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Parts of the body
By Richard Sidaway
There are 50 trillion cells in the human body, 206 bones, 32 teeth, and more than five and a half litres of blood. There is also at least one part of the body for every letter of the English alphabet. Here are 25 of them. Can you guess what they are.?
A: This is a 10cm long piece of the intestines and nobody can really work out what it’s for. It’s probably a leftover from the days when our ancestors were vegetarian, and many people have it removed when it becomes infected.
B: A muscular bag which expands to collects urine from the kidneys. It can hold as much as half a litre before you have to go to the toilet. They used to be kicked around as footballs and played as musical instruments, although only after the animals had finished using them…
C: Some people have clefts in theirs, others let hair grow on them…You keep it up to recover from a misfortune, and use the word twice to toast someone.
D: The little depression which appears each side of your mouth when you smile is, like the ability to make a u-shape with your tongue, genetic. You’ve either got it, or you haven’t…
E: That most perfect of organs, the biologist’s best argument for natural selection, the window to the soul. In sleep, it is covered by a lid. Close one and you wink, close two and you blink. The third is a symbol of enlightenment.
F: People paint the nails to make themselves more attractive and put rings on them to signify alliance. They help us read if we cannot see, and help us speak when we cannot hear. They wrote these words…
G: I’ve always thought that this sounds like the name of a distinguished Roman Emperor, but it is in fact the most powerful muscle in the human body. There are two of them and chances are you’re probably sitting on them right now.
H: The size of a fist, it beats 70 times a minute without stopping for more than 60 years. So much more than just a pump for the blood, it symbolizes love and the centre of our being. It can be followed, broken, even worn on your sleeve!
I: It opens and closes in reaction to light and gives colour to the eye. It is now scanned to check people’s identity. The word comes from the woman in Greek mythology who personified the rainbow.
J: The bone that opens and closes the mouth and holds your teeth. It drops if you are shocked or surprised. Snakes can unlock theirs if they’re having a particularly big lunch.
K: Bend it and you get shorter, get down on it and you show respect. Footballers and skiers put it under great stress. Children and ventriloquists’ dummies tend to use it as a seat. It should jerk if you hit it with a small hammer.
L: Some people fill theirs with smoke, although they are supposed to be used for getting oxygen to the blood and removing carbon dioxide. The right one is bigger than the left one. They have enough airways to cover a tennis court.
M: There are 650 of these and we move when they get shorter. They often work in pairs. Some you can’t control at all. One you can, supposedly, is the tongue. It takes 17 of them to make a smile.
N: The ‘wires’ which pass messages to and from the brain to all parts of the body by using electrical pulses and chemical changes. If the blood to them gets cut off, they get irritated and the result is ‘pins and needles’. There are over 70km of them in the skin alone.
O: About the size of a nut, there are two of these organs which produce an unfertilised human egg every month or so for about thirty years. They also release the hormones which change girls into women.
P: This is the part of the body that can be moved sensually while dancing and led to the invention of Hawaiian grass skirts, rock ’n’ roll and the hula-hoop. It is larger in women for the purposes of childbirth only because humans insist on having such big heads.
R: Twelve pairs in both men and women form a cage to protect various vital organs inside. Some of them ‘float’ because they don’t meet in the middle. If you crack one, you just have to wait until it heals.
S: This is our surface covering. It takes a month for each new cell to move through the three layers to the top, after which it drops off. You lose about 50 kilos of it by the time you are 70. It comes in a variety of colours to protect us from the sun, and gets more wrinkled as we get older.
T: 60,000 litres of water pass down it in the average lifetime and sometimes you get a frog in it. It contains one pipe for food and one for air. Pressure on the outside can lead to strangulation, a blockage inside can cause suffocation.
U: The thing that hangs down at the back of your mouth. This is what you see when you yawn, and can sometimes cause people to snore when they are asleep.
V: This makes your blood look blue. Medical professionals use them if they need to extract a specimen for testing. They can become inflamed or varicose if you spend too much time in one position.
W: A joint that links fifteen separate bones. It is used to hang an accessory for telling the time, or one to persuade you to accompany the police to the station.
X: A long continuous piece of DNA, containing around 1,000 genes, this is one of the 23 pairs that are found in human cells. Women have two of them, men one.
Y: A long continuous piece of DNA, containing between 70 and 300 genes. Its sequence has now been mapped by the Human Genome Project. It is found only inside the cells of the male of the species.
Z: If you’ve never heard of this, then you’re probably not the only one. Nor had I until I found out it’s another name for the cheekbone.