Posted on May 8, 2012 in Health & safety
Why do they call it “plastic” surgery? Is it because they put plastic in people? (But haven’t they been doing it longer than plastic has been around? I’m confused.)
More than just the local pastime of residents of Hollywood and Scottsdale, plastic surgery can be used to repair injury damage or congenital defects and greatly improve the quality of life for people who might otherwise spend their lives disfigured.
Of course, that doesn’t stop us from making jokes about the various celebrities (and not-so-celebrities) that embrace the surgery to — ahem — enhance certain aspects of their physique.
So other than the awful “I brought her home and sat in front of the fireplace — and she melted” jokes, why is it called plastic surgery?
Plastic surgery dates back far further than the use of “plastic” as a noun — the first modern synthetic plastic we’re familiar with, Bakelite, didn’t show up on the scene till 1909. In fact, plastic surgery dates as far back as 600 BC, where Sushruta of India performed reconstructive procedures. He pioneered things such as rhinoplasty and dental surgery, and is considered “the father of surgery.”
So, here’s the thing — plastic hasn’t always been a noun. The “plastic” in plastic surgery originally referred to plastic as an adjective — meaning capable of being molded or modeled. The word has its origin in the Greek plastikos, “the art of modeling of malleable flesh.”
But that bit about the fireplace is still true a fairly good portion of the time.
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