Wednesday Word: Marrow

Roasted Bone Marrow - mmmmmmm!

Okay, I’m going to show my musical taste er, age, here…

Carol King once sang in Home Again, “Chills my soul right down to the marrow.”

Crosby, Stills and Nash gave us “Thrill me to the marrow” in Suite: Judy Blue Eyes.

While I’m sure the chill/thrill rhyme is coincidental, these were both amazing songs. And as Arlo Guthrie intoned in Alice’s Restaurant Masacree:

But that’s not what I came to tell you about.

Marrow. We don’t think about it much. But it keeps us alive, producing vital bloods cells. I did think about marrow a while back, when a friend was getting a bone marrow transplant. Basically, in layman’s terms, the doctors killed him, then brought him back with someone else’s DNA in his bone marrow, hoping everything would be fine (it was).

But that’s not what I came to tell you about.

I want to present the word marrow as our Wednesday word. I had to translate the word marrow the other day and well, let’s just say that although I’m quite fluent in Palawano, the word for marrow was not right on the tip on my tongue. In fact, I had never learned it Or heard it. Ever. It just hasn’t come up in the last 28 years. So I discussed it with my translation helpers and they told me that marrow was, literally, the “brain of the bone.”


Okay. That was a great example to me of where each language’s right to have unique areas of meaning shone through. But then I learned that in Tagalog, another language here in the Philippines, marrow is “brain of the bone,” as well. Okay. Those are related languages. Not too surprising.

I dug around and learned that our English word medulla came from Middle English, the original being the Latin for “pith, marrow.” And our medical terms for marrow include medulla. I had always thought medulla was part of the brain. And so it is. Medulla can also be short for medulla oblongata, which is where the spinal cord becomes the brainstem.

Okay. Medulla, marrow, brainstem, brain of the bone. Now I went from being surprised at an oddity to being amazed at how certain aspects of this oddity were shared by totally unrelated languages.

Then again, Marrow is a character connected with the X-Men. Marrow is also a kind of squash.

Marrow is even a colloquial term for “friend” in Cumbria.

But that’s not what I came to tell you about.


About Bill Davis

Writer, speaker and translation and language learning consultant. I write technical articles, poetry and humor, and I am working on my first novel which is set on the island of Palawan in the Philippines.
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3 Responses to Wednesday Word: Marrow

  1. Kevin says:

    Hey Bill,

    That was good. Strange how, like you said that words are the same in different languages. Very I ferreting…I love the meaning of marrow… brain of the bone. Very descriptive!

    Well have a great week…. Kevin

  2. GOwin says:

    Yum! That looks deadly. Where are they serving that in Palawan?

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