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AWADmail Issue 294

February 17, 2008

A Weekly Compendium of Feedback on the Words in A.Word.A.Day and Other Interesting Tidbits about Words and Languages

From: Anu Garg (words at wordsmith.org)
Subject: Interesting stories from the net

Inside Animal Minds:
National Geographic

Learning A New Language From a Native Speaker, Without Leaving Home:
The New York Times

From: Albert Boosman (aboosman und-alum.org)
Subject: A.Word.A.Day--idiopathy

The adjective form of today's word is more often seen, as in "idiopathic Parkinson's Disease". (A medical school joke defines idiopathic as meaning the doctor is an idiot and the patient is pathetic.)

I've long been amused by the medical community's inventive use of words to hide its etiological ignorance. Another term which means "We haven't got a clue" is essential, as in "essential hypertension". As if one couldn't live without it!

From: Sunita Kripalani (sunitakripalani hotmail.com)
Subject: idiopathy

I'm not a doctor but I know this word so well. I am a known case of ITP 'Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura' (having a very low platelet count) since childhood, and I remember one of my haemotologists explain: "Purpura is of two types: Idiopathic and Non-idiopathic. Cause unknown and cause known." I used to wonder why it wasn't vice versa.

From: Barbara Entlova (galanin22 aol.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--idiopathy

More than a thousand years ago, in his quest for understanding of the human body, Galen proved that the urine was formed in the kidney, not in the bladder as had been previously thought. Though the Roman Empire is now little more than a setting for a Hollywood movie, we face the same fundamental question with which Galen struggled: What is the etiology of the disease I am observing?

As a medical student currently immersed in the fascinating world of the human mind, as analyzed by the behavioral sciences, I am acutely aware of the limit of our understanding of even the most common malady: major depression. Where Hippocrates would attribute it to the imbalance of our bodily humours, and Freud would aver that it is caused by guilt and self-criticism, and Shakespeare would unequivocally associate it with life's events -- love, loss, and despair -- today's medicine focuses on the biochemical basis of the disease. Still, we are left with the same fundamental question: What is the cause of this disease? Perhaps this is one of those times when we must not dwell on the unknown and instead follow Voltaire's insouciant view: the art of medicine consists in amusing the patient while nature cures the disease.

From: Steven Stine (scstine comcast.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--nosocomial

It is bad enough to acquire a illness while hospitalized. It is even worse to have a health care facility or worker CAUSE the problem. The word for such a condition is iatrogenic: American Iatrogenic Association.

From: Owen Roberts (oroberts hotmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--sequela

    To freely bloom - that is my definition of success. -Gerry Spence, lawyer (b. 1929)
Not to split infinitives. That is my definition of success. ;-)

A word after a word after a word is power. -Margaret Atwood, poet and novelist (b. 1939)

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