom teeth have roots in Rome’s dentes sapientiae. The leading edge of your nose is the dorsum, or “back.”
Not that Hodgson ignores the naughty bits. Between the infraclavicular fossa and the jugular notch is jugs, 20th-century slang with a past that may involve a milk pitcher. Tail and tush get their historical due. But their tales don’t always top the ones about meldrop (think runny nose), calf (think pregnant cow), or Senator Ambrose Burnside’s gift to the language, sideburns.
"Finally A Book About…Body Language: As Charles Hodgson’s entertaining Carnal Knowledge: A Navel Gazer’s Dictionary of Anatomy, Etymology and Trivia (Fenn) points out, even the tiniest parts of our bodies have names. Few people will be aware, for instance, that the wrist depression between the two tendons connected to the thumb is known as the snuffbox. Or that the words “testicle” and “testify” are related because of where men used to put their hands when swearing an oath."
"Be careful. While engaged in omphaloscopy and smirking with your Cupid's bow, you might stub your hallux and scrape your Girdle of Venus - no fun for someone who is easily hurt.
Confused? You won't be if you read "Carnal Knowledge: A Navel Gazer's Dictionary of Anatomy, Etymology and Trivia" (St. Martin's Press, $14.95). In it, Charles Hodgson, an engineer by trade and a word lover by avocation, explores the words we use when we talk about our bodies.
Hodgson, who runs the daily blog and podcast www.podictionary.com, explores the derivations and meaning of words that describe body parts from head to toe and the naughty bits in between.
You will learn why using the term "fanny pack" might raise eyebrows in England, and that the word dandruff appeared in written English as far back as 1545.
Hodgson writes in a clear, often amusing style and draws interesting connections between a word's origins and its current use.
Best of all, he provides lots of information on how each body part works, expanding his discussions well beyond the word's history.
Oh, and those mysterious words in the first paragraph? Omphaloscopy is the ogling of an attractive person, a Cupid's bow is the curve of an upper lip, a hallux is a big toe, and those with a Girdle of Venus on the palm are said to be sensitive folks."
--Hartford Courant Newspaper