Anything Obscure & Eclectic
Figure 220, "Bones of the left hand. Dorsal surface.," with the scaphoid labeled the navicular, from Gray's Anatomy, 1918.



1. adj. Boat shaped. In modern Latin, scaphoīdēs, derived from the Greek σκαϕοειδής, or skaphos-, “boat,” and -eidos, “kind.” Principally used in anatomy and zoology, as in the third edition of Alexander Monro’s The anatomy of the human bones and nerves: with an account of the reciprocal motions of the heart…, 1741, the first known usage of the word: “The ligaments stretching from the Heel-bone to the Scaphoid Bone.”

Around the mid-19th century came scaphoid to be used as a noun, the name of two specific bones, one in the wrist, the other in the ankle. Both bones may also be called the navicular, a word derived from the classical Latin nāvicula, with obvious close associations to the Latin nāvigium, from whence we get the word “navy.” Both roots mean “boat” or “ship,” seafaring evidently much on the mind of the doctors naming cashew-sized bones whose buoyancy or compatibility with any of the common propulsions used in maritime travel are suspect at best.

Located at the base of the thumb next to the radius, the large bone of the forearm, the scaphoid articulates with four bones in the wrist that together allow for strength and dexterity when gripping objects, especially round objects, like a ball, which might be used in most adequate and basic feats of sport. Make a thumbs-up and the scaphoid can be easily found as the bottom edge of the hollow¹ made by the tendons of your thumb. This prominence gives the scaphoid the dubious distinction of being the wrist bone MOST EASILY BROKEN, as The AOE and other NCAA men’s basketball tournament bracket predictors who favored the North Carolina Tar Heels are discovering to their horror.

Recovery from surgery to repair a scaphoid fracture can take as long as six months, during which time patients are advised to avoid lifting, carrying, pushing, or throwing, as well as all contact sports and, y’know, falling. Good, because none of that comes into play on a basketball court.

¹Incidentally, and apropos of absolutely nothing, that hollow created by the scaphoid and other bones and tendons is dubbed–and amazingly, this is the appropriate medical term–the ANATOMICAL SNUFFBOX. That the white coats invented and now champion so glorious, whimsical, and dead-on accurate a name is proof that happiness exists in the world. Doubtless the snuffy, as The AOE has just now come to call it, will be the subject of a future entry.

This entry was published on 21 March 2012 at 5:00 am and is filed under S. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

One thought on “Scaphoid

  1. Pingback: Star-blind | AOE

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