Muscle - mussel

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Muscle and mussel are two homophones that should not be confused. Both are pronounced 'MUSS-'l', IPA: /'mʌ səl/.

There is also a word which you may find in historic contexts: Mussulman, meaning 'a Muslim'. This is not formed from the English 'man', but is either Arabic or Persian, and may be formed from the Arabic muslimūn ('those who have converted to Islam, Muslims'), a participle from the verb aslama ('to convert to Islam'). You are recommended not to use Mussulman.
  • A muscle is one of the organs of a body that can be tensed and relaxed (or flexed) to allow movement. The biceps (in the upper arm) is flexed to raise the forearm, hand. or substantial weights held in the hand(s); writers are constantly adjusting the small muscles that hold the pen in the fingers to make marks on the paper. Most muscles are anchored on bone, and are called 'voluntary muscle' as they are under more or less conscious control; the two other types of muscle are 'involuntary (or smooth) muscle', which is not normally under conscious control, and regulates internal organs such as those of digestion; and cardiac muscle, which is not under conscious control, and is essentially the single muscular organ known as the heart. (For further etymological detail, you may like to see also -cule.)
  • A mussel is a bivalve shellfish, or mollusc. Many varieties exist, with marine species mostly belonging to the order Mytiloida, and freshwater mussels to the order Unionoida. The common edible mussel in Europe is Mytilus edulis, which is prepared as moules - moules marinières in French cookery, or moules frites in Belgium.
Etymological note: It is an oddity that Latin and Greek mus and μῦς ('mouse') have been used for both muscle and mussel: the movement of muscle under the skin (the 'rippling') particularly of the biceps was compared to a mouse running below the surface. (Even in modern times, a child told her mother that she had received an electric shock (by sticking a pencil in the hole of an electric socket) by saying "When I put the pencil in the pig's nose, a little mouse ran up my arm.") Mussel is a variant spelling of this. The two words were interchangeable until the nineteenth century, according to Cresswell (2009).