On the bunion watch

I am afflicted by bunions, on both feet, but much worse on the right. Variably painful, occasionally cripplingly so; these bouts are not really predictable, but low air pressure seems to be a trigger. And the swelling makes it hard to find shoes I can wear.

So: painful and somewhat crippling, but still people tend to find the affliction risible — because they find the word bunion silly.

The classic bunion, from Wikipedia:

A hallux abducto valgus deformity, commonly called a bunion, is a deformity characterized by lateral deviation of the great toe, often erroneously described as an enlargement of bone or tissue around the joint at the head of the big toe.

There is disagreement among medical professionals about the cause of bunions; some see them as primarily caused by the long-term use of shoes, particularly tight-fitting shoes with pointed toes, while others believe that the problem stems from genetic factors that are exacerbated by shoe use.

… The term “hallux valgus” or “hallux abducto-valgus” are the most commonly used medical terms associated with a bunion anomaly, where “hallux” refers to the great toe, “valgus” refers to the abnormal angulation of the great toe commonly associated with bunion anomalies, and “abductus/-o” refers to the abnormal drifting or inward leaning of the great toe towards the second toe, which is also commonly associated with bunions.


My mother had a classic bunion, and she was given to fashionable high-heeled shoes. Her mother twitted her about this, and pointed to my mother’s twin sister, who lived her life in flats and went happily bunionless. (I have scrupulously avoided wearing high heels.)

My bunions are not of the sort in #1, but are located on the tops of my feet, and I have a friend who also suffers from this sort of bunion, associated with bursitis. Wikipedia on the contrast:

Bunions are commonly associated with a deviated position of the big toe toward the second toe, and the deviation in the angle between the first and second metatarsal bones of the foot. Arthritis of the big toe joint, diminished and/or altered range of motion, and discomfort with pressure applied to the bump or with motion of the joint, may all accompany bunion development. … Atop of the first metatarsal head either medially or dorso-medially, there can also arise a bursa that when inflamed (bursitis), can be the most painful aspect of the process.

My friend has had one foot operated on. Neverthess, it’s sometimes painful, and the swelling might recur. (And the other foot needs to be scheduled for surgery.) Oi.

Now, on the word bunion. Possible associations:

grunion, minion, minyan, billion, bastion
bun, bunt, bunting, bunny, Bunyan

and (for those who know it) the mythological Australian creature the bunyip and its modern representation as the television puppet Bertie the Bunyip; discussion of these in a posting of 12/19/14.

On the intrinsic silliness of the term bunion, see Anna Russell’s invention Claude Belly Bunion:

Anna Russell’s “How to Write Your Own Gilbert and Sullivan Opera” (1953): The premise behind “How to Write…” was the notion that, since all the G&S operas are written to a formula, you might as well just write your own. As an example, Russell concocts a story around the New York upper crust. The heroine, one Pneumonia Vanderfeller (soprano), loves the impecunious John Smith (tenor). Pneumonia’s father, however, is in financial difficulties of his own, and seeks a union between Pneumonia and the enormously wealthy Claude Belly Bunion (patter baritone), who rose from humble beginnings to become a great tycoon. Just as Pneumonia’s and Claude’s wedding is to be celebrated, Dandylion (contralto) enters with the news that Claude and John Smith were exchanged at birth. Smith assumes Claude’s position of wealth and is now free to marry Pneumonia with her father’s blessing. (link)

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