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Bunker, H.A. (1943). Body as Phallus: A Clinico-Etymological Note. Psychoanal Q., 12:476-480.

(1943). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 12:476-480

Body as Phallus: A Clinico-Etymological Note

Henry Alden Bunker

It is a somewhat curious fact that a word as important as the English word body (Anglo-Saxon bodig) should be of unknown origin. It is at least equally remarkable that this word should also be unique among the words of the Indo-European languages which express the idea denoted by body; so that our English word has neither known ancestors nor even collateral relatives, and therefore stands alone as a word peculiar to the English language. It scarcely needs saying that in the other Indo-European languages the various words for body are unrelated to the English word; the French has corps and the German Körper, for example—both, of course, like the English corpse, from the Latin corpus (cf. the Sanscrit kar- to make, Latin creo, English create). The only word of the same meaning similar to the English word is the Gaelic bodhaig, meaning body; but this word, according to the New English Dictionary, is derived from the English, rather than the other way about.

A foremost authority on language has said that a 'resigned acquiescence in inevitable ignorance' should be the characteristic of etymologists. Although in view of this certainly ex cathedra pronouncement our own diffidence ought to be all the more considerable, it appears nevertheless possible that the psychoanalyst has in his possession, in this case, a piece of knowledge which might provide a key to the etymological meaning, otherwise so obscure, of the word body. I refer, of course, to that commonplace of psychoanalytic experience, the equating in dream and fantasy of body and penis, whereby these are made interchangeable, the one substituted for the other, in unconscious ideation.

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