Opinion: The truth about Adam’s apples


We’ve always known that men have Adam’s apples, but women don’t. I think there was even a Sherlock Holmes murder case that was solved with that knowledge. You know, some serial killer guy pretending to be a woman.

Unfortunately, it’s not true. Women have Adam’s apples too, they’re just smaller, thus less apparent. For you medical students out there, the Adam’s apple is a chunk of cartilage that is wrapped around the larynx. It is known as the laryngeal prominence, and because it sits right on top of the thyroid gland it is sometimes called the thyroid cartilage.

The reason they are bigger in guys is that men have bigger voice boxes than women and deeper voices. Check out little kids, both boys and girls, and Adam’s apples aren’t apparent.

All that changes when puberty hits and the boys get that first shot of testosterone. That’s when boys get all gangly and their Adam’s apples pop out, giving them a mildly prehistoric look. And their voices alternately squeak and rumble.

As they grow older the hormones subside somewhat and so do the Adam’s apples. Science agrees that Adam’s apples serve no vital physiological function. Like the cartilage in the nose and the ear, it’s just there. Some guys with oversized bumps have even had them surgically reduced without any ill effects. And, presumably, with no noticeable voice change.

The Adam’s apple does serve one valuable purpose, however. It’s a great lie detector. When we lie, we get nervous and our mouths go dry. In an attempt to compensate, we swallow a lot and the Adam’s apple bobs uncontrollably up and down. Obviously, women have the advantage here.

Now that we’ve cleared that up, why is it that men’s shirts have the buttons on the right, and women’s are on the left? I wrestled with that mystery recently at a rummage sale when I tried on a really cool looking jacket only to discover that the buttons weren’t where they were supposed to be.

I tried to look nonchalant amid snickers from several lady shoppers when I took it off. As it turns out, I was only doing research for this column.

The button business harks back to the Victorian Age when the landed gentry relied on servants to assist their daily tasks. Women dressed in multiple layers, and needed help buttoning and unbuttoning their apparel. Since most folks are right handed, dressmakers put the buttons on the left to make it easier for the maid to help Milady dress and undress.

I have learned a couple lessons from all of this. First, I will definitely tell the truth from now on, and, second, I will stay away from rummage sales.