(Bigstock photos/illustration by Alla Dreyvitser/The Washington Post)

Whether you’re reading this at the breakfast table, on the couch or in the bathtub, there is something I know about you at this very moment. Are you ready? Your epidermis is showing! What? Where? Wait a minute; what’s an epidermis?

I don’t remember the first time I heard that joke, but it’s been around for a long time. Epidermis is the medical name for the outer layer of skin. So unless you’re hiding under a blanket or wrapped like a mummy, your epidermis is always showing.

But what about your medulla oblongata? Is that on display as well? I hope not, because the medulla is part of the brain. That means it is (hopefully) tucked inside your skull, where it belongs. The medulla is responsible for such basic bodily functions as breathing and digesting.

Let’s investigate some other body parts.

Uvula: This is the fleshy pink tissue that hangs from the roof of your mouth. (It looks a little like a punching bag.) The uvula is pushed against your throat when you swallow. That prevents food and liquid from passing into your nasal cavity.

Gluteus maximus: Not only is this the largest muscle in the body, but there’s a good chance you’re sitting on it right now. (It’s the muscle in your butt.)

Patella: This protects your knee when you bend your leg, and you protect it by wearing kneepads if you ride a scooter or a skateboard. It’s your kneecap.

Axilla: This part of the human body rhymes with gorilla and can smell just as bad. (No offense to any gorillas reading today’s column.) It’s your armpit.

Coccyx: This is your tailbone. Most people have no idea they have a tailbone. They will if they fall down and bruise it, however.

Umbilicus: This is the name for the navel, which is more commonly referred to as the belly button. Have you ever eaten a navel orange? That delicious fruit got its name because the dimple on top resembles an umbilicus.

Philtrum: If you feel the area between your nose and the middle of your upper lip, you will notice an indentation in the skin. That is the philtrum. In many mammals, it helps keep the animal’s nose moist. In humans, it doesn’t do anything except collect snot in the youngest members of our species.

Humerus: There are two bones in your forearm (radius and ulna) and there’s one in your upper arm (humerus). If you hit your funny bone, it’s not the humerus that you’ve injured. Instead, you have banged the ulnar nerve, which lies in an unprotected position as it passes by the elbow.

Nares: Parents are always telling their kids not to pick their scabs or their nose. Which suggestion refers to the nares? If you said the two openings of your nose, you’re correct.

I’ve been working so hard on this article that my phalanges (fingers) hurt from typing, my mandible (jaw) aches from clenching my teeth and my cervical spine (neck) has a crick in it from hunching over the computer.

Howard J. Bennett

Bennett is a Washington pediatrician. His Web site, www.howardjbennett.
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