I’ve misplaced my clavicles again!
A bone introduced last time was the clavicle, which means “little key,” or a "tendril, the shoot from a vine.” The clavicle articulates with the sternum and the scapula. In anatomy articulate means “to join or attach by joints.” A variation of this term is articulation. For example, the clavicle articulates medially with the manubrium at the sternoclavicular joint. The manubrium is a section of the sternum, and will be discussed shortly. Medial means “toward the midline of the body.” The clavicle articulates laterally with the acromion process of the scapula at the acromioclavicular joint. Lateral means “toward the side, or away from the midline of the body.” Acromion means the “summit, extreme, or peak of the shoulder.” The term Acromion is related to the Acropolis in Greece! Acropolis essentially means “the highest point of the city.” Another truly stunning relationship to an anatomical term!
Can you dig it? Or can you dig with it?
Scapula means “a spade or shovel,” as it reminded the anatomists of the tool. Our scapula, or plural scapulae, has several interesting landmarks. On the anterior or ventral surface there is a depression called the subscapular fossa. The “sub” portion of this term means “under” or “below.” Recall, anterior means “before,” or “toward the front.” Ventral means “toward the belly.” Fossa means “a ditch.” From this we get the term fossil which means “dug up.”
On the posterior or dorsal surface there are two depressions of interest. Posterior means “coming after” or “toward the back or rear.” Dorsal means “pertaining to the back.” Superior to the spine of the scapula, the depression is called the supraspinous fossa. “Supra” comes from the term superior which means “above.” Inferior to the spine of the scapula the depression is called the infraspinous fossa. “Infra” comes from inferior which means “below.”
The term spine in this case refers to an elevation of a relatively triangular bony plate attached to the dorsal surface of the scapula. Spine means “thorn.”
Dorsum and dorsi are variations of dorsal and also mean “pertaining to the back.” Dorsi appears in the muscle named the latissimus dorsi, which means “widest of the back.” Dorsum even appears in a common banking term. When you endorse a check, which side of the check do you sign your name on? The “back,” of course!
I can see clearly now!
The glenoid fossa of the scapula is located on the lateral portion of the scapula and articulates with the head of the humerus. Even though the humerus is the bone in the arm, its name means “shoulder bone.” At one point in the history of anatomy the name ossa humeri which means “bones of the shoulder,” was a term that referred to the humerus, clavicle, and the scapula, collectively. The glenoid fossa is also referred to as the glenoid cavity. Glenoid means “eyeball, mirror, or socket-like.” Apparently, the eyeball and mirror reference comes from the glistening mirror-like quality of the articular cartilage that lines the socket-like cavity. Cartilage, by the way, means “gristle.” To strengthen the connection between “eyeball” and “mirror” and the derivation of glenoid, the ancient word glene was used for “mirror.” It’s suggested that glene or glenes was eventually applied to the eyeball, and ultimately to a “socket-like” cavity. Most anatomy books offer “socket-like” as the definition of glenoid. The mighty Henry Gray in his revered book Gray’s Anatomy, simply offers “a socket,” as the origin. But what did he know?!
Finally, the coracoid process of the scapula means “crow or crow-like.” It reminded the anatomists of a crow’s beak. Another interesting term referring to a beak is rostral, appearing often in neuroanatomy texts. It means “pertaining to a beak-like structure, or toward the beak.” Clearly in our case, toward the nose. Ancient anatomical terms generally use "beak," instead of "bill."
In Rome, the Rostra was the platform used for public speaking in the Forum and was decorated with rostra from prows of ships captured in battle. The rostra was used as a battering ram to inflict damage to the ships of their adversaries. Rostra, or the singular form, rostrum, is derived from rodere which means “gnaw,” and is where we get the word rodent! Rodents most certainly like to gnaw on things. Oui? Say cheese!
I’m Gladiator All Over!
Let’s now return to the sternum. Anatomically, our sternum is divided into three sections. From top to bottom, or superior to inferior, we have the manubrium, the gladiolus, and the xiphoid process. Manubrium means “handle,” which comes from manus, and means “hand.” Manus appears in numerous words such as manuscript which literally means “handwritten.” In anatomy, the manubrium represents the handle of a sword, which is obviously held by hand. My favorite section is the gladiolus, which is also known as the body of the sternum. Gladiolus means “sword,” and this section of the sternum was named in honor of the gladiator. The word gladiator means “swordsman.” The beautiful flower we know as the Gladiolus, or Gladiola, is also called the “sword lily,” and was the official flower of the gladiators. Finally, xiphoid means “sword-like.”
Clearly, the shape of the sternum reminded the anatomists of the sword-wielding gladiator, as the sword was one of his many weapons used during battle. Battles which took place in an arena. Arena means “sand,” and initially referred to a place of combat. The central area where the contests were held was covered in sand and served to absorb blood, or perhaps an afternoon tea spilled by a careless gladiator! As I mentioned before, etymology unearths a time capsule buried centuries ago, to enlighten, amaze, and inform us about the society that existed when these glorious words were created.
The plane! The plane!
I mentioned the midline of the body earlier. The midline of the body is also defined as the midsaggital or median plane and is the point between the sagittal suture of the skull. While the midsaggital plane is an imaginary line dividing the body into right and left halves, the sagittal suture is a real anatomical landmark on our skull. Saggital means “pertaining to an arrow,” while suture means “seam,” or “to sew.” The zigzag quality of the saggital suture reminded the anatomists of the mark that might remain if a speeding arrow had grazed the top of the skull!
Anteriorly, the sagittal suture meets the coronal suture. Coronal means “pertaining to a crown.” It reminded the anatomists of the mark which might remain from either wearing a crown for an extended period or if a crown had been placed down upon the skull rather forcefully! Posteriorly, the sagittal suture meets the lambdoidal suture. The lambdoidal suture is named for its resemblance to Lambda, the 11th letter of the Greek Alphabet. Lambda looks like this: λ. These are just a few of the interesting sutures of the skull which are also known as cranial sutures. Cranial means “pertaining to the skull.”
Other imaginary body planes include the coronal or frontal plane, which divides the body into anterior and posterior halves. The transverse or horizontal plane divides the body into superior and inferior halves. Transverse means to “turn across.” While “trans” means across, the “verse” portion is more interesting in that it appears in terms such as vertebra, as in our vertebral column. While vertebral refers to our backbones or spine, it comes from vertere which means “to turn.” It also appears in verse, version, and vertigo. In my opinion, the real star of the show is the word universe. This beautiful word means “turned into one, to revolve or turn as one.”
Until next time…..