Archive for the ‘Language and medicine’ Category

Two lx profs and two psych profs walk into a surgery center

September 27, 2017

… and a combat over brains and minds ensues. Well, no. Actually:

… and they talk about the infirmities and indignities of growing old. Kim Darnell (senior lecturer in psychology at Georgia State for many years) took me (adjunct professor of linguistics at Stanford, professor emeritus of linguistics at Ohio State) to the Surgery Center at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation, where we ran into Eve Clark (professor emeritus of linguistics at Stanford) and Herb Clark (professor emeritus of psychology at Stanford). Usually shop talk would have ensued, but in the context our minds were on the rickety bodies of the three senior members of the group. (Kim is one generation younger than the rest of us.)

(more…)

Briefly 9/21/17: paresthesia

September 21, 2017

My friend Mikkie wrote movingly this morning about trying to get relief from nerve pain following on a stroke he had a while back; unfortunately, the only medication for his condition isn’t compatible with other drugs he’s taking, so he’s miserable. In any case, his doctor supplied a name for his condition — a variety of¬†paresthesia — and paresthesia turns out to be, for me, a chronic fact of life, ever since my necrotizing fasciitis disaster of 2003. Constant but low-level, not soul-absorbing (as it’s been for Mikkie).

(more…)

Future’s so bright

August 22, 2017

(Mostly about my life, but there’s some medical vocabulary in there.)

At the dentist’s last Thursday, me wearing ūüėéprotective eyeglassesūüėé:

(Photo by Kim Darnell)

After cleaning, just before setting up a long appointment for next week, to get two crowns, the day after an appointment with the nephrologist and not long before two months devoted to cataract surgery begin.

This week is the only one in months without a single medical, dental, or optical appointment. Whee! It’s vacation!

(more…)

A stay in medical Antarctica

August 4, 2017

Yesterday’s medical adventure, set off by my shortness of breath during exertion, especially in hot weather (which we’ve been having a lot of; my symptoms became worrisome on a weekend in May when the temperature in Palo Alto reached 107 F). I was referred to a cardiologist; alarmed, she set up yesterday’s myocardial perfusion imaging (MPI) test, specifically via¬†single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT). Details to follow.

The test involved hours at Palo Alto Medical Foundation, much of it sitting around between its parts. The actual imaging parts of the test took place in astonishingly icy rooms — which I came to refer to as medical Antarctica — so that I was shivering with cold when I left after 5 hours.

In the sitting-around parts of the event, I read through most of the latest (August 7th and 14th) issue of the New Yorker. To leaven the stark medical details, I’ll report on one of the pieces (Lauren Collins’s “Identity crisis: Notes from a names obsessive”), one of the cartoons (by Joe Dator), and a set of “spots”, small illustrations by Nishant Choksi sprinkled throughout the issue.

(more…)

Brewster Rockit to the rescue

July 15, 2017

[revised version]

From David Preston, yesterday’s Brewster Rockit comic strip, in a male character attempts to mansplain mansplaining to Pamela Mae Snap (aka Irritable Belle):

(#1) (Note strategic use of speech bubbles in the third panel.)

(more…)

A medical mouthful

May 22, 2017

That would be endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP). It’s the¬†cholangiopancreatography that especially interests me.¬†I was hoping that there would be some way to break that monster into pieces, like this:

cholangio-pancreato-graphy¬†‘imaging of the bile duct and the pancreas’

but¬†cholangio-¬†and¬†pancreato- are both combining forms, with a linking –o– that has to be written solid with what follows. So we’re stuck with the whole long business.

All this is on my mind because I’m undergoing this procedure on June 7th; I had the diagnostic MRCP (magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography) back on the 11th.

(more…)

Chenillar moments, including frass and lepidopterism

May 14, 2017

Two caterpillar notes, an old one and a very recent one.

First, from a Language Log posting of mine from 6/2/06:

As for the oak moths, we’ve been exceptionally afflicted by them this spring at Stanford — a rain of caterpillars [California Oakworms, Phryganidia californica], then masses of cocoons, and now clouds of moths.¬† Ick.¬† Susie Fork [posting on the Elkhorn Slough site], however, sounds pretty pro-moth.¬† Well, the Elkhorn Slough staff seem to value all the organisms they study.¬† But then they don’t have to live with clumps of cocoons disfiguring the pieces in the New Guinea Sculpture Garden, the way we do.

(#1)

Then from a visit to Palo Alto’s Gamble Garden last week:

(#2)

(more…)

Toxic moments

May 13, 2017

First, a story came by on NPR in which a tale of five dead hunters in Oregon played a central role, as did the terrible poison tetrodotoxin. And then an episode of the tv series Death in Paradise in which this poison plays a central role. Rough-skinned newts, pufferfish, and garter snakes all have parts to play in the story, as do arms races in evolution. And of course tetrodotoxin and the entertainments of Death in Paradise.

(more…)

From the FoxFiles

May 3, 2017

… of demented p.r. releases sent to Margalit Fox. On Facebook today:

Most, ah, arresting lede on any press release I’ve ever received:¬†“I am a former incarcerated acid chemist. …”

Putting aside the question of the intended parsing of former incarcerated acid chemist (conveying, I assume, something like ‘acid chemist formerly incarcerated’), I focus on acid chemist,¬†which has a straight sense — as in nucleic acid chemist ‘chemist who studies nucleic acids (like DNA and RNA) — and a high sense, as in this book title:

  (#1)

where the acid in question is the psychedelic drug LSD, lysergic acid diethylamide, also known as simply as acid.

(more…)

The Congressional Brain Injury Task Force

April 6, 2017

The U.S. has such a thing, and its name is a compound with three possibly relevant parsings into constituents (for in the glosses conveys something like ‘to investigate’):

(1)  [ Congressional ]  [ [ Brain Injury ] [ Task Force ] ]

‘ a¬†task force, associated with Congress,¬†for¬†brain injury

(2)  [ [ Congressional Brain ]  [ Injury ] ] [ Task Force ]

‘a task force for injury to the Congressional brain

(3)  [ [ Congressional ] [ Brain Injury ] ] [Task Force ]

‘a task force for Congressional¬†brain injury

(1) is the intended reading. (2) has an entertaining sense involving a Congressional brain, a brain that Congress has (or is otherwise associated with). (3) involves (a) brain injury that is associated in some way with Congress. I’m much taken with readings (2) and (3), especially (2), which reminded me of the October 1980 Doonesbury sequence “The Mysterious World of Reagan’s Brain”.

The intended reading is entirely clear, but sportive readers will play with the alternatives

(more…)