Go
New
Find
Notify
Tools
Reply
  
Mistaken Science Login/Join
 
Member
Picture of wordcrafter
posted
Surprisingly many ordinary words are rooted in the mistaken science of our predecessors. We’ll sample those words this week, beginning with one from last week’s The Physician.

cataract
1. a large waterfall [from Greek for ‘down-rushing’]
2. a medical condition in which the eye’s lens becomes progressively opaque, causing blurred vision
    He was interested in Al-Juzjani’s lecture about the opacity that covered the eyes of so many people and robbed them of vision. 'It is believed such blindness is caused by a pouring-out of corrupt humor into the eye,' Al-Juzjani said. 'For this reason early Persian physicians called the ailment nazul-i-ah, or "descent of water," which has been vulgarised into waterfall disease or cataract. Most cataracts began as a small spot in the lens that scarcely interfered with vision but gradually spread until the entire lens became milky white, causing blindness.'
By the way, OED doesn’t share Al-Juzjani’s etymology. An obsolete meaning of cataract is “portcullis” (strong bars making a grating that descends to block the entrance to a castle). OED says the optical sense of cataract is “apparently a figurative use of the sense “portcullis”.
 
Posts: 2670Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
Picture of wordcrafter
posted Hide Post
A certain snake was once believed to bear its young alive, rather than from eggs. Hence it was named from vivus "alive, living" (akin to ‘vital’) + parere "bring forth, bear".

viper1. a poisonous snake with large hinged fangs 2. a spiteful or treacherous person

In the second sense, usually used in the plural, as in our quote.
    Important people suggested that the military be brought in to wipe out this nest of Nazi vipers
    – Bryce Courtenay, The Power of One
 
Posts: 2670Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
posted Hide Post
quote:
A certain snake was once believed to bear its young alive, rather than from eggs

Some snakes do bear live young, though.
 
Posts: 1245 | Location: San FranciscoReply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
Picture of Richard English
posted Hide Post
Quite true. Of course, all animals bring forth their young from eggs - it's just a question of when the eggs hatch. In the case of mammals this takes place at a very early stage, in utero, but eggs there certainly are.

Of course, it is rumoured that snakes nearly became extinct after the Flood. You see, they were adders and found it hard to multiply Wink


Richard English
 
Posts: 8037 | Location: Partridge Green, West Sussex, UKReply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
Picture of arnie
posted Hide Post
quote:
Some snakes do bear live young, though.

In fact, according to Wikipedia
quote:
Most [vipers] are ovoviviparous, giving birth to live young, but a few lay eggs
(My bolding.)


Sometimes I think the surest sign that intelligent life exists elsewhere in the universe is that none of it has tried to contact us.
Calvin (of Calvin and Hobbes)
 
Posts: 10399 | Location: LondonReply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
posted Hide Post
quote:
all animals bring forth their young from eggs - it's just a question of when the eggs hatch

I think you are using "egg" in two different senses here. There are egg cells, or ova, which are unfertilized. And there are eggs, which are containers for developing embryos. An egg hatches when a viable organism emerges from it.
I believe that most non-mammals that bear live young actually hold developing eggs inside their bodies until they hatch. I don't think there is any point in the developmental cycle of a placental mammal where it makes sense to speak of an egg "hatching".
 
Posts: 1245 | Location: San FranciscoReply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
Picture of wordcrafter
posted Hide Post
remora – a certain fish, with a sucking disk it uses to attach itself to a ship or to a shark, whale, etc.
[The ancients believed the fish would retard a ship to which it was attached. Hence the name: re- “back” + mora "delay" (as in “moratorium”).]
    In the main, the Arawaks [in the Caribbean] were simple fishermen. Sea turtles were caught with the help of the remora fish.. The fishermen would go out to sea in their canoes with the remora attached to a string swimming alongside the boat. When a turtle is spotted, the remora would dive towards the turtle and attach itself to the back of the turtle by way of the powerful suckers on its head.
    – The Gleaner (Kingston, Jamaica), Oct. 27, 1998

    I couldn’t control my buoyancy. I kept putting too much air into my jacket or too little, bouncing between ocean floor and ceiling in slow motion. Finally, when I had used up all my air, the guide offered me his extra breathing source. Mortified, I shared his air, clinging to his tank like a remora.
    – New York Times, Apr. 8, 2007
 
Posts: 2670Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
Picture of wordcrafter
posted Hide Post
It was once thought you could put a person into stupor by pressing on either of a certain pair of arteries. Accordingly, the plural of the Greek word for ‘drowsiness, stupor’ was used to give a name of those arteries. That Greek plural-word is karotides.

carotid – relating to the two large arteries carrying blood to the head and neck
    [N]one of us thought Beck was going to survive the night. I could barely detect his carotid pulse, which his the last pulse you lose before you die.
    – Jon Krakauer, Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster
 
Posts: 2670Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
Picture of Kalleh
posted Hide Post
Well, if you totally occluded both carotid arteries, you'd put someone into a stupor. Those are the arteries that feed the brain.

This message has been edited. Last edited by: Kalleh,
 
Posts: 20967 | Location: Chicago, USAReply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
Picture of pearce
posted Hide Post
quote:
Originally posted by Kalleh:
Well, if you occluded the carotid artery, believe me, you'd put someone into a stupor. Those are the arteries that feed the brain.


No K. In many patients a carotid occlusion causes no impairment of consciousness, and in some not even a substantial neurological deficit. Totally asymptomatic occlusion of one carotid is not rare. It all depends on the adequacy of the flow through the other three major vessels and of their anastomoses.
 
Posts: 424 | Location: Yorkshire, EnglandReply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
Picture of Kalleh
posted Hide Post
What about total carotid occlusion of both carotid arteries? I realize that's very rare, but I have seen it happen and each time the patient was comatose.
 
Posts: 20967 | Location: Chicago, USAReply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
Picture of wordcrafter
posted Hide Post
Today’s word comes from Greek aither ‘upper air’. In ancient and medieval times it meant the element that supposedly filled celestial space above beyond the moon. From about 1700 to 1900 it meant, in physics, a supposed all-pervading medium through which light and other electromagnetic waves traveled. Today this word has two air-senses (in addition to chemical ones).

ether1. literary: the clear sky; the upper regions of air (adj. etheric) 2. the internet [not in dictionaries, but see quote]
Derivative: Ethernet – the dominant system for connecting computers into a local area network (trademark, but sometimes used generically)
    Experts say the Internet gives kids, and even adults, the false impression that what they send out into the ether is anonymous. [but v]ery little about what you do on the Internet is unfindable. … Kids can damage their reputations by posting embarrassing photos or videos of themselves and their friends.
    – News Tribune (Tacoma, WA), Apr. 25, 2008

    [T]oday's students scoff at the ordinary Internet access most Americans know. They crave speed to such an extent that they ,,, refuse to attend any college that doesn't offer it. Consider the suffering they endure when they go home for break and have to plug their PCs into plain old phone lines that are hundreds of times slower. "You go through ethernet withdrawal. … Your computer sits there and you don't want to use it. You eventually find other things to do."
    – Los Angeles Times, Ethernet Is Changing Dorm Life, Jan. 14, 2000
 
Posts: 2670Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
Picture of pearce
posted Hide Post
quote:
Originally posted by Kalleh:
What about total carotid occlusion of both carotid arteries? I realize that's very rare, but I have seen it happen and each time the patient was comatose.

Agreed, but as you say, uncommon. There is report of a case with 90% stenosis of RICA was asymptomatic and total occlusion of LICA that resulted in a minor infarction in left basal ganglia with only minimal sensory symptoms. link And more than one earlier report link2
Apologies: This is getting almost as technical and acronym laden as some of the linguistic threads.

This message has been edited. Last edited by: pearce,
 
Posts: 424 | Location: Yorkshire, EnglandReply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
posted Hide Post
quote:
What about total carotid occlusion of both carotid arteries? I realize that's very rare

The LAPD begs to differ.
 
Posts: 1245 | Location: San FranciscoReply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
Picture of wordcrafter
posted Hide Post
toadstool – an umbrella-shaped mushroom, typically a poisonous or inedible one
Toads were believed to be highly poisonous, but the word-authorities are coy about whether that belief led to the ‘toadstool’ name. As to the ‘stool’ part, I wish I could report that it refers to ‘stool = feces’, so that a ‘toadstool’ would be what grows from the droppings of the poisonous little beastie. Alas, the ‘stool’ seems to come from ‘stool = a seat’.

A poem by Oliver Herford:
    Under a toadstool crept a wee Elf,
    Out of the rain to shelter himself.

    Under the toadstool, sound asleep,
    Sat a big Dormouse all in a heap.

    Trembled the wee Elf, frightened and yet
    Fearing to fly away lest he get wet.

    To the next shelter—maybe a mile!
    Sudden the wee Elf smiled a wee smile.

    Tugged till the toadstool toppled in two.
    Holding it over him, gaily he flew.

    Soon he was safe home, dry as could be.
    Soon woke the Dormouse—"Good gracious me!

    "Where is my toadstool??" loud he lamented.
    —And that's how umbrellas first were invented.
A question for readers: According to OED, ‘toad’ comes from a similar Old English term, which is ‘of unknown origin’. But in German, ‘tod’ apparently means ‘death’. Could our ‘toad’, thought to be poisonous, have been named from this German death-word?
 
Posts: 2670Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
Picture of wordcrafter
posted Hide Post
A certain gland was thought to channel mucus to the nose. Therefore, in roughly 1615, it was named from the Latin for (as OED puts it) ‘glutinous mucus; phlegm’. Only later was it found that this gland is in fact the “master gland” that directs other glands. But the old name, from Latin pituita, has stuck.

pituitary gland – a small gland, at the base of the brain, whose secretions of which control the other endocrine glands
pituitary1. relating to the pituitary gland 2. of or secreting phlegm or mucus

The broad function of the gland can cause medical confusion.
    pituitary tumors are often misdiagnosed because of the confusing array of symptoms they present. "Conditions such as osteoporosis, sexual dysfunction, depression, infertility, or growth disorders can be the result of abnormalities in the pituitary or "master" gland. Many times this association is overlooked. These types of tumors are generally not malignant, but they have many different and highly variable ways of making their presence known.”
    – Science Daily, Apr. 29, 2005, quoting neurosurgeon at Rush University Medical Center, in Chicago (ellipses omitted)
A personal note: When I started to prepare this theme I expected difficulty in finding as many as seven words. To my surprise there are far more than seven; the difficulty was that so many are extremely common, everyday words: protein; leopard; hysteria; vitamin; oxygen; atom; lunacy; mammoth; disaster. Perhaps we’ll return to this theme in some future week.
 
Posts: 2670Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
Picture of arnie
posted Hide Post
quote:
Could our ‘toad’, thought to be poisonous, have been named from this German death-word?

Anatoly Liberman's book, "An Analytic Dictionary of English Etymology: An Introduction" is mentioned in this thread. One of the words he deals with is 'toad'. Why not spring for a copy, wordcrafter? Smile


Sometimes I think the surest sign that intelligent life exists elsewhere in the universe is that none of it has tried to contact us.
Calvin (of Calvin and Hobbes)
 
Posts: 10399 | Location: LondonReply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
Picture of goofy
posted Hide Post
quote:
Originally posted by wordcrafter:
A question for readers: According to OED, ‘toad’ comes from a similar Old English term, which is ‘of unknown origin’. But in German, ‘tod’ apparently means ‘death’. Could our ‘toad’, thought to be poisonous, have been named from this German death-word?


Why would the spelling change - that is, where did the a come from?
 
Posts: 1878Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
Picture of zmježd
posted Hide Post
‘toad’

The A-H dictionary gives Middle English and Old English versions of the word: tāde, tādige. An Old English dictionary I consulted (link) says the words are listed in some Old and Middle English vocabularies. Google Books has an edition of the book. In the 10th century MS of Alfric's vocabulary (link) Latin buffo [sic] is glossed {i]tadige[/i]; in a 15th century MS of archaic words (link) Latin bufo is glossed tade. A German borrowing would have to predate the 10th century. I think it unlikely. German tot is cognate with English dead; German Tod with English death.

[Fixed link.]

This message has been edited. Last edited by: zmježd,


Ceci n'est pas un seing.
 
Posts: 5045 | Location: R'lyehReply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
Picture of pearce
posted Hide Post
quote:
Originally posted by neveu:
quote:
What about total carotid occlusion of both carotid arteries? I realize that's very rare

The LAPD begs to differ.


I was referring to naturally occurring disease, not to the methods of arrest of the Los Angeles Police Department Chokehold Deaths, 1975-1982.
They describe:
quote:
An officer applied the "carotid" control by reaching one arm around the suspect's neck, placing his elbow around the front of the neck, grasping that arm's hand with his other hand, and pressing inward. The desired effect was to close the carotid arteries on both sides of the neck so that no oxygenated blood got to the suspect's brain.
 
Posts: 424 | Location: Yorkshire, EnglandReply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
posted Hide Post
quote:
I was referring to naturally occurring disease

I know (actually it was Kalleh I quoted). Unnaturally occurring occlusion is much more common, and quite effective.
 
Posts: 1245 | Location: San FranciscoReply With QuoteReport This Post
  Powered by Social Strata  
 


Copyright © 2002-12