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According to The New Penguin English Dictionary, the abdomen is the part of the body between the thorax and the pelvis. Until I read this definition, I never realized that I didn’t really know what the thorax was. I knew it was a part of animals’ bodies, but I couldn’t tell you what part it was and where that part began and ended. So this definition wasn’t of much help to me.

Rather than just sloughing it off and moving on, I greatly surprised myself by deciding to do a little work to find out more about the thorax. Namely, I looked up the definition of thorax in the same dictionary. Guess what? Apparently, the thorax is the part of the body between the neck and … wait for it … the abdomen.

Oh, wow. That was not a lot of help seeing as though I got there because I was trying to better understand the definition of abdomen.

Besides, couldn’t they come up with a definition that relates the abdomen solely to body parts I can see without the benefit of a scalpel? I have no problem locating, say, my waist, belly button and nipples. (Stop tittering like a schoolgirl. Men have nipples too and they are perfectly natural body parts whether on a man or a woman.)

Rather than using references to internal organs, I’d prefer that they say that it is within the body, from a position underneath this external body part and running until a position underneath that external body part, whatever those external body parts might be. Dictionary authors might have to use expressions like “a little below this body part when you are standing up” or “a little above that body part when you are standing up” if there are no external body parts that precisely demarcate the abdomen, but that would be precise enough for me.

With that sort of definition in hand, I could strip down and get a good sense of where the abdomen is. But please don’t give me the definition while I’m standing in a public place because I could get arrested for stripping down there. And I might make some people nauseated. But enough about my body.

The definition goes on to say that the abdomen “contains the liver, gut, etc.” Etc.? Is that the best they can do? If I’m interested enough to want to learn that the abdomen contains the liver and gut, I’m also interested enough to want to know precisely what else it contains. I don’t want to hear the formal, abbreviated equivalent of “blah, blah, blah.”

Instead, I want to know if there are any other important body parts in the abdomen that might get damaged if I’m not careful when I do abdominal crunches in the gym. That information would be particularly useful and welcome if it gives me an excuse to not do abdominal crunches in the gym, or anywhere else for that matter.

Insects and other arthropods also have abdomens, but in their cases it’s in the rear of their bodies behind their … you guessed it … thoraxes. However, unless you are an entomologist, you probably don’t care about that in the least. I know I don’t.

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