Archive for the ‘Language and medicine’ Category

Nighthawks in a time of coronavirus

July 3, 2020

Edward Hopper’s famous painting Nighthawks, like so much of his work, depicts poignant social disconnection; it also offers a cast of four characters in its bleak setting, which makes it an easy target for parody (by varying the nature of the characters). Meanwhile, the basic theme makes it easily available for symbolizing the way we live during the coronavirus.

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Death trap

June 5, 2020

The 5/27 Wayno/Piraro Bizarro collabo brings us two Grim Reapers confronting what might be a trap for them:


(#1) (If you’re puzzled by the odd symbols in the cartoon — Dan Piraro says there are 2 in this strip — see this Page.)

If you want to catch Death in a trap, what do you use as bait? Obviously, not the conventional chunk of cheese, but dead cheese: moldy cheese. (Moldy cheese is, of course, not actually dead; in fact, the cheese is alive with the swarms of microbes.)

The cartoon nicely exploits an ambiguity, between the semantics of the conventionalized compound death trap / deathtrap, and the semantics of a compound Death trap, parallel to mouse trap / mousetrap.

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Annals of advertising: the new normal for noses

May 9, 2020

A new tv commercial for Naväge (sometimes just Navage) touts it as just the thing for current times:

Now is the time to make good nasal hygiene the new normal.

The commercial doesn’t seem to be available on-line yet, but here’s an earlier print ad:


“uses powered suction to relieve nasal congestion” (with a saline solution)

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Quick shot: a job title

April 17, 2020

Background: MSNBC now has a regular feature with a report from Dr. Calvin Sun, a native New Yorker who works as an ER doc in NYC, going to a different hospital each day, filling in wherever he’s needed; on MSNBC, he describes the situation at the ER of the day.


Dr. Sun on tv: earnest, passionate, compassionate, and terribly, terribly weary

Above, I used the familiar, everyday English job title for Dr. Sun: he’s an ER / E.R. doctor, ER doc for short. The formal job title is emergency physician (who practices emergency medicine, in an emergency department).

Meanwhile, I didn’t know any AmE name for a physician who filled in for other doctors as needed.

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The predictable blend error

March 24, 2020

It was bound to happen: the parts of

COVID-19 and coronavirus

were going to get mixed, to yield

CORVID-19

And, yes, then we see ravens, ravens of death.

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coronteaus

March 22, 2020

… that is, coronovirus portmanteaus (where the underlined n is the overlap shared by the two contributing words). A modest collection from recent days.

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Golcorona

March 21, 2020

The art of the pandemic continues at Vadim Temkin’s CGI atelier, with Golconda 2020, an homage to Magritte (on Facebook yesterday):


(#1) They way we live now

A many-depthed airscape of naked young men (with modesty hands) and fuzzy coronavirus molecules.

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Buzz me, baby

March 19, 2020

Today’s Calvin and Hobbes re-run strip, on Chocolate Frosted Sugar Bombs (CFSBs), which offer “100% of the daily recommended allowance of caffeine”:


(#1) Just in case you had a fleeting moment of wondering about it, there is no caffeine RDA (recommended dietary allowance — recommended by the US National Research Council); the RDAs are for nutrients, and caffeine is not a nutrient

C&H Sugar Bomb strips. Hummingbird metabolism. The getting-high sense of the noun buzz and its verbing. The near-instant buzz of concentrated caffeine. Adalbert Stifter’s 1845 novella Bergkristall.

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Tragedies of the pandemic

March 6, 2020

(Penises play a significant role in this posting, so it might not be to everyone’s taste.)

We regret to report the end of Lord Alfred Douglas, famed devotee of fellatio. Yes, it’s

(A) goodbye to Bosie, the queen of coronas

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Morning tum

March 3, 2020

(There will be penis allusions, but nothing actually raunchy.)

My morning names of 2/26, which arrived three in a bunch, all tum-words, all body-related, but in two different ways:

(a) noun tumor, a tissue growth

(b) adj. tumid, enlarged or distended (as applied to erect penises in particular, but to other things as well)

(c) adj. tumescent, ditto, but more strongly evoking penises

(a) has a somewhat medical tone, but has been taken into everyday usage. The other two are elevated in tone, distanced from carnality; they sound literary or technical. When I came fully to consciousness, I realized that all three traced back to the Latin tum– stem in tumere ‘to swell’. It’s all about swelling; (a) has gone in one direction of semantic specialization, (b) and (c) in another.

And then, of course, there turned out to be more, stuff I hadn’t anticipated at all: the nouns tumulus ‘ancient burial ground’ (they are mounds) and tumult ‘loud noise, disorder’ (the sound rises).

Where will it end? Is a tummy so called because the bellies of babies are often rounded and the bellies of pregnant women are distended? (No. So the antacid Tums is irrelevant to this story.) What about the bodyparts scrotum and rectum, or even the proper name Tatum, suggesting Channing Tatum and his impressive endowment? (No, a thousand times, no. And you should be ashamed of yourselves for having suggested it.)

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