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TITILLATING READING 

It's not the owner's manual that your - or your lady's - boobs failed to come with, but 'The Breast Book' is informative

The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis argues the relationship between culture and language. People defending this theory point to the large number of words Eskimos have for snow, illustrating myriad uses the culture has for the cold, wet stuff. It's odd that people look to Eskimos and snow to support the language-reflects-culture theory when a more obvious example is so close at hand. In The Breast Book: An Intimate and Curious History, authors Maura Spiegel and Lithe Sebesta come up with nearly 400 English (more accurately American) names for breasts.

The short is, in a word, stacked, with information (and better puns) about the dynamic duo that goes far beyond

 
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the name game. The book begins by placing the breast in nature, pointing out that the word mammal comes from the Latin word for breast, and that Homo sapiens are the only mammals whose females' breasts are constantly enlarged. It was at this point in my reading that it dawned on me that despite the inordinate hours I have spent very seriously considering breasts, I knew hardly anything about them.

The book features over 600 photographs and an equally impressive number of quotes to tell the story of the breast. We meet the many personalities of boobs and see them change and flourish within a multitude of styles and fashions. It's not all sex, not by a long shot: In a section entitled "Prize Paps'" readers are introduced to Judith Waterford, whose 50-year stint as a wet nurse was noted in medical journals in 1831. As a young woman, Waterford produced two quarts of milk a day, and on her 81st birthday she demonstrated that she could still squeeze "nice, sweet' milk from her left breast."

We go from puberty - "the first day of the rest of your life" - to negligee and nipple rings to mountain ranges

THE BREAST BOOK: AN INTIMATE AND CURIOUS HISTORY
By Maura Spiegel and Lithe Sebesta
Workman Publishing Company
$13.95, 480 pages
ISBN: 0761121129
A portion of author royalties and publisher profits benefit breast cancer research
in a section entitled "Breast-Scapes." Every aspect of all that is breast-related is explored with both a scientific eye and a human embrace. The book is often hilarious, sometimes serious, well-written, interesting, and informative.

It's not the owner's manual that your - or your lady's - boobs failed to come with, but it does offer vast insight and technical information. It's odd though, after reading the book I still think about breasts a lot ... and not in an entirely different way than I had before I picked up the book. •


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