This is a question I’ve been wondering about lately. Being the mom of boys, I notice certain things now that I didn’t notice with my brothers. Granted, my brothers are both older than I am, which is probably why I missed it when puberty struck and left each of them with a protuberance on their throats, seemingly overnight. But when this just happened with our oldest, I couldn’t help but see the change.
I realize this truly didn’t happen overnight, but holy buckets. It’s amazing how such an inconsequential thing can completely change the way a person looks. With just this one physical feature, our son had gone from a little boy to a young man.
As I admired the young man he’s swiftly becoming, questions popped in my head about the Adam’s apple. Questions like: Why boys and not girls? What purpose does it serve? And where the heck did the name come from?
Turns out, boys and girls both develop an Adam’s apple when they hit puberty. For boys, it tends to grow larger (or at a more conspicuous angle) than it does for girls, but it comes in all different shapes and sizes for both genders. Line up thirty post-pubescent boys and girls, and you’re likely to find a girl or two with an Adam’s apple larger than at least one of the boys. No two Adam’s apples are the same, much like the lovely snowflake. Interesting.
So now we know we all have one, but what exactly is the purpose of the Adam’s apple? It’s fairly rudimentary function is to protect our vocal cords. The Adam’s apple develops when the two sides of thyroid cartilage elongate to house the larynx and vocal cords, which is just one of the ways our bodies change during puberty. In boys, this development is also accompanied by higher levels of testosterone and a deeper voice. How ’bout that?
And what about that name? It should come as no surprise that “Adam’s apple” is a layperson’s term. The anatomically correct phrase is “laryngeal prominence.” In case you guessed that this was just too hard to pronounce, so someone jokingly coined a new name for it, guess again. There’s always a story behind these kinds of things.
I found two accounts out there about how the term Adam’s apple came to be. The first comes from the biblical connotations you might suspect— Adam and Eve, Garden of Eden, forbidden fruit, etc. The second derives from an inaccurate translation of the Hebrew phrase “tappuach ha adam” (or male lump). Fascinating. As per usual, you can adopt whichever version makes sense to you.
So there is an Anna’s apple, even if it’s not called that. And there’s a physiological reason why this knob in our throats is larger for boys than girls. Our bodies are incredible! Another self-health question answered…
What question have you been asking lately that you’d like to find an answer to?
Image from iStock/studiovespa.