Wednesday, February 02, 2011


This blog entry is more or less about the jejunum, so please be patient while I set the stage.

When I swim, I count laps by playing a word game. The word game is, in a sense, ordered, so that I know how many laps I have swum by knowing what sort of word I’m looking for. I shall spare you the details of this game.

During one lap, I needed to find a word that began with lower-case ‘j.’ The first vowel in the word had to be an ‘e’ and the word had to contain, anywhere, at least one ‘c.’ I thought hard and found no such word. I suspected there must be dozens of them, and I would be embarrassed if I actually looked them up in a dictionary. So that’s what I did when I got home.

I used my good old 1966 Random House unabridged. (This dictionary is famous for specifying that the interior angles of a regular pentagon are 118 degrees.) I could have use the OED, but I wanted to find words I should have known, not words I never knew. There are lots of words beginning with ‘je,’ but I only noticed a single one that contained a ‘c.’ Amazing! This word was jejunectomy, the name for the operation in which a person who is jejune remains insipid, but has the jejunum removed from his or her small intestine. (The jejunum lies between the duodenum and the ileum. I had not known that.)

I feel much better now, because there’s a certain stress and pressure involved in swimming each twenty-five yard lap, and during that short time, I can be excused for not thinking of jejunectomy.

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