Hektoen International

A Journal of Medical Humanities

Tag: language

  • Englishes

    Peter Arnold Sydney, Australia   According to Google,1 the language spoken by most people is English (1.5 billion), followed by Mandarin (1.1 billion) and Hindi (0.6 billion). However, of our approaching 8 billion, many more speak another language besides those 1.5 million in the top bracket. This other language has hundreds of “dialects,” which might…

  • Esperanto and the babble of dreamers

    Simon Wein Petach Tikvah, Israel   L.L. Zamenhof L.L. Zamenhof (1859–1917) was an ophthalmologist and philologist from Białystok, then in Russia, now Poland. In the 1880s, he created a new language called Esperanto. The word Esperanto comes from the Latin, spiro, which means “to breathe.” Spiro also means one who hopes. Thus, loosely translated, Esperanto…

  • 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…