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It's All Relative

We prefer anatomical terms that remain useful even when the human form is upside down.

The term “superior” doesn’t really help when you’re standing on your head.

What’s superior then? The toes?

The common nomenclature of orientation—superior, inferior, anterior, and posterior—is misleading.

Why? Because the terms are conditional.

And this brings us to another point about the commonly-accepted standard anatomical position.

Go ahead, take a moment and pose in the standard anatomical position (MANIKEN® Classic 1 SAP Model).

(We’ll wait.Go ahead.)

Chances are, you are now standing on your feet and your arms are turned so your palms face forward.

Right? If you punch in “standard anatomical form” in Google and choose the image option, that’s the pose you’ll get.

Well, remember—bipedalism is something we have to practice. It’s something we have to learn. Of course, once we get walking down we rarely go back to crawling. (Well, there are certain nights….)

But how can the standard anatomical form for humans be something we have to learn how to do?

It’s not.

We are born, of course, as quadrupeds.

The standard anatomical position for the human form is all fours. Anatomy in Clay® Learning System founder Jon Zahourek built a model that better represents this position (MANIKEN® Classic 10 Reptilian Model).

So what is superior when the form is a quadruped?

Certainly not the head. And that’s why we prefer “cranial” over “superior” to indicate anatomical locations. Note, the cranium doesn’t change—whether you’re upside down or not. (“Cranium” is for the Greek word for skull, kranion.)

And instead of “inferior,” we like “caudal.” Yes, we have given up our tails. Thank you, evolution. But there is no question where the tail goes or the fact that its location is NOT conditional to the way a person is standing.


Of course, we also use dorsal instead of posterior.

And ventral instead of anterior.

They are better, more accurate terms. And they don’t change if you’re swimming, cliff-diving, hang-gliding, or any point during a triple summersault on a trampoline.


Around here, we prefer terms that are accurate 100 percent of the time.



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