It was quiet. The silence was a normal thing here. The stench of formalin, that was unbearable at first, seemed ordinary now. My back was hurting and I felt as if I was turning into stone. I have been sitting here for the past 4 hours, meticulously working with a scalpel. My hand felt glued to the instrument, and all my attention belonged to it. If a non-medical student saw this, they would be terrified at how close my face was to the specimen. This was hard work. Dissecting was not something I enjoyed, but it was required to be done. I kept looking at the tiny red, and pink threads, tracing their path. When I think of it, it is fascinating how a bundle of threads are so powerful that they move the skeleton. They weave and braid, and run straight…
Many are horrified at dissection, but it is something medical students get used to very quickly. Their senses dull; their reason sharpens. I often had these thoughts, while preoccupied with my task of studying muscles. Usually, I worked alone in a tiny lab, with only the buzzing of the light disturbing the silence. However, sometimes another student, Selena, would join me. She is an energetic person, so whenever we worked together, she always tried talking to me or turning on music. One time, while I was working in a comfortable solitude, she opened the door and took her seat. She had earphones in, preparing her table and instruments. I was glad that I would not hear her music for once. We worked in peace for a bit, until she stopped her music and took her earphones out. “Do you want to hear a fun fact I read about yesterday?” she asked enthusiastically. Knowing her, I was aware that it was a rhetorical question, but answered anyway, “sure?”
“So, the word ‘muscle’ comes from ‘mouse’!” Selena said. “What? Why?” I asked. “Basically, it comes from ‘musculus’, which means ‘little mouse’ in Latin. They thought that the shape and contraction of some muscles, like the biceps, looked like a mouse,” continued my fellow student. I was confused and intrigued here. Yet, thinking about it, the biceps does kind of look like a mouse. And all those bundles of smaller muscles do too. “Interesting,” I murmured, tracing a wide band of muscle tissue. “What’s more, the Greeks also made that connection, calling muscles ‘mys’, which also meant ‘mouse’. That is also where we get the prefix ‘myo-’ from. Like, in myopathy. It doesn’t stop there, though!” Selena stopped for a second, removing a blood vessel to get a better view of some muscles. “Mhm, go on,” I said.
“Old Church Slavonic had ‘mysi’ and ‘mysica’ for ‘mouse’ and ‘arm’, respectively. German had ‘maus’ for both ‘muscle’ and ‘mouse’. Arabic had ‘adalah’ for ‘muscle’ and ‘adal” for ‘mouse’. I hope I pronounced all these correctly,” laughed Selena, before continuing. “Finally, Middle English also used ‘lacerte’, which is Latin for ‘lizard’ to describe a muscle,” she finished. I let out a laugh, “what does a lizard have to do with it?!” “I don’t know, but that is cool. All these languages basically had the same idea, which was passed down to English,” said Selena.
“Well, that certainly was a fun fact, but we should get back to studying our little mice,” I joked, pointing at my specimen on the table.