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Name this little piggy.

Name this little piggy

Mutant files aren't the only targets of scientists' nomenclatural wit (SN: 1/12/91, p.30). John Phillips, a fourth-year medical student at Yale University, waxes poetic about toes.

Anatomists have bestowed Latin-derived names on nearly every bone in the human body, from the tail bone (coccyx) to the thumb (pollex) and pinkie finger (digitus minimus). Even the lowly big toe (hallux) boasts a dignified appellation. But the remaining piggly-wiggly appendages have never received their own formal monikers, observers Phillips. Instead, anatomists simply lump the toes together as "metatarsal digits" or "metatarsal phalanxes" and number them 1 through 5.

Why, Phillips asks, must toes "merely be counted?" In a Feb. 14 NEW ENGLAND JOURNAL OF MEDICINE letter, he proposes labels for the pedal digits: porcellus fori (big toe), p. domi (second toe); p. carnivorus (third toe), p. nonvoratus (fourth digit) and p. plorans domum (smallest toe). These names--all variations on a theme by Mother Goose--translate loosely into: little pig at market, baby pig at home, meat-eating piglet, small pig that's not eaten, and piggy crying all the way home.

Phillips says a few orthopedic surgeonss at the Yale School of Medicine use his porcine nomenclature in their clinical and surgical notes. But Ronald Bohn, an anatomist at George Washington University Medical Center in Washington, D.C., says he doesn't expect others to go hog-wild over the proposed terms. Most medical texts and clinical notes already eschew Latin for the skeleton's more common English names, he explains. For instance, while Bohn admits to joking in class about a "rule of pollex," he says he never calls it anything but a thumb when talking with nurses or writing for physicians.
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Title Annotation:John Phillips proposes Latin names for the bones of the smaller toes based on a Mother Goose theme
Publication:Science News
Date:Apr 6, 1991
Words:282
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