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Anatomy of a Name

Posted Oct 21 2010 3:35am

Like an archaeologist, the anatomist delicately sections the sacrum, the final stage of the long, statuesque spinal column.  First he cuts through the dermis, fascia, then muscle. With surgical precision he continues to explore. He discovers a long, nerve that takes a tortuous course across what was the hip, around the thigh and then, this overachieving nerve splits into three directions. This powerful transmitter escorts signals to the genitals, the rectum and perineum. It is responsible for ecstatic pleasure, and more mundane functions that govern the bowel and bladder. With such duties, this nerve never rests. Why then, long ago, did the anatomist select the Latin word pudendal- meaning "shame" for such a gallant conductor?  If one is suffering from the pain of this overworked or injured nerve, perhaps it's time for a more respectful name.
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