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Laryngeal Protuberance: Of Adam’s Apple and the forbidden fruit


An empiricist or a modern atheist would say it is common wisdom that the name of the bump on the front of the neck—which is found in all humans but is usually more prominent in men—has nothing to do with Adam or Eve or the Garden of Eden.

By Sanjoo Thangjam

Most people are of the opinion that the origin of this noun having two words goes all the way back to Biblical times. It is said that the first woman on earth Eve gave the first man Adam a forbidden fruit. The given fruit is commonly misrepresented as an apple. It is believed that when Adam ate the “apple”, it got stuck in his throat.

Whether or not, the fruit that Adam ate was Apple or some other fruit is still stuck in a controversy. Many have argued that according to the Bible, what Eve gave to Adam to eat was not an apple but it was a fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Besides the obvious fact that I don’t know anyone who’s felt particularly more knowledgeable in the ways of good and evil when they ate an apple. Here we should remember that an apple tree is not self-pollinating; so you’d need more than one to have it produce more of itself, which pretty firmly kills the whole “apple tree” theory. And this is the opinion of many.

We know that both human sexes, regardless of the angle, the primary function of the Adam’s Apple as we know is the same as that of the thyroid cartilage which it comprises, to protect the vocal cords immediately behind it.

It has become common knowledge that everyone’s larynx grows during puberty, but a girl’s larynx doesn’t grow as much as a boy’s does. That’s why boys have Adam’s apples. Most girls don’t have Adam’s apples, but some do. It’s no big deal either way.

Merriam Webster, considered America’s most trusted dictionary available offline and online in its Word History section says that based on a story supposedly developed out Biblical sources, “God made a chunk of apple get stuck in Adam’s throat as a reminder of his sin—and the reminder was then passed on to all men ever after, with the moniker “Adam’s apple” attached to make sure no one forgets”.

But an empiricist or a modern atheist would say it is common wisdom that the name of the bump on the front of the neck—which is found in all humans but is usually more prominent in men—has nothing to do with Adam or Eve or the Garden of Eden.

Trying to trace the origin of this noun – Adam’s apple (technically called laryngeal protuberance) is formed by the largest cartilage of the larynx. The usage of the noun has been used in English language since 1625. In French, called laryngeal protuberance is called pomme d’Adam or morceau d’Adam while Italians called it pomo d’Adamo; the Germans called it Adamsapfel. European writers used Latin variations on the same theme—pomum Adam, pomum Adami, Adami pomum, etc. —for various fruits, among them the cherished pomegranate, says Merriam Webster.

It is also mentioned that medieval Arab medical writers “were dealing with throat anatomy by way of analogy with the same fruit, and they settled on “pomegranate” as a name for the laryngeal protuberance. What inspired the name is unknown. Was it physical resemblance—did the texture of the skin of the pomegranate remind them of the texture of the skin covering the protuberance? Or was it something symbolic? The pomegranate has long been a potent symbol in literature and religion: the biblical King Solomon had an orchard of pomegranates; in Greek mythology, it was Persephone’s act of eating a single pomegranate seed in the underworld that doomed her forever to spend 1/3 of every year in Hades; and the prophet Muhammad reportedly recommended pomegranates: “Eat the pomegranate, for it purges the system of envy and hatred.”

Merriam Webster quotes an explanation by John Purcell who was a doctor of medicine in 1707:

… an eminence or protuberance plain to be felt and seen in the neck, which several anatomists call Pomum Adami or, the Apple of Adam, from a vulgar superstitious notion that when Adam eat the forbidden Apple it stuck in his Throat, and that God to perpetuate the memory of this his offence plac’d the like protuberance in the throats of all his posterity; which is not quite so apparent in Women, because, say they, the Crime of Eve was less….”

Merriam Webster further corrected John Purcell stating that the laryngeal protuberance had been called Adam’s Apple not because what he ate was an apple as the Latin term for the same protuberance has been referred to as pomegranate.

The arguments provided above however does not change the reality of laryngeal protuberance as we have read and understood here. So one can call the same part of the male anatomy as Adam’s Pomegranate. And other nations around the world will call the same by different names with or without any fruits for that matters.

(The writer is a journalist based in Imphal)


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