Archive for the ‘Language of medicine’ Category

The ear wash

October 21, 2015

Took my ears to the ear wash yesterday, with gratifying results. This was just a piece of a complex appointment with my family doctor, but it restored the hearing in my left ear, which had been stopped up with cerumen, aka ear wax.


Two medicinal plants

August 27, 2015

Two more plants from breakfast at Palo Alto’s Gamble Garden on Tuesday (the 25th): yarrow (Achillea) and scabious (Scabiosa), both plants with a history in folk medicine, though apparently in different traditions.


Morning name: adipocere

August 25, 2015

An unpleasant topic, one with a high enough Ick Factor that I’m not posting any photos. First, from NOAD2, with the etymology:

a grayish waxy substance formed by the decomposition of soft tissue in dead bodies subjected to moisture. ORIGIN early 19th cent.: from French adipocire, from Latin adeps, adip- ‘fat’ + French cire ‘wax’ (from Latin cera).

(The primary accent is on the first syllable, with a secondary accent on the last.)


Briefly: a technical term

June 18, 2015

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.)

Morning name: bilharzia

March 16, 2015

This morning’s name: bilharzia (the disease). Memorable name, unpleasant affliction.



January 4, 2015

A continuing ad campaign for Febreze air freshener and odor eliminator products warns us about noseblindness,

The gradual acclimation to the smells of one’s home, car, or belongings, in which the affected does not notice them (even though their guests do). (link)

An illustration of a cat owner’s noseblindness, showing how visitors will perceive their house:

Noseblind is a fairly clever coinage for this sensory saturation effect, treating it as similar to being temporarily blinded by bright lights or deafened by loud noises. But it’s not truly similar to being blind or deaf. which are enduring and more global inabilities.