Jewish World Review June 16, 2004 / 27 Sivan, 5764

Jeff Elder

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Consumer Reports

Innies and outies; 'goody two-shoes'; major league baseball pitcher with an infinite lifetime ERA?; more | >Q: How is it that some people have innies and some people have outies (belly buttons, that is)? - Liz and Mark Nichols, Norwood, N.C.

A: Some people think this is determined by where the umbilical cord is clamped and cut on a newborn babe.


That's just so much fluff that has gradually collected, a rumor about the belly button, lent credibility by time.

Whether we have an innie or outie is determined months before birth.

Early in a baby's development in the womb, the belly is unbuttoned, so to speak. There's a hole in the abdomen wall and the intestines develop outside the baby's body, connected through this hole.

About the 10th week of gestation, the intestines move inside the body. The muscle wall of the abdomen grows together to close the gap.

If everything pulls inside the body cleanly and the hole seals up tight, there's an innie belly button where the abdomen wall has pulled together.

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But sometimes everything doesn't quite pull inside right, or the hole doesn't close entirely. This defect in the muscle wall is called an umbilical hernia, and it's the most common cause of an outie. (More rarely an infection causes a lump of scar tissue.)

About one in six American babies is born with a small umbilical hernia. But as the baby grows, the abdominal muscles close and the hernia gets smaller. (They occur more often in low birth weight and premature infants.) Ninety percent of umbilical hernias heal on their own by the time a kid is 3 or 4 years old. During this time some outies develop into innies.

But other folks are left with outie belly buttons. And even though this might seem like, well, navel-gazing, not everyone likes their outie.

A study at the University of Missouri asked people to rate hundreds of belly buttons by shape and attractiveness. Like a finger print, every belly button is unique. In these polls, concave navels were easily the top choice. Innies are in.

The ideal belly button was described as pushed in on the sides and bottom and slightly hooded on top. Think Britney Spears' perpetually exposed innie, which has caused a sort of U.S. navel observatory.

Thousands of people have recently paid for "umbilicoplasty." That's right: navel jobs. Plastic surgery on the belly button, often to turn an outie into an innie.

Seems a shame. Perhaps rather than trying to be like Britney or Usher or other sexy stars with photogenic innies, we should come outie the closet. We've come a long way since the `60s, when Barbara Eden's "I Dream of Jeannie" outfit caused some censors to blink. For years she had to keep her innie outta sight.

Eden has been a source of belly button debate for centuries. Not Barbara, Garden of. Painters of Adam and Eve were often told by religious authorities that navels made the first couple seem obscene.

An Italian chef was supposedly inspired by the lovely navel of the goddess Venus to create tortelini, the ringed pasta so nice to put in one's belly. (Should it then be tortel-innie?)

All mammals have navels, from the blue whale to the tiniest bat. They're just hard to see on some animals, like cats and dogs, because they healed so well.



Q: What is the origin of the expression "goody two-shoes?" - Beth King, Jacksonville, Fla.

A: Beth, word experts say this comes from a children's book called "The History of Little Goody Two-Shoes," which was popular in the 1760s. In that era in England, Goody was short for Goodwife, a courtesy title used almost like "Mrs." is today.

The book's main character was so poor she had only one shoe. She was thrilled to get a matching pair and earned the nickname in the book's title, which basically meant "Little Mrs. Two Shoes."

Goody Two-Shoes is now used to indicate someone who's angelic or self-righteous, apparently out of a misunderstanding of the original usage of goody.



Q: Has there ever been a major league baseball pitcher with an infinite lifetime ERA? - David Eakes, Charlotte, N.C.

A: Ya know when Charlie Brown pitches and the ball is hit back at him so hard it knocks his clothes off? That's based on the pitchers we'll meet today. It's a case of art imitates line drives.

There's John Coleman, the rookie who lost 48 games for the 1883 Phillies. He gave up 772 hits that season.

And Paul Foytack of the Angels, who gave up home runs to four straight hitters on July 31, 1963. That'll give ya whiplash.

And Hugh Mulcahy of the Phillies, whose nickname was "Losing Pitcher." He never had a winning season, and lost 20 games in a season twice. Like many major leaguers he went to war after Pearl Harbor, but in his case that could've been safer. "I might have got hit with a line drive if I spent six more months with the Phillies," he said.

But as bad as these guys were, none are members of the Infinite ERA Club that David asked about.

(ERA stands for "earned run average," or how many earned runs a pitcher gives up per nine innings.)

To be in that club, a pitcher has to do two things: Give up at least one earned run. And never get a single batter out in HIS ENTIRE MAJOR LEAGUE CAREER.

Baseball stat geeks (I am a proud specimen) have found 19 players like this.

They're mostly position players (or non-pitchers) who took the mound only once, during a lopsided laugher.

"Doc" Hamann might be president of the Infinite ERA Club because of the miserable day he had on Sept. 21, 1922.

He walked the first Red Sox batter he faced. Then he walked another. He hit a guy. He walked another hitter to force in a run. Then Hamann threw one right over the plate! But the Red Sox hitter smashed it for a triple. The next hitter rapped out a single. Then Hamann uncorked a wild pitch. And he gave up another single.

That's when the Indians pulled Hamann. He had faced seven batters without recording an out, and had given up six earned runs.

(In 1895, Bill Childers appears to have been equally bad in his only pitching outing. But records are a little more sketchy.)

Doc Hamann never played again. But we should not pity him, or any of these other players. For though they were lousy, they pitched in the major leagues!

And it's better to have flubbed and tossed...




On sexy literature:

1. In what Russian masterpiece does a married woman grapple with her love for a dashing soldier?

2. Charlotte Bronte's small, poor and plain governess is the heroine of what great romance?

3. There are many great French romances, but many believe the greatest (by a nose) is what?

4. The memory and death of a previous wife seem to haunt an estate called Manderley in what great novel?

5. Some think Shakespeare's greatest romance is not "Romeo and Juliet," but this historical tragedy also named for its starring couple.



1. "Anna Karenina"

2. "Jane Eyre"

3. "Cyrano de Bergerac"

4. "Rebecca" by Daphne DuMaurier

5. "Antony and Cleopatra"

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Jeff Elder is a columnist for The Charlotte Observer. Comment or try to stump him by clicking here. If you send him a great question, he'll send you a Glad You Asked T-shirt.


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