Tag Archives: language

Body language: The history of medical terminology

Eve Elliot Dublin, Ireland   Muscles of the human body: side view (click to view). Source. Public domain. “We don’t just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary.“ –James D. Nicoll   As any student of life sciences will tell […]

Book review: How the Mind Changed: A Human History of Our Evolving Brain

Arpan K. Banerjee Solihull, United Kingdom   Cover of How the Mind Changed: A Human History of Our Evolving Brain by Joseph Jebelli. The human brain has long been a source of wonder and a fascinating subject for study. Philosophers, scientists, biologists, psychologists, anthropologists, and medical scholars have spent lifetimes studying the brain and how […]

Paul Pierre Broca

JMS Pearce Hull, England, United Kingdom   Fig 1. Paul Pierre Broca. US National Library of Medicine. At the turn of the nineteenth century, knowledge of how the brain worked was largely conjectural. Intelligence, memory, language, and motor and sensory functions had not been localized. The physiologist Flourens, promoting the notion of “cerebral equipotentiality,” concluded, […]

A note on medical metaphors

JMS Pearce Hull, England   Cafe au lait patches in NF1. © 1993-2021, University of Washington, Seattle. From GeneReviews. Source. When Winston Churchill memorably referred to his bouts of depression as “black dog,” in two words he painted a picture that embraced feelings, which otherwise would have taken hundreds of words to describe. I have to […]

Indo-Europeans and medical terms

William Jones by John Linnell (1792–1882) after the original of Joshua Reynolds. Via Wikimedia. CC BY-SA 4.0. Somewhere around 3,000 to 7,000 years ago there lived in the steppes of southern Ukraine, or perhaps in northern Anatolia, a group of people whom we now call Indo-European but about whom we know very little. They left […]

Using Latin to settle medical pronunciation debates

Raymond Noonan Brooklyn, New York, United States   Author’s note: Original Latin words are written in italics, with macrons (ā) indicating long vowels. Equivalent Latin-derived medical terms are given without italics. Acute accents (á) are sometimes used to indicate stress accent in both English and Latin. Informal phonetic spelling that should be familiar to most […]

Plague epidemics and the evolution of language in England

Andrew P. K. Wodrich Washington, DC, United States   Pierart dou Tielt’s illustration depicts the mortal toll of the Black Death in a Belgian town circa 1353. Similarly, the plague decimated the population of England, spurring the change from French to English as the country’s dominant spoken language. Via Wikimedia Commons here.  Epidemics have had a profound impact […]

Some subjects are given

Michael Salcman Baltimore, Maryland, United States   Self-portrait with fiddling Death. Arnold Böcklin. 1872. Alte Nationalgalerie Berlin   Some subjects are given to the authors of poems and songs, of mechanical puzzles and lives, given over and over like a spiking fever in an old TB ward or the low level irritation of a cancer […]

Wounding words

Charlotte Grinberg Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA   Still Life – A Student’s Table. William Michael Harnett. 1882. Philadelphia Museum of Art. In college, I majored in anthropology. I was interested in understanding the political, social, legal, and economic forces that influence behavior. As language is inherently related to consciousness and culture, its study was central to […]

The language game of medicine

Gunjan Sharma Devon, United Kingdom   Photo by Ludomił on Unsplash “The arrow points only in the application that a living being makes of it.” – Ludwig Wittgenstein1   The Language Game Language is a fascinating concept when viewed through a philosophical lens. Imagine if we no longer had a word for jealousy. Would that […]