I remember when I first learned the polite word for the sound of the barking spider: flatulence. Later, at the other end, I was very impressed to find there’s actually a polite name for eructation. Then there’s expectoration, of course, and emesis. (I’ll let you come up with more…if you have the stomach for it.) And that nagging clavus on my right toe. Dang!
I’m not sure whether polite is the correct description of those names. Maybe uppity is better. They’re mostly seeming Latinate forms, and the crude names more closely imitate the sense of the beast. An eructation sounds like a burp. An opuntia littoralis by any other name is still a prickly pear.
Other names that surprise me are for those things whose names I didn’t know. I was treated to the name tinnitus for ringing in the ears. Heck, I’ve heard that squeal now and then since childhood. There’s a name for that. And while we’re on the topic of something you can’t get out of your head, how about that first song you hear when you wake up? Won’t go away until after a cup of coffee or two, right? (Quick: sing the Hokey Pokey to yourself mentally right now…) That song’s called an earworm. Sounds ominous. Parasitic.
Well, then, imagine my surprise this very evening. I was thinking about all these uppity words, and decided to look up the scientific name for warts. Remember warts? Yep, papilloma virus is what I found. A bell rang in my head.
Hey! Wait a minute! I spent the summer of 2010 being nuked and polluted to get rid of an HPV infection. What’d the P stand for? Yep. Papilloma. But I don’t recall the doc referring to it as a wart in my throat. He stuck with the uppity name. Dang!
In the Tao Te Ching Lao Tzu wrote,
Naming is the origin of all particular things. If it doesn’t have a name, either it isn’t there, or you’re not there to name it. One hand clapping. Call a thing what it is, I think. Pala it may be, but I prefer to call a spade a spade. Maybe I’m just an old fart.
📑 humor, writing