Thursday, May 27, 2010




1 : one of the stiff hairs that are located especially about the nostrils or on other parts of the face in many mammals and that often serve as tactile organs
2 : one of the bristly feathers near the mouth of many and especially insectivorous birds that may help to prevent the escape of insects

Here is a list of all the words in my Random House Dictionary beginning with the prefix vib:


Like VIBRISSA, most* are derivative of the Latin vibrare—to brandish, to wave, to rock, to propel suddenly. Interestingly, many of these words are also suggestive of the sound that results from these movements. My VIBRISSAE (I adore the -ae plural form) unfortunately don't make any audible sounds when stimulated. Although, I imagine some mammalian whiskers of a greater length or girth could possibly become musical when plucked.

In the third or fourth grade our school nurse Mrs. Mcloughlin came into our classroom to lecture about personal hygiene (I know I referenced this lecture in a previous blog; forgive my redundancy). The two things I remember her talking about were:

1) Fully drying one's self off after a shower. "Don't just hop out and wrap the towel around yourself," she said, stressing the importance of drying all the body's crevices (that's my word choice, not hers). I remember thinking about how cold my mother's bathroom always was, and how I spent so much time drying every part of my body to avoid icicles forming. I couldn't imagine the luxury of just being able to casually wrap the towel around my wet body and move on with the day.

2) Not picking one's nose. Of course we all feigned disgust at the thought, even though every single one of us in that room had picked our nose, probably that day. Perhaps within the hour. She described the dangers of habitual nose-picking—how the agitation would eventually wear down the VIBRISSAE (although they probably didn't pay her enough to use that word) and without our nose hairs we risked the threat of inhaling potentially hazardous particles into our respiratory systems.

My nose-picking habit definitely waned after that day. Something about that speech stuck with me—I pictured my future hairless nose and an array of dirt being sucked into my lungs with every breath. I'm sure this is an over-exaggeration on Mcloughlin's (it must have been her married name because I don't remember her appearing particularly Irish) part, but it's so fascinating how adults can scare children into good habits. Fear is the same reason why I don't eat red meat, drink with moderation, do anything with moderation, wash my hands (ever), flush public toilets with my foot, wipe from front to back, and walk with confidence and a fast pace after dark—keys in hand before reaching the door.

If there was ever a day to think about your nose hairs, today is the day.

*With the exception of vibrio and vibriosis—referring to a bacterial venereal disease in cattle and sheep resulting in spontaneous abortion.

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