It was one of those times when you learn a new word, or rediscover an old one, and then it pops up everywhere. For example, one night you might use an astringent to tone facial tissue, and then you read the word astringent applied to a character in a poem.
While reading It Is Daylight by Arda Collins I came across the word philtrum. Maybe I had learned it when I was studying Spanish. I know a lot of words like that in Spanish, ones you use twice in a lifetime. But no, that must have been las corvas, the word for the backs of the knees. We don’t have a word for the backs of the knees in English, and Spanish has no specific word for the hollow between the septum and the upper lip. Even my spellchecker doesn’t recognize philtrum. Of course philtrum comes to English from Latin. Spanish could borrow it too.
Here’s a story I found Wikipedia:
According to the Jewish Talmud (Niddah 30b), God sends an angel to each womb and teaches a baby all the wisdom that can be obtained. Just before the unborn baby comes out, the angel touches it between the upper lip and the nose and all that it has taught the baby is forgotten.
That event, learning the word philtrum, was a few days ago. Today I went to a day spa for a massage and to have my upper lip and eyebrows waxed. (How gauche of me to reveal my tawdry attempts at beauty or to admit to the social injustice that I can afford a trip to a day spa when there are people in the world who don’t even have a cardboard box to call home.)
So maybe it served me right when the esthetician ripped a patch of skin from my philtrum as she was waxing the peach fuzz from my face. Why did I submit myself to such torture? I don’t really even have a mustache.
She didn’t mean to. She said my skin was probably dry. I bled profusely, and she seemed worried I would sue her. But she’s probably right. It was my fault. My skin needs hydrating. In the US we like to blame people. We expect others to take responsibility. The esthetician had a creamy complexion. She asked me if I used Retin A. I said “no, just soap and water.”