“You have a lot of gall!”

On the tree identification hike, a discussion began about the meaning of this expression – ‘You/He/She has a lot of gall.’ On the hike, our leader had pointed out the abundant tree gall. Tree gall occurs as a sort of auto-immune reaction by the tree to the laying of eggs on its branch by a wasp. Among a few hikers, the discussion turned to the meaning of the word ‘gall’ in this expression. All agreed it meant a response to perceived, untoward, hurtful or angering behavior. Then the discussion turned to its spelling – “gall” or “Gaul” (like in the warring people who invaded France and England)?

Tree gall

Tree gall

The decider of all questions a.k.a. The Internet or Google, does not provide a clear and decisive definition, although the leading consensus is “gall.”

Gall has two definitions – both unpleasant. One definition refers to the irritation and rubbing that makes the skin sore. “The saddle galled the horse’s back.” “Tight fitting clothes will gall sensitive skin areas.”

The other definition of gall, the most commonly used, relates to the organs that produce bile, or gall. The liver, gall bladder and spleen produce gall. While Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has long associated the gall bladder with the function of making careful decisions and is the determinant of courage. TCM also associates an excess of the gall bladder as a source of emotional imbalance – anxiety, anger, worry.

Ancient medicine recognized the four Humors of the body: water, blood, black bile (kidney and spleen) and yellow bile (liver and gall bladder). Diseases were diagnosed as an excess or deficiency of one or more of the humors. From this perspective, we arrive at another expression “to be in bad humor.”

In another example, while animal butchering, chickens, for example, the gall bladder is a tiny green, thin-membraned organ that sits under the liver and tucked up within the lobes of the liver. While butchering, great care must be taken to remove the gall bladder from the liver. If the gall bladder membrane breaks, the green viscous bile is released and contaminates the liver. Unless washed away quickly and thoroughly, the bile can render the liver inedible owing to its bitter invasive taste. IMG_1899

On another negative illustration, during the course of stomach flu or hangover when the stomach is void, sustained wretching only brings up bitter, yellow bile.

Another definition of gall is that of the most bitter grief and the most extreme emotional affliction.

The references made to the use of ‘Gaul’ in this expression are those about the characteristics of the barbarous behaviors of these early invaders.

On another note, the human liver has three lobes and is red, and sometimes splotchy red. The Greek word, Hepatic, refers to the liver. The leaves of Hepatica have three lobes and are liver colored, or splotchy liver colored, same as the human liver. The liver, if laid out flat and its lobes separated, also resembles the shape of Hepatica leaves. The Greeks, who evidently examined bodies in the quest to explain human condition, named many plants according to human similarities or applications, or both. Hepatica, resembles the liver, and was used to treat conditions associated with the liver.

Yesterday while hiking, a lot of gall had fallen from the trees, owing to wind and natural tree shedding. The Hepatica leaves stand tall in the leaf mulch that has been its bedcover for the winter. There was certainly a lot of ‘gall’ in The Park.

So, the answer to this question? Still to be decided.

The solution to having “a lot of gall?” Get over it. (human) Enjoy it. (flowers) For both – Get your boots on and hike The Park.


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