Breast Feeding Week in Kāpiti has just come and gone. It was a delight to see four breast-feeding mums in one of our local papers.
The breast is a very important part of a woman’s body and two special advantages of breast feeding baby need to be kept in mind: the woman’s figure is likely to be regained more quickly; and, even more importantly, baby gets a better start in life; is strengthened against disease.
Here in Paraparaumu, from time to time a Breast Screening Service is offered often in a bus parked outside a shopping mall. Much is done to help women to help themselves keep their breasts in good order, and the mammogram, the result of a radiograph, shows what’s going on inside.
But what do we have here? Why a mammogram for a breast? Because we’ve stepped into the Latin, mamma. If things are looking a bit worse we need a mastectomy – from Greek, mastos.
We take this stepping from original English words, through Latin and then Greek, over and over again in the medical field.
Breast from Old English breost, has as its root meaning a swelling, a bursting forth. We use the word in metaphor as in ‘beat the breast in remorse’, ‘keep abreast of the work’ and ‘make a clean breast of things’.
In Latin breast is mamma. Mammals are those creatures which feed their young by suckling; mammology is the study of the breast; mammograph is a radiograph of the breast; mammogram
the result of that mammograph; and finally, the very important mammoplasty, an altering of the shape of a breast by surgery, from plasticos, a moulding.
There’s more: a small, spiny cactus globular called mammillaria because it has little red flowers in an aureole at the top, like a nipple. Also, some species produce milky sap. This plant is well named after the breast.
In Greek, breast is mastos. This gives us mastitis, inflammation, -itis, in the breast which can be caused by an infection through a cracked nipple usually while feeding. Mastitis is also found in the udder and is an agricultural problem. Mastectomy is the cutting out, -ectomy, the amputation of the breast.
But there are some words to giggle at. Take mastoid, for instance. Find your mastoid by putting two fingers behind your ear. There you will feel a bony projection called a mastoid: it is shaped like, -oid, a breast. Mastoiditis is very painful.
It’s time to have a little smile now, to brighten up a bit. Let’s look at the naming of the mastodon, now extinct. The remains of these mighty creatures show a special feature: on each molar tooth -odon there are projectios, each one shaped like a breast. breast + don
And now for a bit of legend: The Amazons were a legendary race of female warriors whom the ancients believed lived in Pontus near the Black Sea in south east Europe. They were governed by a queen and made warlike excursions into adjoining lands. They were a- without a breast, masos, a variant spelling of mastos. They were supposed to have cut off their right breasts to use the bow for warfare and hunting.no