Rhinotillexis on the Decline

By Maeve Maddox

You may be pleased to hear that rhinotillexis is on the downturn, at least in public places.

This lovely term means “picking one’s nose with one’s fingers.” In an article by Jim Shahin in the February 15, 2008 issue of American Way, I learned that a Harvard study reveals that rhinotillexis is down 70% from the year before. The decline is attributed to the fact that cameras are everywhere and people are becoming more cautious about the activity for fear of showing up on YouTube and grossing out their friends.

The element rhino occurs in several English words.

The animal (rhinoceros) gets its name from the combination rhino “nose” and keras “horn.” People hardly ever use the entire word anymore when speaking of the animal. Certainly calling it a rhino makes forming its plural much easier.

A scholarly plural of rhinoceros is rhinocerotes. I’ve never heard anyone say that. A more familiar plural is rhinoceroses, but that’s hard to say and it sounds comical.

A television ad selling a cold product shows a rhinoceros and tells viewers that the source of the common cold is the rhinovirus.

Rhino occurs in other medical terms.

People dissatisfied with the noses they were born with can opt for rhinoplasty, cosmetic surgery that alters the shape of the nose.

Rhinoscopy is a technique for examining the nose and throat.

If you are writing in a humorous vein and wish to describe someone who has a big nose, you could use the adjective rhinocerical.

Something I didn’t know before researching rhino is that it has been used as a slang word for “money” since 1688. Could be that this use of the word has something to do with the origin of the expression “paying through the nose.”

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10 Responses to “Rhinotillexis on the Decline”

  • surfmadpig

    On a side note, it’s reassuring to know that the bright minds of Harvard are put to such good use.

  • Sharon

    Nice post – now if only I could get my five year old to give up on rhinotillexis 😉

  • Jay Wagers

    Now if we could get people to stop doing it while in their cars. I see it all the time sitting at stoplights. They must believe they become invisible as soon as they crawl into their vehicles. I like “rhinoceroses.” You could tell people you suffered from it and they would never know the difference.

  • Terry Finley

    People with Rhinotillexis also
    suffer from Ocular Dysfunction,
    also associated with Vehicular
    Attachment.

  • Jake

    Hello! I just found your blog while surfing the net. I used to pick my nose and eat the contents, but now that I am 34 I can’t do it anymore–at least not in good company.

  • Maeve

    Jake,
    The “rhino” term for compulsive eating of boogers is rhinotillexomania, It’s considered a form of Pica. It’s probably a good thing that you’ve stopped.

  • Terry Finley

    Can one catch ‘rhinotillexomania’ like
    one catches a cold?

    Is it a virus?

  • Maeve

    Terry,
    Wikipedia tells all:
    article on the condition known as pica

    article on rhinotillexomania

  • Terry Finley

    ;-))

    I think I’ll bring my comments
    on this hot topic to a close.

    thanks….;-))

  • son

    All here seem agreed that rhinotillxis is a visually abhorrent practice. Now I wonder how many are equally appalled by the habit of clearing ones nostrils and nasal passages into a cloth which is then carried around in a pocket for the remainder of the day?
    For my part go ahead and pick your nose, just be sure to wash or sanitize your hands after.

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