Morning tum

(There will be penis allusions, but nothing actually raunchy.)

My morning names of 2/26, which arrived three in a bunch, all tum-words, all body-related, but in two different ways:

(a) noun tumor, a tissue growth

(b) adj. tumid, enlarged or distended (as applied to erect penises in particular, but to other things as well)

(c) adj. tumescent, ditto, but more strongly evoking penises

(a) has a somewhat medical tone, but has been taken into everyday usage. The other two are elevated in tone, distanced from carnality; they sound literary or technical. When I came fully to consciousness, I realized that all three traced back to the Latin tum– stem in tumere ‘to swell’. It’s all about swelling; (a) has gone in one direction of semantic specialization, (b) and (c) in another.

And then, of course, there turned out to be more, stuff I hadn’t anticipated at all: the nouns tumulus ‘ancient burial ground’ (they are mounds) and tumult ‘loud noise, disorder’ (the sound rises).

Where will it end? Is a tummy so called because the bellies of babies are often rounded and the bellies of pregnant women are distended? (No. So the antacid Tums is irrelevant to this story.) What about the bodyparts scrotum and rectum, or even the proper name Tatum, suggesting Channing Tatum and his impressive endowment? (No, a thousand times, no. And you should be ashamed of yourselves for having suggested it.)

The initial three (with the Latin stem embroidered upon by various affixes from that language), one by one:

(a) tumor. From NOAD:

noun tumor (British tumour): [a] a swelling of a part of the body, generally without inflammation, caused by an abnormal growth of tissue, whether benign or malignant. [b] archaic a swelling of any kind. ORIGIN late Middle English: from Latin tumor, from tumere ‘to swell’.

The oldest uses with the agentive/instrumental suffix –or just denote a swelling, something that has swollen. But then specialized to a tissue growth, especially a malignant one. (My man Jacques’s brain tumor was a medulloblastoma. No illustrations here, though the net provides a strangely jaunty cartoon about this particular affliction in children, where it is the most common form of brain cancer.)

(b) tumid. From NOAD:

adj. tumid: 1 (especially of a part of the body) swollen: a tumid belly. 2 (especially of language or literary style) pompous or bombastic: tumid oratory.

It has the derivational affix –id of humid, pallid, stupid, torrid, acrid, morbid, etc. The word is medical / technical or literary, as in the examples above, and in this example from the on-line Merriam-Webster:

He’d just been in a fight, and was nursing his tumid lip

(#1) Another tumid lip: an angioderma of the lip (from the Merck Manual site)

The adjective collocates especially often with penis, as a counterpart to tumescent, the two serving as very elevated alternatives to formal erect and colloquial hard. Illustrations of the referent abound on AZBlogX, of course, but here’s an especially entertaining instance of the locution tumid penis, from Karen Mercury’s The Hinterlands (a 2005 umliterary paperback):

(#2) … and on from there, as the author struggles with stylistic lexical choices

The publisher’s material describes the book, with a mostly straight face, as historical fiction plus romance novel. The plot summary begins:

The year is 1896. In the vast network of the Niger Delta waterways, where palm oil and blood flow from the hinterlands, the ancient Kingdom of Benin is under siege. Legendary trader and leopard hunter Brendan Donivan battles to protect his adopted homeland’s sacred civilization from the colonial expansion of the British, while balancing his commerce with the whiteman’s world. Life is not exactly easy. And it’s about to get worse. Enter Elle Bowie, New York anthropologist. She says she’s come to study clitoridectomy. She claims the crazy Texan traveling with her, the one whose jungle attire consists wholly of a Stetson, boots, and a gun, is her husband.

Yeah, sure.

(c) tumescent. From NOAD, where the sex now gets into the actual entry:

adj. tumescent: 1 swollen or becoming swollen, especially as a response to sexual arousal. 2 (especially of language or literary style) pompous or pretentious; tumid: his prose is tumescent, full of orotund language.

More complex morphology, with two Latin-derived affixes –escent in sequence, as in fluorescent, putrescent, effervescent, incandescent, phosphorescent, etc.

I believe that tumescent and tumescence have become so firmly associated with sexual arousal and erection that most people would now take these senses to be basic, so that expressions like tumescent prose are viewed as metaphorical.

In any case, the items have become conventionalized in some medical contexts, for instance in the terminology noctural penile tumescence (NPT) and tumescent anesthesia.

NPT is the phenomenon known informally as morning wood and more formally as noctural erection(s): spontaneous erection(s) during sleep and, especially, on awakening. Entirely normal, but of course a source of embarrassment, jokes, and (inevitably) porn. A cute Medical News Today illustration of the first:


And the cover for a DVD of the third type:

(#4) Amiable muscleman Landon Conrad on the cover, sporting NPT; brief discussion in my 1/4/11 posting “Morning wood”

As for tumescent anesthesia, the procedure was news to me; it’s amazing what you can pick up on the net. From Wikipedia:

Tumescent anesthesia is a surgical technique for delivery of local anesthesia. It also makes the target tissue firm and turgid from absorbed water, which can aid certain procedures. It was originally devised for use in liposuction, but has since been applied to other surgical situations, including plastic surgery, burn care, and vascular surgery. It is a relatively safe way to achieve extensive regional anesthesia of skin and subcutaneous tissue with a high total dose but a low risk of systemic toxicity. The subcutaneous infiltration of a large volume of very dilute lidocaine and epinephrine causes the targeted tissue to become swollen and firm, or tumescent, and permits otherwise painful procedures to be performed on patients without subjecting them to the inherent risks of general anesthesia, and with reduced blood loss due to the vasoconstriction induced by epinephrine.

There are illustrations, which (in contrast to Landon Conrad) are startlingly unarousing.

Bonus item (d) tumulus. From NOAD:

noun tumulus: an ancient burial mound; a barrow.

So called because it’s a swelling on the ground. As here:

(#5) From the Ancient Origins site: “The Outstanding Megalithic Necropolis that is the Tumulus of Bougon” (in the Deux-Sèvres department of the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region in the western part of France) on 9/29/17

Bonus item (e) tumult. From NOAD:

noun tumult: [a] a loud, confused noise, especially one caused by a large mass of people: a tumult of shouting and screaming broke out. [b] confusion or disorder: the whole neighborhood was in a state of fear and tumult | his personal tumult ended when he began writing songs.

So called because the level of noise swells in the rioting or disorder. I am not making this up.

Any number of scenes of disorder would have done as an illustration, but I chanced to come on a striking exploitation of the noun in advertising, to name a trendy product. From the Beverage Daily site, “Coke hopes revamped adult soft drinks brand will cause Tumult in Europe” on 4/9/12:

(#6) Flavors included maltée ‘malty’ (apple and malt barley) — above — and fruitée ‘fruity’ (apricot and pear)

Beside the point: tummy. Yes, tummies are often rounded, you might even say swollen, especially in babies and pregnant women, but the tum of tummy has nothing to do etymologically with the Latin ‘swell’ stem. (I know, by the time we got to tumult, you were softened up to entertain pretty much any damn etymology.)

A cute baby and its naturally somewhat rounded tummy:

(#7) (photo from the Parents magazine site)

And tummy exploited in commerce, in “Tums for the Tummy”:

(#8) The Tums logo

(#9) A big pile of Tums

From Wikipedia:

Tums is an antacid [in chewable tablets] made of sucrose (sugar) and calcium carbonate (CaCO3) [now] manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline in St. Louis MO. They are also available in a sugar-free version. It is an over-the-counter drug, available at many retail stores, including drug stores, grocery stores and mass merchandisers. It provides relief from heartburn and indigestion (“sour stomach”).

But if tummy has nothing to do with swelling in Latin, where does it come from? NOAD has the straight dope:

noun tummy: informal a person’s stomach or abdomen. ORIGIN mid 19th century: child’s pronunciation of stomach.

As for scrotum, rectum, and (Channing) Tatum, arresting as these names are, they’re completely irrelevant here. But you knew that, didn’t you?

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