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Why is It Called a Funny Bone?

Why is it called a funny bone?

We all know the aftermath of hitting your funny bone against a table, chair, wall or any other hard object is far from funny.  Shooting pains up and down your arm are never funny, so why call it the funny bone? On our quest to find this elusive answer, the teams at KidsHealth and Why Name it That? provided a couple of theories.  

In order to fully understand the theories (and the pain caused), let’s have a mini anatomy lesson.  The funny bone is actually not a bone at all.  It is a nerve, called the ulnar nerve, which runs from the neck all the way to the hand.  The nerve also includes channels that run down your pinky finger and half of your ring finger.  The job of the ulnar nerve is to tell the brain what is happening in those two fingers.  

One theory KidsHealth provides on the funny bone name suggests it comes from the weird or “funny” feeling you get when you accidentally slam your funny bone into something.  When hitting your funny bone against the kitchen table at breakfast, you gasp and rub your elbow; feeling excruciating tingling, pain, and numbness.  This is not the same feeling you get when you fall off the monkey bars and hit your knee. 

The team at Why Name it That? provides a second theory.  This theory suggests it comes more from the anatomy of the nerve.  The ulnar nerve rests along a bone called the humerus.  Sound familiar?  This sounds exactly like the word, “humorous”, which you may use when describing something amusing or “funny”.

Which do you believe?  While the funny bone name debate continues, we can all agree on one thing: hitting your funny bone is no laughing matter!

Looking for more Never Stop Asking "Why?" questions? Catch up on all of the past "Why's" on the blog!