E Pluribus Mores

Etiology comes to the Knucklehole

In The Classics on December 18, 2008 at 10:56 am

etiology 1: CAUSE, ORIGIN; specif: all of the causes of a disease or abnormal condition, 2: a branch of knowledge dealing with causes.

–Webster’s Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary

My reader(s?) often asks me, what is the etymology of the term Knucklehole? Many believe that ‘knucklehole’ was coined by Olivia in reference to Dave and Lesly’s unfinished downstairs bathroom. But some suggest the name goes back much further to a term for an alcove in the lower levels of a Roman Townhouse located off the storage room and above the cloaca maxima. For centuries the room was only known by oblique references from graffiti and innuendo. But Roman archeologists have recently unearthed a fragment from a first century mime comedy entitled, The Knukelarium. The fragment, translating roughly to “Livia, honey, you forgot to buy sponges, again,” has sent shockwaves throughout the classical world. While many have taken the fragment to be authentic, there have been skeptics. At a recent panel of experts one scholar suggested to the archeologist that “perhaps ‘Odysseus’ should lay off the lotus for a while.” The archeologist responded that he would go “Catullus XVI on his ass,” if he cast doubts on the veracity of the discovery. The scholar retorted, “You show me your sparrow, and I’ll show you mine.” The archeologist shot back, “quis custodiet custodies.” The scholar then stated that the reference made no sense whatsoever, and “besides, there Wilamovitz, it’s ‘custodes.’” It was then witnesses say all Vesuvius broke loose. The archeologist suggested that the gentleman could stuff the fragment up his domus aureus, to which the scholar responded, “Whatever collapses your boat, Neee-ro.” At that, the archeologist showed him some figs and stomped out. Other experts on the panel agreed that archeologists weren’t really classicists, anyway, and that parts of the exchange had been juvenal.


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