tibia

Ah, tibia and fibula… sounds like part of a wind section in an orchestra, or two sisters from a Russian story, no? And indeed tibia is the name for an ancient flute or flageolet. But that’s not its common use now. The tibia and fibula are the two leg bones between your knee and your foot; the tibia is the one in front. I came to know this word when I was twelve, in the phrase spiral fracture of the left tibia – which turns out to be a common enough injury among skiers whose bindings aren’t properly adjusted. Like me at the time.

But aside from being essential to such activities as walking, the tibia is a bone with a rather nice name, no? It has the pretty daintiness of tiara, which it also resembles in form, the b rising in the centre flanked by the diadems of the i‘s and on the sides the t and a. It sounds like a bone only a pretty girl could have: the petite edge of the ti at the beginning and the feminine ia ending… which is also seen on names of countries and other places. Could you see yourself flying from Namibia via Colombia to Tibia? My, that capital T makes it seem like the sister of Tiberius (and perhaps more harpy than ingenue). Well, it is a Latin word, anyway, come to us unchanged, no bones about it. Actually, two bones, one in each leg. But tibia or not tibia… couldn’t you just call it a shinbone? Of course: a nice, sturdy, masculine, Saxon word. But a shinbone is for kicking. No one kicks or breaks your tibia. It just wouldn’t be right.

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