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Wednesday, September 23, 2020
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Manatomy madness

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LAST week on TCW, Ollie Wright told with splendid good humour how a feminist geographer has branded buildings sexist. But now comes another burden for us put-upon blokes to bear … it seems body parts are also guilty of male bias.

Terms such as Adam’s apple, Achilles tendon, Eustachian tube – and even Fallopian tube – are misogynist and outdated, according to Dr Kristin Small, a specialist obstetrician, gynaecologist and anatomy lecturer in Queensland, Australia. 

There are apparently 700 such eponyms – parts named after people – in the human body, almost all derived from ‘men, kings and gods’. And that’s got Dr Small venting her spleen.

‘I think we have a personal choice to decolonise our language and these historical terms will fade out,’ she says, adding that there are always alternatives for the ‘dead man’s name’.

And so we step into another linguistic and cultural minefield manufactured by someone who sounds as though she’d probably be better prescribing herself a lie-down in a darkened room.

I mean, if Dr Small’s idea catches on, at your next GP or hospital appointment you could find that body parts or medical procedures sounding even remotely male have been bafflingly feminised. 

So an Adam’s apple (named after the Biblical first man) will obviously become an Eve’s apple, and an Achilles tendon (named after the mythical Greek warrior) will become an Alice’s tendon.  

It could get even sillier. An abdomen will become an abdowomen, a hysterectomy will become a hersterectomy, and if you develop a boil, it’ll be a goil. As for your manhood, chaps – don’t even think about it.

Or maybe doctors will adopt the style of 17th century French preciosity, giving body parts pretentious, girly names. So you wouldn’t go the dentist for an examination of your teeth, you’d be having ‘the furniture of the mouth’ looked at.

Instead of an optician giving you an eye test, he’d be looking at ‘the windows of the soul’. Meanwhile, the cardiac consultant would be seeing if ‘the target of Cupid’s arrow’ was beating properly and the brain surgeon would be scanning your ‘seat of wisdom’.

I joke, of course. Hopefully though, the medical profession will give Dr Small and other tiresome language ‘decolonisers’ a thorough check-up. And the diagnosis will surely be that they’re just an unpleasant sensation in the sit-upon.

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Weaver Sheridan
Weaver Sheridan is an amateur local historian and wannabe best-selling novelist.

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