A wandering mind tends to have a reaction…

When I was still a kid, my mom would take me to see our friendly neighborhood doctor for those somewhat routine kid checkup. While at the clinic, I was so engrossed looking at those animal pictures and some drawings of what appears to be cartoon characters, when suddenly a hard object struck one of my knee, making it jerk upward without me doing it. 

I looked at my doctor who just smiled and asked if it hurt. I told him that it didn’t hurt, in fact I was surprised why my knee moved like that. The doctor told me that this kind of reflex is called a ”knee jerk reaction”. He stated that this is an automatic response to which a reaction to one’s knee gets when sharply hit.

I really didn’t care about it’s origin back then.  Since my young mind was full of wandering thoughts and wasn’t too keen on the idea of finding out what it means. Not until recently did I learn to give a hoot about it, when I was given this topic as a writing assignment. So, as any mild mannered “writer” would do, I did some research on this topic and found some sort of explanation on what this term means. 

Here are some of the facts that I found on the internet:

 Meaning: 

 An automatic response to something.

 Origin:

From the tendency of the knee to jerk involuntarily when hit sharply, properly called the patellar reflex.

This was recorded by Sir Michael Foster, a noted English physiologist in his Text-book of physiology, 1877:

Striking the tendon below the patella gives rise to a sudden extension of the leg, known as the knee-jerk.”

 The term also began to be used figuratively from the early 10th century onwards. In October of 1921, a famed New York newspaper columnist named Oscar Odd McIntyre wrote in his New York Day-By-Day column in The Coshocton Tribune. Here is an excerpt of what he wrote:

Itinerant preacher stemming Broadway on a soap box. And gets only an occasional knee-knee-jerk reaction

Another website that I came across has this form of explanation as well:

The knee jerk is, in anatomy/physiology, one of the “reflex” reactions. The nerve signal travels from the point struck just below the kneecap to the spine and triggers the muscle response. The brain is not involved. Thus the main thrust of the idiom as used to denote an “unthinking” reaction, with the implied insult.”

So, you see you don’t have to be a doctor to know what this term means.  With just one click on the search option on the internet, voila! and presto! instant answer just like that. 

Sheesh, I sound like a magician uttering those words..better get back to work before my mind starts to wander off again..*ouch!*


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