Thursday, July 20, 2006

Nobody Nose . . .

Q. This may sound a bit crude, but is there a technical term for nose-picking?

A. You mean like going through a proboscis catalogue at your plastic surgeon's office? No, I guess you mean booger mining, as my granddaughter calls it.

Believe it or not, there is such a word: rhinotillexomania. It may be an imaginative creation, but an article actually appeared in Volume 62 (2001) of the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry using the word in its title: A Preliminary Survey of Rhinotillexomania in an Adolescent Sample by Chittaranjan Andrade, M.D., and B. S. Srihari, M.B.B.S.

Their conclusion was "Nose picking is common in adolescents." No elaborate scientific study needed, people; just look under any school desk in America.

A fixated publication, that Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. It had already run an article in Volume 56 (1995), entitled Rhinotillexomania: psychiatric disorder or habit? by
J.W. Jefferson and T.D. Thompson.

Nothing on amychopygomania, though.

Then a related question was called in:

Q. Snot isn't a real word, is it?

A. But if it's snot, what is it? Slang words or dialectical terms are real words, even if they don't fit comfortably in all social situations. Besides, snot (meaning mucus) has been spelled that way since Middle English (along with snotte), and derives from the Old English word gesnot.

An interesting sidebar: did you ever notice how many words relating to the nose begin with the letters s-n- ? We have snout, snuffle, snort, snore, sneer, snuff, sniffle, snoot, snootful, snivelling, sneeze, snub, snot, snot-rag, and snotcicle. It's no accident. There's an Indo-European root snu- that is responsible for many "nose" words (the ones just listed, plus terms such as schnoz and schnauzer). Nobody nose the troubles I've seen.

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