Monthly Archives: October, 2014

Etymology of Ebola

Credit: bradcalkins

Credit: bradcalkins

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 →

Word Watch: Ebolaphobia

Credit: gustavofrazao

Credit: gustavofrazao

Canada’s Word Spy Paul McFedries has flagged “Ebolaphobia” as a new entry to the lexicon.

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.

According to McFedries, the first use was on 31 July on the website HPANWO Voice which is described as a forum for the HPANWO to review global news and trends. Continue reading →

If you have a need for speed, use a paper planner instead of a digital diary

Credit: Eugenio Marongiu

Credit: Eugenio Marongiu

In a small, highly unscientific study, Financial Times columnist Lucy Kellaway has found that using an electronic calendar is more time-consuming than a paper diary.

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 →

Quotable: ‘Issues’ — “One of our era’s most favored and versatile euphemisms”

issuesslash“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 →

Racism in medicine: The case of spirometry

Credit: Glenda Powers

Credit: Glenda Powers

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 →

Word Watch: Katie Couric effect

Colonscopia esame colon apparato digerenteWhen TV host Katie Couric had a live, on-air colonoscopy on the Today Show in 2000, and campaigned for colon cancer screening after the death of her husband two years before that, there was a pronounced increase in colonoscopies among Americans termed the “Katie Couric effect.”
The term was first used in 2002, but was resurrected in June in the Washington Post and last year in the New York Times.

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




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