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Bellak, L. (1942). A Note about the Adamsapple. Psychoanal. Rev., 29(3):300-302.

(1942). Psychoanalytic Review, 29(3):300-302

A Note about the Adamsapple

Leopold Bellak

Adamsapple is the popular name for the protruding part of the male throat; anatomically, it is described as a prominence caused by the anterior part of the cartilago thyroidea, constitutes a secondary sex quality of the male and comes to its full development during pubescence.

The literal equivalent of the English “Adamsapple” is found in most European languages. The etymology given by the Oxford Dictionary is “Adamsapple: so called from a superstitious notion that a piece of the forbidden fruit stuck in Adam's throat and occasioned this prominence”. The Bible itself does not mention any such episode, but other authoritative dictionaries in most of the European languages and the expert-literature report the same folk-tale. Apparently we are dealing here with a piece of folklore that may allow some interesting interpretations.

According to both traditional and psychoanalytic interpretation, the primal sin of mankind is coitus: the eating of the forbidden fruit has the latent meaning of intercourse. The result of that intercourse is that Adam has something stuck in his throat! It may be relevant here to recall that according to primitive infantile phantasies, coitus, conception, and pregnancy take place in the oral-pharyngeal tract.

One of the rather frequent manifestations of these infantile phantasies is well known medically as “globus hystericus”. This symptom is usually met in adolescent girls or aging women. I have often encountered symptoms like globus hystericus in female cases of schizophrenia. The ever repeated complaint is that “something is stuck in the throat”. We are apparently dealing with the unconscious phantasy of pregnancy in the throat. And in our folk-tale we find that something is stuck in Adam's throat: a piece of the forbidden fruit, the eating of which we know to be the symbol of coitus.

In other words: as the result of the coitus, Adam finds himself pregnant! How shall we understand that?

One of the frequent mechanisms of the unconscious is the transformation into opposites.

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