Hektoen International

A Journal of Medical Humanities

Tag: language

  • Englishes

    Peter ArnoldSydney, 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 obscure appreciation…

  • Esperanto and the babble of dreamers

    Simon WeinPetach Tikvah, Israel 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 means “where there is…

  • 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. BanerjeeSolihull, United Kingdom 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 this remarkable organ works. In this book, neuroscientist and author Joseph Jebelli describes the evolutionary development of the…

  • 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 PearceHull, England 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 confess a liking for certain medical metaphors. Though they can be overused in medical and biological…

  • Indo-Europeans and medical terms

    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 a few burial mounds, some pottery and skeletons, but their history is obscure. They spoke a presumed…

  • Using Latin to settle medical pronunciation debates

    Raymond NoonanBrooklyn, 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 readers is…

  • Plague epidemics and the evolution of language in England

    Andrew P. K. WodrichWashington, DC, United States Epidemics have had a profound impact on culture across time. The Antonine Plague, a suspected outbreak of smallpox, wreaked havoc on the Roman Empire of the second century. Amongst its many cultural sequelae, this plague caused a renewed sense of spiritualism and religiosity, which may have created an…

  • 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…