Archive for the ‘Language and medicine’ Category


November 23, 2015

A couple of weeks ago I posted about the product ExtenZe,

a herbal nutritional supplement claiming to promote “natural male enhancement”, a euphemism for penis enlargement. Additionally, television commercials and advertisements claim an “improved” or “arousing” sexual experience [longer, stronger, harder erections]. (from Wikipedia)

Now another product has come along and is advertising heavily on cable tv, especially at night. Unlike ExtenZe, which contains small anounts of virtually every substance believed (in some tradition or another) to be of some efficacy in enlarging the penis or improving sexual performance, Nugenix has a small ingredients list, which includes one herb, fenugreek seed, that is not in ExtenZe.



November 8, 2015

(It’s going to be penis penis penis in this posting. But fairly decorously, and with some discussion of names, plants, and medicine.)

Every so often there’s an outbreak of ExtenZe commercials on late-night cable television. Well, the same commercial, over and over again. The current ad features former Dallas Cowboys head coach Jimmy Johnson, who became the official spokesman for ExtenZe in 2010:

Here’s comic Jim Gaffigan riffing on this commercial:

Note Gaffigan’s playing on Jimmy Johnson‘s name as a possible factor in his choice as spokesman; Gaffigan mentions (former Chicago Bears linebacker) Dick Butkus as an alternative. I suppose it’s too bad that actor Peter O’Toole is no longer available. (In a while I’ll consider Willy / Willie candidates.)

But first some ExtenZe background.


Morning: bruxism, brucellosis

September 26, 2015

This morning’s names: two that are somewhat similar in sound (though they have nothing to do with one another), both referring to conditions affecting the body (but of very different sorts).


Golden yellow for the end of summer

September 11, 2015

Oh, it’s a long, long time from May to December
But the days grow short when you reach September

And as the days grow short, the goldenrods burst into bloom. At the same time, hay fever afflicts the allergic. The goldenrods are the showiest, most visible plants of the season, and they are all over the place. So people take concurrence to be causation, and blame the goldenrods. But it’s not their fault.




July 11, 2015

Today’s Rhymes With Orange:

As it happens, claustrophilia is a recognized paraphilia. From the Merriam-Webster Medical Dictionary: “an abnormal desire for confinement in an enclosed space” (link).



June 2, 2015

In a posting on some cartoons yesterday, I mentioned what I described as an “aversion” to cilantro that affects many people, an aversion that turns out to be genetically determined: people with Yuck Cilantro genetics (hat tip to Benita Bendon Campbell on the term) find the taste of cilantro disgusting and don’t appreciate the pleasures that others experience. For some people, the effect goes well beyond distaste or aversion; they suffer extreme symptoms that cause them to characterize their condition as an “allergy”, treating the symptomology as a definition of allergy.

But the medical literature insists on a technical definition of allergy that requires an immune response involving the antibody immunoglobulin E (IgE); without this antibody, we are looking at a food intolerance (or non-allergic food hypersensitivity), even if its manifestations are extreme: vomiting, even anaphylaxis. According to this literature, there is much less food allergy in the world than people think — because ordinary people use the term allergy loosely and incorrectly.

Now, from the point of view of ordinary people, it’s the symptomology that’s important, not the cause of the symptoms, and whatever the cause, the major part of treatment will involve avoiding the foods that trigger the symptoms. In the circumstances, it would be useful to have a technical term like true allergy or allergy proper (to distinguish those cases where antibody-suppressing drugs might be effective parts of treatment) versus a term allergy of wider application, or else a specially invented wider term, like allergoid condition.


New names for old

May 10, 2015

In yesterday’s NYT (and in many other news sources) we learn of an admonishment from the World Health Organization (in “W.H.O. Urges More Care in Naming Diseases” by Rick Gladstone) to avoid animal names, place names, people’s names, and names of groups or organizations in naming diseases — earnest advice that’s going to be hard to follow, since it seems to lead to names that are either short but opaque or cumbersomely long though informative.



March 13, 2015

At lunch one day last week, I realized that almost all the people around me (all men, Silicon Valley types talking about Silicon Valley matters, so far as I could tell) were jiggling their legs, apparently without any realization they were doing so. I’ve long been familiar with the behavior, though never in such a concentrated form; it was like I had fallen into a convention of leg-jigglers. (I am not one.)

Quite a number of variants: some one-legged (mostly the left, in this small accidental sample), some two-legged; and some subtle, a light bouncing off the ball of the foot, and others more vigorous, up to one guy who was pumping his left leg extravagantly.

Unfortunately, not a whole lot seems to be known about leg-jiggling / leg jiggling, leg shaking, foot jiggling, or sewing-machine leg, as it is variously known.


Inflamed tendon

March 2, 2015

My latest affliction is tennis elbow, inflammation of a tendon on the outside of an elbow, usually set off by repeated use of the joint (as in playing tennis, working as a carpenter, or the like), but often, as in my current situation, of obscure origin. (Discussion of tennis elbow on this blog here.) My right elbow went from being mildly sore yesterday to suddenly becoming excruciatingly painful. I’ve rested it for quite some time (and treated the elbow with cold), and the problem has retreated enough for me to be able to raise my arm some, cautiously.

Friends have been commiserating with me, and one — Max Meredith Vasilatos — passed on a Mark Anderson cartoon for the occasion:

(One earlier Andertoon on this blog, #2 in this 10/14/13 posting.)

Two more morning names

February 11, 2015

Morning names from recent days: drugs and food.



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