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Words: Testimony, n.

PRESIDENT CLINTON's interrogation last week by the Spermfinder General brings irresistibly to mind a neat but dubious theory concerning an alleged link between the words testimony and testicle. As many collections of trivial information tell us, ancient Roman males, when taking an oath in court, would grasp the region of their nether appendages to attest to the truth of their evidence. That, they say, is what gave us the words testify and testimony.

But is this true, or just urban etymythology? The truth seems more likely to be the other way round, with the Latin testiculus derived as the diminutive of testis, a witness. In this case, the testiculi appear as diminutive witnesses to a man's virility. The other theory is probably just a load of . . . nonsense.