Briefly: a technical term

From a piece by Gina Kolata in the NYT yesterday, “Antibiotics Are Effective in Appendicitis, Study Says”:

The results only apply to uncomplicated appendicitis, stressed Dr. Paulina Salminen, a surgeon at Turku University Hospital in Finland and lead author of the new study. She and her colleagues excluded from their trial the 20 percent of patients with complicated cases — people with perforated appendices or abdominal abscesses, and those with a little, rocklike blockage of the appendix called an appendicolith.

Yes, appendicolith, (with the stem of appendix plus the lith– ‘rock, stone’ stem), not a word you’re likely to have come across before. But an obviously useful technical term in this medical context, replacing the wordy explanation ‘little, rocklike blockage of the appendix’ or the somewhat more specific and compact ‘a calcified deposit within the appendix’ on the site. Let’s face it, we have no ordinary-language term for this referent.

(Phonological note: the word seems to have the same accent pattern as appendectomy, with alternating accent: primary accent on the third syllable, secondary on the first, tertiary on the fifth, with unaccented second and fourth syllables.)

One Response to “Briefly: a technical term”

  1. chrishansenhome Says:

    The -lith word I find most euphonious is tonsillolith, which is a small white “stone” found in the tonsils at the back of one’s mouth. You may have talked about them before, but it’s a word that always bears repeating (even if it’s not a very “appetising” one). If you still aren’t familiar with them, there is a plethora of YouTube videos showing medical removal of tonsilloliths which are eerily fascinating.

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