CalebInFloroda: It's an interesting hypothesis, but it isn't accepted etymological theory.
The Hebrew word for "rib" in Gemesis 2 actually isn't "rib" at all. The word is actually "side" as in hillside or the side of a building.
I subscribe to the theory that since the word is so often used to refer to "walls" that the expression is describing Eve's creation in terms of making a building. A "side" or "wall" was taken from Adam, so to speak, to create the "building" of Eve. Semitic concepts of humans often pictured them as vessels and even arks (boxes or chests). The same word appears in reference to the walls of Noah's ark, the sides of the ark of the covenant, and the walls of various chambers and rooms in the First Temple.
Your right, of course, in all you say. The BAR article notes the conventional meaning and then quotes Zevit's* re-interpretation:
Of the 40 appearances of tsela‘ in the Bible, the Adam and Eve story is the only place where it is translated as “rib.” Usually it means the side of something. Zevit explains the nuance of this word:
(and the BAR then apparently quotes Zevit directly)
This Hebrew word occurs some 40 times in the Hebrew Bible, where it refers to the side of a building or of an altar or ark (Exodus 25:12; 26:20, 26; 1 Kings 6:34), a side-chamber (1 Kings 6:8; Ezekiel 41:6), or a branch of a mountain (2 Samuel 16:13). In each of these instances, it refers to something off-center, lateral to a main structure. The only place where tsela‘ might be construed as referring to a rib that branches off from the spinal cord is in Genesis 2:21–22.
According to Zevit, “rib” is the wrong translation for tsela‘ in the story of Adam and Eve in the Bible. Zevit believes that tsela‘ should be translated as “a non-specific, general term,” such as one of Adam’s lateral limbs, in the Adam and Eve story. Thus, it refers to “limbs lateral to the vertical axis of an erect human body: hands, feet, or, in the case of males, the penis.”
Which of these lateral limbs lacks a bone? Human males do not have a penis bone, but many mammals do. Zevit concludes that in the story of Adam and Eve in the Bible, the woman was created from the man’sbaculum to explain why this appendage does not have a bone.
So yes, Zevit's interpretation conflicts with the contemporary view of what is 'tradition.' But can his interpretation be ruled out? I'll let you argue that, other than commenting on the swags of information that passes me every day (in only the academic sphere) me every day, I really don't care if Eve, was the result of an union between Adam and a Orangutan.
A further search indicates that the BAR may be quoting from a recent book written by Zevit, " What Really Happened in the Garden of Eden?" (Yale University Press, 2013). http://www.yalebooks.com/yupbooks/book.asp?isbn=9780300178692
* For anyone who may be curious enough to ask who Zevit is, this is Yale Press's biographical note on Ziony Zevit: Ziony Zevit is Distinguished Professor of Biblical Literature and Northwest Semitic Languages and Literatures at the American Jewish University in Los Angeles. He is widely recognized for his publications in Hebrew epigraphy, biblical studies, and ancient Israelite religion.