A Sense of Humor


A team of scientists at the University of Bristol have been studying this dinosaur’s cloaca. Most vertebrates, such as birds and living reptiles, have a cloaca, the common opening for defecation, urination, and breeding. One reason I studied biology was to enjoy the metaphors scientists use to identify the anatomical parts of plants and animals. The most humorous to me is the word “cloaca.” In Latin, it means sewer.

Although Miriam bat Isaac’s native language was Koine Greek, the language of the Septuagint and New Testament, as a learned woman in Roman-occupied Alexandria, she’d been tutored in Latin. In fact, her tutor would brag to her father that she knew Latin so well she could masquerade as the emperor’s wife. And so, in The Deadliest Lie, when she describes the agora, the city’s central marketplace, she uses the word cloaca:

The agora is both the heart of the city and its cloaca of gossip, the venue for seeing and being seen, for hearing and being heard. Like the legendary agoras in the Greek city-states, ours consists of a series of long, low buildings that face a central plaza, each building or stoa fronted by a portico to shade and shelter its shoppers. Within the stoas and their adjoining small buildings are shops, fast-food restaurants, small inns, and industrial workshops.

Well, you can go to Miriam’s agora without stepping into a sewer. Just check out her novels; most have won awards. To pick one, click here.

[Note: Thanks to my friend, Professor emerita Rosemary Millham for sharing the research on this dinosaur with me.]

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