Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Wednesday Word: Trepanning

This week's Word is one of my favorites, but it's not often that one gets to use it. Trepanning, after all, refers to something very specific. I asked Mr. Sierra if he knew what it meant.

"What? No," he said. He looked suspicious, as though my asking was some kind of set up. And he'd be right to be suspicious.

"You know. It means to drill a hole in one's head," I said. "People used to do it all the time."

He fixed me with a Look that I have come to find some familiarity with. "No. No, I can honestly say I did not know what trepanning is, or why anyone might want to do it."

"To relieve pressure, of course!" I said. "Or to mark your fellow tribe-mates."

"I'll just be over here," he said, and promptly went to the closet to get a hat, presumably to protect his pate from trepanning attempts. Which was silly. Silly.

Those of you who have read Philip Pullman's The Golden Compass (and if you haven't, you really should) will remember that the skull in the beginning of the book was trepanned. I should add at this juncture that trepanned and trepan aren't really words. The correct usage includes trepanation and trephining, according to Wikipedia, but then again, usage doesn't seem to be a big concern with this word.

I think I like the word because it refers to something so odd: to drill a sizable hole in one's skull. While you're still alive. Usually while you're conscious. Apparently it's an ancient art, practiced for centuries and usually among people who were conscious. Oh yes, the beauty of trepanation is in the execution -- er ah, perhaps that's a bad word. I mean, the trick is to drill without any pain. Um, okay. Whatevs. You can count me out, man. (Say that in the style of Hudson from Aliens.)

Trepanning was apparently performed for medical or mystical purposes. Or, if you're demented, it was a recreational art. In fact, supposedly the founder of the International Trepanation Advocacy Group trepanned himself.

Probably, it's best to use trapanation/trepanning in context as a bit of an exaggeration when talking about headaches.



Yvonne Osborne said...

I love words and their varied meanings. This is a new one for me. There are people who I work with that should be trepanned. And thanks for your interview yesterday. Very good!

Clarissa Draper said...

Okay!? I think the word is wonderful but I'm not sure I'd like that happening to me. I love to learn new things everyday. THank you.


Lt. Cccyxx said...

I know I have some thoughts on this word, but they escape me.

JEM said...

Let's be honest, who doesn't enjoy a little trepanning now and then?

Linda G. said...

Ha! Reminds me of how Mason died in the short-lived TV series "Dead Like Me." Loved that show. It was quirky, and a little warped. Kinda like me. ;)

Jck said...

There's a hole in my head!

Sierra Godfrey said...

When I wrote up this post last night, I thought for sure everyone would be disgusted and bored. (Get it? Bored? HA HA!) But I'm glad you all delight in this word too. JEM, I nearly pissed myself: indeed, who doesn't enjoy a little trepanning now and then?

Travener said...

People are just weird. They do the damnedest things to themselves.

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