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Eddy Portnoy Explains Nasalogy

Getting ready for Dawn 2010

Marc Tracy
May 05, 2010

Tablet Magazine contributing editor Eddy Portnoy will be among the presenters at Dawn 2010, the Tablet-sponsored late-night cultural arts festival going down in honor of Shavuot on the evening of Saturday, May 15 in San Francisco.

Portnoy will give a lecture on “nasalogy,” which is, as you etymologists probably guessed, the study of noses. (He’ll also be penning a column on the subject soon, so be on the look-out!) “It is a 19th-century pseudo-science that is an offshoot of phrenology—it was created by a phrenologist, in fact,” Portnoy told me, further describing it as “medical quackery.”

“And there’s a Jewish component!” he added. “As you’d expect.”

There are basically six main types of noses, and three of them are ethnic or nationally based: The Roman nose, the Greek nose, the Jewish nose. Then there’s the cogitative nose, which is actually the most desirable—deep thinkers have wide nostrils. Then there are the snub nose and the turned-up nose, neither of which are really desirable. What’s interesting about the Hebrew nose is it’s also known as the commercial nose—none of this is really a surprise—and if you have one, you are guaranteed an ability to do well in business.

Portnoy told me that he has never stayed up late for Shavuot, as tradition dictates, before. “I’m a person who tends to fall asleep very easily,” he confided. “But I should be able to survive it.”

Marc Tracy is a staff writer at The New Republic, and was previously a staff writer at Tablet. He tweets @marcatracy.

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