The catastrophic outbreak of Ebola virus in western Africa and the questionable quality of the response by Western “donor” countries has filled newspapers, magazines and broadcast media, not to mention the Internet, for the last several months.
Some of the coverage has reviewed the short life of medicine’s awareness of the virus which was discovered in 1976 by a team of scientists including Dr. Peter Piot, currently director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
Now, Dr. Allan Metcalf (PhD), professor of English at MacMurray College in Jacksonville, Ill., has decided to revisit the origin of the word “Ebola” in the Lingua Franca blog of The Chronicle of Higher Education. Continue reading →
Perhaps no surprise there, given the dominance of Ebola in the news, but what’s strange about this entrant is that it’s practically brand new. Like the compilers of the Oxford English Dictionary, McFedries logs citations for the words he spies — and in this case, the earliest citation is mere months ago.
She asked two groups of friends (n unknown) what they were doing on 30 October. The quickest electronic users — after typing a password into their smartphones and doing ” a good deal of jabbing” — answered in 17 seconds, although others took as long as 32 seconds. The fans of paper diaries opened their books to the relevant page in eight seconds.
That gap widened when Kellaway asked them to enter a lunch date. Smartphone users took 30 seconds; paper users took a mere five seconds. Continue reading →
“What on earth has happened to the word ‘issues,’ that lowly, dutiful, and colorless bureaucrat of a noun? How did such a businesslike and antiseptically neutral word, the semantic equivalent of the man in the grey flannel suit, become transformed into one of our era’s most favored and most versatile euphemisms—a politely opaque nugget of soothing and pseudo-insightful psychobabble, liberally used by talk-show hosts and social-services types, a word whose reticent and clinically rational demeanor artfully conceals the ungenerous and often highly judgmental spirit in which it is so often offered? Continue reading →
If it is possible for a piece of medical equipment to be racist, the spirometer may hold that questionable distinction.
That is the suggestion of Dr. Lundy Braun (PhD), professor of Africana Studies and pathology and laboratory medicine at Brown University. She explores the history of the spirometer, its racist uses and continuing “race correction” in Breathing Race into the Machine: The Surprising Career of the Spirometer from Plantation to Genetics.
In a recent interview in The Atlantic, Dr. Braun noted that spirometry was used in the 1860s to show that black slaves in the U.S. had lower lung capacity than whites. The first large study purportedly showing racial differences was conducted in Union soldiers, directed by Benjamin Apthorp Gould, and published in 1869.
“Lung capacity difference was a deeply entrenched idea by the late 19th century,” she said. Continue reading →
Now, Canadian Word Spy Paul McFedries, who tracks new words and phrases as they enter the language, has added “Kate Couric effect” (also simply “Couric effect”) on his Word Spy website.~TM