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Thursday, March 29, 2012

Etymology of the Day: Orchiectomy

Posted by on Thu, Mar 29, 2012 at 11:52 AM

Our man in Thailand (formerly known as our man in Vietnam) sent a photo of a newspaper ad that contained a word I hadn't seen before: orchiectomy.

  • c.

So how did "orchid" and "testicles" get so close? Bam!


1845, introduced by John Lindley in "School Botanty," from Mod.L. Orchideæ (Linnaeus), the plant's family name, from L. orchis, a kind of orchid, from Gk. orkhis (gen. orkheos) "orchid," lit. "testicle," from PIE *orghi-, the standard root for "testicle" (cf. Avestan erezi "testicles," Arm. orjik, M.Ir. uirgge, Ir. uirge "testicle," Lith. erzilas "stallion"). The plant so called because of the shape of its root. Earlier in English in Latin form, orchis (1560s), and in M.E. it was ballockwort (c.1300; see ballocks). Marred by extraneous -d- in attempt to extract the Latin stem.


Comments (15) RSS

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Zebes 1
Spoilers for people who just want to know what it is without having to click to a link of pictures of balls being sliced up: "Removal of the testicles."
Posted by Zebes on March 29, 2012 at 11:59 AM · Report this
I am surprised to see it advertised as I wouldn't think it would be a procedure most people would undergo voluntarily. I actually had an orchiectomy when I was infant because I was born intersexed. The condition I have, PAIS (Partial Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome) means (in short) that I have XY chromosomes and was born with testes in my abdomen, but because I can not process androgrens (forms of testosterone), my body has (mostly) defaulted to a female form. When this was discovered at 12 months during an investigation into dual inguinal hernias I had, they removed the testes with my parents consent.

While they wouldn't have done me a lot of good, I do wish they had told me about it and let me make my own decisions about my body when I was older, but I understand they were acting out of love and what they thought was best for me (undescended testes in the abdomen are at a higher risk of cancer - that risk is, imo, often overstated).

My support group uses the orchid as our symbol - a beautiful type of flower with some interesting and sometimes in-congruent physical properties. I have known of this term for a while as an intersex activist but I was surprised to see it here - thanks for looking it up!
Posted by DevoutAtheist on March 29, 2012 at 12:01 PM · Report this
Fnarf 3
Also known as "Bert Cooper syndrome".
Posted by Fnarf on March 29, 2012 at 12:09 PM · Report this
Geocrackr 4
@3 Exactly what I was thinking. Brendan, you obviously didn't watch Mad Men S4.
Posted by Geocrackr on March 29, 2012 at 12:16 PM · Report this
alithea 5
"" is funnier to me than it should be i think?
Posted by alithea on March 29, 2012 at 12:36 PM · Report this
US $125 is a bargain! I wonder if that includes anesthesia.
Posted by jnonymous on March 29, 2012 at 12:48 PM · Report this
@ 2. Thanks for sharing. That's quite a story.

Incidentally, I know a person who has been in an audience at an underground kink club (overseas) and saw an *eroticized* orchiectomy performed on a stage—if I remember correctly, the person undergoing the procedure was awake.

So not only do some people voluntarily undergo the procedure, in at least one reported case, it's been a form of entertainment. There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, etc.
Posted by Brendan Kiley on March 29, 2012 at 1:00 PM · Report this
thatsnotright 8
Curtrate sex change sounds like something from "Desparate Living."
Posted by thatsnotright on March 29, 2012 at 1:06 PM · Report this
Allyn 9
WebMD -
Side effects from hormone changes include:

Sorry to be crass, but it seems sterility would have been achieved by the removal of the testicles and not so much by the subsequent hormonal changes, no?
Posted by Allyn on March 29, 2012 at 1:07 PM · Report this
Stiny 10
Also, orchid plants have seeds that are all but microscopic. For centuries, there was a myth that orchid plants had no seeds at all, and that they sprung from the spilled semen of mating animals.
Posted by Stiny on March 29, 2012 at 3:50 PM · Report this
@2: An orchiectomy is one means by which a trans woman can manage/reduce/eliminate testosterone. It can be an alternative to taking potentially large amounts of anti-androgen drugs, which can have serious side effects for some people. Even in the US, an orchiectomy is significantly cheaper than a vaginoplasty.
Posted by digitalwitch on March 29, 2012 at 4:19 PM · Report this
JonnoN 12
Orchiectomy is standard treatment for testicular cancer. Hopefully just one. Testicular cancer has a 90% survival rate these days. Check for lumps regularly :)
Posted by JonnoN on March 29, 2012 at 5:43 PM · Report this
Megan 13
All these thoughtful comments... And I just want to go back to calling orchids ballockworts. Middle English FTW!
Posted by Megan on March 29, 2012 at 6:25 PM · Report this
They should make that a "two for" price.
Posted by Anastasia Beaverhausen on March 29, 2012 at 6:57 PM · Report this
thatsnotright 15
@14 BOGO
Posted by thatsnotright on March 29, 2012 at 8:12 PM · Report this

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