Sunday, September 15, 2013

Your Ugliest Colors

Though I must admit I picked a beautiful-sounding, beautiful-meaning
word to end on
, six months have passed since I last wrote a word-of-the-week post. Here, then, is a new one for you: a rather cute-sounding word whose only associations are incongruously vile.
bilirubin (bill-i-ROO-bin) — noun: a reddish-yellow water insoluble pigment occurring especially in bile and blood and causing jaundice if accumulated in excess.
Despite the fact that it sounds like a Robin Goodfellow-type who skips through the forest whistling a jaunty tune, bilirubin refers to something far less pleasant. What the above Merriam-Webster definition doesn’t make clear is helped along by Wikipedia, whose first paragraph plainly states that it’s what makes aging bruises turn sallow, what lends the “straw-yellow color” to urine, what turns feces brown and what paints jaundice victims yellow. See? The full range of foul — piss, shit, bile and pain. How there was never a punk singer named Billy Rubin, I’ll never know.

The word literally means “red bile,” with bili- being a German word part referring to bile and -rubin coming from the Latin ruber, “red.” And yes, there’s also a bile pigment biliverdin, and yes, it’s the one responsible for when your bruise turns greenish.

The human body is revoltingly beautiful.

Previous words of the week after the jump.

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