Mark vs Cancer

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Intestinal Fortitude

During a big college football game this weekend, I watched a quarterback receive a vicious hit. As he lithely bounced back to his feet, the announcer commented on his "intestinal fortitude."

I reflected upon that curious phrase, and how it has come to have its current meaning in the lexicon of sports. I now bless you with my ruminations.

Intestinal fortitude: the phrase means "courage," "mental toughness" or "resiliency." But what do any of those things have to do with the healthiness of one's intestines?

What if the announcer instead had exclaimed, "Look at his tenacious colon!"?

Or, "My, what a durable duodedum!"

Or, "How about those hardy bowels!"

Similarly, we say a fearless person has a lot of "guts."

Is this some vestigial linguistic phenomenon, belying a medieval belief that a person's courage and constitution originate from the belly? That strength of soul is drawn into the body through the umbilicus?

I guess if personal valor depends upon abdominal girth, then the Mick's the bravest of us all.

From a physician's standpoint, I'm all in favor of intestinal fortitude. To that end, eat a high fiber diet, avoid processed meats, and get a screening colonoscopy after the age of fifty to make sure you don't have a developing cancer. If you do these simple things, then perpetual intestinal fortitude will be your likely destiny.

You may then be able to go and take a lickin' from a 300-pound linebacker, though it is unlikely you will quickly bounce back to your feet; unfortunately, despite the vim and vigor of your entrails, his whole body fortitude will undoubtedly far surpass your own.

So while you may take the hit, he'll probably knock the--shall we say, tar-- out of your fortitudinous intestines.

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