Ethmoid morning

In case you wanted to know the word for ‘sieve’ in Ancient Greek, here’s today’s morning name:

noun ethmoid (also ethmoid bone): Anatomy a square bone at the root of the nose, forming part of the cranium, and having many perforations through which the olfactory nerves pass to the nose. ORIGIN mid 18th century: from Greek ēthmoeidēs, from ēthmos ‘a sieve’. (NOAD)

No, I haven’t been suffering from sinusitis. And, though my morning names can sometimes be traced to whatever music was playing on iTunes during the night, that’s dubious in this case: what was playing all night was the complete keyboard works of Haydn, as performed by Christine Schornsheim on various period instruments; there are a great many of these, but nothing about them suggests head bones.

From Wikipedia:


The ethmoidal sinuses or ethmoidal air cells of the ethmoid bone are one of the four paired paranasal [‘beside, alongside the nose’] sinuses. They are a variable in both size and number of small cavities in the lateral mass of each of the ethmoid bones

Nice word, paranasal, with four A’s as its only vowel letters. Like catamaran, but short of taramasalata, with six. And taramasalata is delicious. From Wikipedia:

Taramasalata or taramosalata (Greek: ταραμοσαλάτα, from taramas, from Turkish: tarama ‘fish roe’ and salata, from Italian: insalata“salad”) is a Greek meze made from tarama, the salted and cured roe of the cod, carp, or grey mullet (bottarga) mixed with olive oil, lemon juice, and a starchy base of bread or potatoes, or sometimes almonds.

As for paranasal, you might think that there’s not much use for it, but there are occasions when a word for ‘alongside the nose’ might be useful. In acting out Moore’s “A Visit from St. Nicholas” (“The night before Christmas”), for example, where the text says:

And laying his finger aside of his nose

One word would do the work of four:

And laying his finger paranasally

(Yes, I know, that doesn’t scan. And yes, paranasally and aside of his nose both have five syllables, but some people really care about word counts, and they should love paranasal.)

The paranasal gesture seems to be known to gesture specialists as the nose tap. From Lauren Gawne’s Superlinguo site on 10/2/13 on the nose tap gesture, citing a 1979 book surveying European gestures:


In their survey this gesture is attested in the UK, Malta and some areas of Italy, France and Belguim. The meanings of this vary, but what they all have in common is some link to the metaphor of ‘sniffing out trouble’. So it can be used as a way of signaling knowledge, that someone is clever, or a threat (as in, I’ll sniff out whatever trouble you’re up to).

The use to mean ‘secret’ – which is how I know it – is another extension of this, and indeed the most common. It comes from an idea that we’ve both sniffed out what’s really going on here, and no one else has.

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