Monday, July 25, 2011
Hot and Hazy: Man Boobs and other Rambles, The Series Continues
Even so, it has been a blast furnace out there for several days, and since the "out there" I have been in the most is backwoods, I made a couple concessions to the hot and broke my rule. Doing so was not without reluctance, but a week ago I was on a trail where over the many moments I have walked it, I have almost never met another hiker and it had been months since that last "almost never" occurred. It seemed safe to throw caution, and my shirt, to the wind and I must say the shade of the forest did feel good on my bare skin.
I was indeed enjoying this freedom when what to my wandering eyes should appear, but a lady and two tiny reind...I mean, two dogs, neither really tiny, coming up the path toward me.
Oh well, nothing to do but step aside, blush, and let the lady and her pooches pass. We spoke briefly as polite people do and went our separate ways.
Okay, why are we talking about bare chests today anyway. It is because in a recent Post on his Blog, "Retired in Delaware", my life-long friend Ron complained he was getting "man boobs" (sometimes called "moobs"). On the right is the photo he posted as proof of his getting this condition plus a paunch. But before we deal with how if he thinks this he has a very vivid imagination, we probably should take a look at the word "boob" and gain some insight into it and this thing called "man boobs".
The word was once considered somewhat vulgar, but it has grown to such common overuse you barely go a day without hearing or seeing it, especially on the boob tube. For some of a newer generation who may think boob tube is some sort of pornographic peep show on the Internet, the term came into being about fifty years ago to describe television. Therefore, we see the word was in the common vocabulary decades ago. It is a stupid sounding word — boob — and that was its meaning during the years of my youth. If you did something stupid, you were a "boob". Crazy people were put in a "booby hatch", because they had to be restrained from doing stupid things. These terms had a different origin and had nothing to do with chests.
Boob, meaning fool, is a corruption of the Spanish for stupid, "bobo". It actually traces to the Latin word "balbus". Balbus didn't mean stupid, it meant stammering, but since the Romans thought anyone who stammered was stupid, it is virtually the same thing. Anybody ever read I, Claudius or see the PBS series based on it? Claudius had a bad stammer so everyone thought he was a moron until he became emperor.
Boob, meaning breast, has a different etymology, not Spanish nor Latin. Actually, there are some varied opinions. Some think it came from the buboes, the swelling of lymph glads, during the bubonic plague. Others place the blame on a 1762 novel by Henry Fielding, where a woman named Lady Booby tried to seduce the hero by exposing her breasts. Since the word boob or booby didn't really come into popular usage until the mid-1900s I rather discount this theory. Somehow I don't think a lot of people were reading, Fielding s' The History of Joseph Andrews in the 1930s and '40s.
The word "bubby" came about in the 1930s and over the next couple decades turned into "booby" and "boob". "Bubby" came from the German word "Bubbi", and remember Germany was a country much watched in the 'thirties. "Bubbi" means "teat" and "teat" means basically a nipple or the part of a mammal where it's young can drink milk. Teat was a fairly common term in farm country when I was a boy.
Fine, students, history lesson is over, let's get to the heart of his matter of "man boobs".
This term probably became popular in our lexicon after a particular Seinfeld episode concerning a problem of George's father and the invention of the Manssiere or Bro. It is a condition many of we males experience with age as years of gravity, decline of exercise and possible overeating have their way with our bodies. (Remember when Arnold had six-pack abs instead of looking like there were too many six-packs inside the abs.) Yes, sad but true, for many of us our once defined hard pecs become round and soft and resemble women's breasts. It generally does go as a set with a growing paunch. Look at my friend's photo again and you'll see he has pretty much failed the test of true man boobs and paunch. But he is young yet, only 69, he still has time to grow that belly and droop that chest.
In truth, this condition my friend is concerned about isn't really man boobs. It is just some flab and weakening muscle tone. There is a medical condition of man boobs called "Gynecomastia" caused by possible hormonal imbalances or other health issues and sometimes by medications. Men suffering from Gynecomastia can develop quite impressive breasts.
If Ron is concerned, he need only compare himself to Arnold. He has a long way to go to boast of a paunch of such worthwhile note.
I've always felt I had a body build by a government committee. More about that next time.
TO BE CONTINUED -- NEXT: I Sing the Body Elastic.