Thursday, 2 January 2014

What links a book’s appendix to the biological appendix?

Perhaps one of the most obscure links in English is why something that comes at the end of a book is named after something in the human body. And which was named first?

How useful is an appendix? The answer will rely on which appendix you are referring to. The oldest definition dates back to the 1540s and related to the material added at the end of a book. ‘Appendix’ comes from the Latin ‘appendere’ meaning ‘to hang from something, to append’. Interestingly, a necklace pendant shares the same etymology.

Over time, appendix was used in anatomy to refer to the outgrowths of internal organs, especially applicable to the small organ which we call the appendix today. This organ has no known use, but it may have played a role in aiding digestion for our ancestors. Now we pay no attention to it, unless it becomes inflamed and we need an appendectomy.
Chances are you’d miss material at the end of a book more so than you’d miss a useless organ in your body. But what links both senses of appendix together is the notion they hang off the end of something.

No comments:

Post a Comment