Thursday, 5 December 2013

Buttock - A Cheeky Glimpse at the Glutes

A buttock, with another buttock to the right. Collectively, these are known as buttocks
(photo by Mislav Marohnic)


Noun & verb.
[Old English buttuc: see BUTT noun, -OCK.]

A(1) noun. obsolete. = BUTT noun. Only in OE

A(2) noun. Either of the two fleshy protuberances on the lower rear part of the human body;
a corresponding part of an animal. Usually in plural. ME

A(3) NAUTICAL. noun. The breadth of a ship where the hull rounds down to the stern. E17

A(4) WRESTLING. noun. A throw using the buttocks or hip. L17

A(5) MINING. noun. A break in the line of a coalface, from which coal is being broken out. L19

B(1) verb trans. obsolete. Overtake (a horse) in a race. Only in E17

B(2) WRESTLING. verb trans. Throw by a manoeuvre using the buttocks or hip. L19

buttocked adjective having buttocks (of a specific kind). LME

Three youths in Napoli
Wilhelm von Gloedon (1856-1931)
Buttock: is this really an interesting word, or just an excuse to show gratuitous pictures of the human posterior for the purpose of base titillation in the hope of grabbing a few more blog hits? Well, buttock is both an interesting and jolly old word, having remained virtually unchanged from its Old English root of buttuc (and who of us wouldn't be pleased if our literal buttocks showed such little signs of aging?). Unsurprisingly, it's related to its synonym butt, from Middle English, and originally meaning 'a short piece of land'. This is curious because butt (meaning bum) sounds very North American to British and Irish ears, and anything North American is often considered to be new. Therefore, if you've ever thought "Why do Americans have to say butt? Why can't they be happy with good, old-fashioned buttocks like the rest of us?", then you may have had a point, but you're making it several hundred (maybe 500) years too late; both buttocks and butt are very old words indeed.

Right, now that we've got all of that etymological, lexicological, high-brow stuff out of the way, we can move on to what everyone's really been waiting for: talking about bums. After all, not one of you clicked on this link, looked up this word, or opened this page thinking: "Hmm. You know what? I'd really like to know the origin of the word buttock." Ha! Busted! Fortunately, buttocks are rather interesting - culturally, anatomically, historically and linguistically - so there's plenty to talk about without reverting to childish bottom-of-the-barrel puns.

Linguistically, the buttocks have a rather dazzling number of synonyms, from the crude to the quaint to the downright bizarre. Some of the less well known include fundament, nates, duff, caboose and, if you're feeling cultured, derrière. Together with this multitude of words for bum, the buttocks have also given us some phonetically marvelous bum-related terms, including the majestic intergluteal cleft, the positively gladiatorial gluteus maximus, and the divinely Grecian callipygian, which is 'pertaining to having well-shaped buttocks'.

Culturally and historically, too, the buttocks are significant - the ancient figurine The Venus of Willendorf, with its exaggerated keister, suggests that they were important to whatever culture made it (although its ultimate purpose and origin is obscure). Other cultures have attached varying degrees of significance to the posterior, with both the ancient Greeks and Chinese having viewed it as erotically important. In modern times, some commentators have noted a resurgence in the sexualisation of the buttocks, with author Ray B. Browne positing that this is connected to the rise of denim jeans, with their close, bottom-hugging fit and the tendency for labels and pockets to be placed directly onto the bum. Not everyone appreciates such gluteal glimpses, however, with the infamous builder's bum (or plumber's butt if you're American) turning the hardiest of stomachs and at times even warranting official crackdowns. Tushé.

A polar bear's buttocks. And a very brave photographer
(photo by Valerie's Zoo)

Do you have any fun, buttock-related trivia that you'd like to share?

Do please comment below ... I mean at the bottom ... I mean down ... oh I give up.


  1. Aw, a bare bear bum. My favourite picture in all of this post.

    Back in uni, I had this friend who, upon meeting a guy for the first time, always looked at his ass before anything else. Something about "checking his physical abilities". I don't know, I don't do sports.

    1. Bibi! That's much better than my caption! 'Bear bares bare bum'.


      I suppose it's too late to delete your comment, change the caption on the picture as if it was all mine, and hope nobody notices, right?

    2. Und thus undermine my position as witty Belgian blogger? Not a chance.

    3. Impossible. You're un-undermineabable.

  2. I had been waiting for this post since the one about boobs.

    Well... What can I say? Tight, well shaped buttocks never seem to go unnoticed!

    1. Such expectation, Evi! I didn't realise I was working under such pressure.

      Actually, I had viewed 'buttocks' as a requested word, as I think there were a few comments around the time of 'boobgate' to the effect of "Well I guess you'll be covering buttocks now, won't you!"

  3. I don't have buttocks. My legs just sort of fade away near the top. It makes the Tango particularly challenging, and don't even talk to me about twerking.

    Sometimes my friends question why I chose to be a part-time beyonce lookalike, and I tell them they can kiss my lower back.


    1. Twerking! Of course ... *notes down 'twerking' as a requested word from C* ... (my brother thought that twerking meant 'to tweet while you work') ...

      Oh sorry - you did say not to talk to you about twerking, and I've done nothing butt ...

      That was funny, wasn't it? Nothing butt...? No? Too soon? OK.

  4. Thank you for providing an answer to a question my doctor couldn't: intergluteal cleft. It might not be an actual medical term, but it certainly sounds like one.

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