Archive for the ‘Language and medicine’ Category

claustrophilia

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).

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Allergies

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.

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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.

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leg-jiggling

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.

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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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diabetic X

January 18, 2015

Dee Michel wrote me a little while ago with the Adj + N phrase diabetic socks, which he found entertaining: how could socks be diabetic? The short answer is that though diabetic is an adjective in this phrase, it functions semantically like a noun, in particular like the noun diabetic ‘someone suffering from diabetes’; diabetic socks are ‘socks for diabetics’. From Wikipedia:

A diabetic sock is a non-binding and non-elasticated sock which is designed so as to not constrict the foot or leg. Typically sufferers of diabetes are the most common users of this type of sock. Diabetes raises the blood sugar level, which can increase the risk of foot ulcers. Diabetic socks are made to be unrestrictive of circulation.

(I am in fact wearing diabetic socks as I write this posting.)

So diabetic here is a type of non-predicating adjective, a type known in the trade as a pseudo-adjective: an Adj in form, but interpreted by reference to a N.

In the case of diabetic, we have not one, but two, pseudo-adjectives — one evoking the noun diabetic (as above), one evoking the noun diabetes (as in diabetic coma ‘coma caused by diabetes’).

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Tennis elbow

January 12, 2015

Today’s Rhymes With Orange, with a kind of visual pun:

(A related pun in Rhymes, from 6/24/12: Venice elbow.)

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Bell’s palsy

November 6, 2014

Caught recently in a NYT Magazine story on medical diagnosis (a regular series in the magazine) in which one of the potential diagnoses was Bell’s palsy (the patient turned out to be suffering from Lyme disease). Ah, I have personal history with Bell’s (as it’s sometimes referred to, in truncated form).

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Medicinal meter

May 3, 2014

For some years, I’ve been taking a diuretic with a long name that lots of people, including some medical personnel, have trouble pronouncing, though I don’t. What works for me is that the name is in trochaic tetrameter (with a final short foot):

hydrochlorothiazide: HY dro CHLo ro THI a ZIDE

Trochaic tetrameter is the meter of most English folk verse (folk songs, nursery rhymes, etc.), many advertising slogans, sayings, and more. People didn’t frame these with the trochaic tetrameter pattern in mind; they chose expressions according to what “sounded good” to them — that is, according to an implicit or unconscious aesthetic.

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