Chapter XII

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The “little mice” (see p. vi) running around the human body afford you an opportunity to put into practice your newly acquired knowledge about Latin nouns. You can now explain, for example, biceps brachii as the combination of the singular of the third-declension noun biceps and the genitive of the -declension noun . You can also explain quadriceps femoris, where both terms come from the declension (nominative singular and singular respectively).

Other names of muscles use these same principles but have additional aspects that you have not yet formally learned, including, most importantly, Latin adjectives. Even so, you may already be able to guess the meaning of some of these phrases. For example, you can guess that extensor digitorum longus means “ extender of the digits” (in this case the toes; extensor digitorum without the adjective longus indicates the extender of the ). If you know that, then it is easy to identify the adductor as the “long adductor muscle,” which is responsible for a variety of motions of the thigh. Are there other muscles with unchanged Latin names that you can identify?

There are also numerous muscle names derived directly or indirectly from Greek. Some come from the muscle’s shape, including the muscle, named after the Greek letter of triangular shape (the fourth in the Greek alphabet). Others are named by the parts of the body they connect: a triple compound, the connects the sternum, clavicle, and mastoid process of the temporal bone and is responsible for turning and nodding the head.

Of particular interest is the muscle (the longest in the human body), which runs down the anterior portion of the thigh and is used in crossing the legs. Sartor is Latin for “tailor,” and there are four reasons alleged for the association of this name with the muscle. 1) Tailors used to sit in a cross-legged position. 2) The lower part of the muscle approaches what is known as the “inseam,” the portion of the inner thigh that tailors commonly measure for fitting. 3) The muscle resembles a tailor’s ribbon. 4) Old-fashioned sewing machines required continuous cross-body pedaling; this combination of lateral rotation and flexion of the hip and knee gave tailors particularly enlarged muscles in this area.