Friday, September 4, 2015

Zona Pellucida

In school, we talk about vocabulary in tiers.

Tier One: These are your everyday, ho-hum words, words you don't have to think about, words you probably learned by third grade. Ex: cat, dog, today, sad, rainy, house.

Tier Two: These are your spicy, upgraded words, words you might have used a thesaurus to pick or you got from an excellent novel and needed to look up. These are the words we want students to use in their writing instead of boring words. Ex: destitute, melancholy, domicile, poltergeist, torrential.

Tier Three: These are words that are specific to a certain discipline, that are only used in conjunction with that subject. They tend to be the words you find in the back of textbooks in the glossary, or bolded in blue in the text. Ex: preamble, iambic pentameter, isosceles, pythagorean, participle, covalence, hydrogen, velocity, igneous.




Ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome.

Zona Pellucida.

I was peeling myself a hard-boiled egg the other day, while fighting a stomach bug (not sure why I think eggs are appropriate tummy-sick food, but I do), slipping the large spoon under the crack in the shell. Watching the shell fragment mostly slip off in large sheaths, a trick Bryce taught me years ago. As the shell slid and lightly clattered to the bottom of the sink, and I rinsed off the remaining sac membrane from my soon-to-be salt-and-peppered snack, my brain whispered, zona pellucida.

I don't have any need for this word anymore. This word means the "shell" around a human egg, the shell that needs to be penetrated for fertilization to occur, the shell that is pre-treated in assisted hatching to help with implantation. Once upon a time I did not know that this word even existed. I did not know that human eggs have shells, too, and that the older you get the harder those shells are to "crack," so to speak.

And now this word is stuck in my brain, my mind that acts like a sponge and carries strange bits of trivia forever. A friend calls me "Human Google." My students a few years ago called it my "creepy memory." I will never forget what zona pellucida means, even though my eggs are forever out of the equation. There are no more egg retrievals for me.

Zona pellucida, a word that is vital to the conception of every baby out there, even though most people don't know what it is or that it even exists. And now it's with me, forever.

It will get pushed to the back a bit though, as I replace it with new Tier Three words, maybe not as beautiful to roll off the tongue but so much more beautiful to me for the meaning they hold:

Home study.
Profile book.
Birth mother.
Open adoption.

And my favorite Tier One word ever:



  1. :-) What an interesting entry. When I read the title, I thought: "That word sounds so familiar!" - but I couldn't remember what it actually meant until I read the rest. I guess it was once in my Tier one words but moved out - at least for now.

    1. Thanks! It's funny, as a resource teacher I support curriculum, and I've been lucky to be mostly 8th grade for 3 years. I used to be 9th grade, and I had all this Earth Science in my brain... now, not so much. I am hopeful that the vocabulary turns over and things that made me feel sad and deficient can be replaced with more hopeful things.