I Haven’t Got the Stomach for It

After writing yesterday about how the word revolting comes from the stomach (not literally: that’d be, well, revolting), I was thinking about just how much of a role that organ plays in the English language.

The whole body is fairly well represented of course. And that makes sense to me, as it’s such a fundamental part of our identity, often the only tangible thing we can really be sure about in life.

The head naturally dominates (I mean, if there’s one part of the body we really can’t do without), which is clear in how we use head as a verb, noun, or adjective, referring to being in the top position. And I’ve looked before at how other words are derived from older words for head.

The stomach give it a good run for its money though. You don’t have the stomach for something, you have butterflies in your stomach or are sick to your stomach.

You might have fire in your belly, or be a yellow belly. Things might go belly up, but if you see the funny side of it you might treat yourself to a belly laugh.

You can also have a gut feeling about something, and while that’s of course a different organ, it’s not really so far away down there, so we’ll count it.

It’s logical that we would use the stomach in so many expressions about feelings, considering how we can physically feel things in our abdomen when we have strong emotions. It’s easy to imagine our ancestors imagining there was a direct, crucial link between our feelings and our stomachs, particularly when we began to realise it was quite important to keep our stomachs regularly filled to survive. And that also explains why the stomach is particularly related to strength.

So make sure to give your stomach a treat now and then, and let it know you appreciate it!

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