Rebranding illness

Lady Doctor by John WoodwarkIs it just me who gets the giggles about all those cattle with Blue Tongue disease?

It’s wrong of me to giggle, I know, but I love the directness of the nomenclature of animal diseases: Blue Tongue, Foot and Mouth, Mad Cow, the Staggers, Licky End. Actually the last one was made up by Terry Pratchett, but it is all too plausible isn’t it?

Human diseases used to have accessible names too: St Vitus’ dance, St Anthony’s fire, quinsy, dropsy, Bells palsy, tennis elbow, housemaid’s knee, sleeping sickness, shaking sickness, elephantiasis, croup, scurvy, rickets, whooping cough, cow pox, (any kind of pox, really), the Black Death. Those were names to conjour with.

These days we just have a bunch of bloody acronyms: SARS, AIDS, ADHD, HIV, SIDS.


I was looking for a picture of a medieval doctor to illustrate this post, when I found this painting by John Woodwark; her bottom is just too splendid for me not to share the image with you here.

POP QUIZ – which two words have very similar meanings, one is a six letter word of one syllable the other is a four letter word of two syllables, and the last four letters of the six letter word are the the whole of the four letter word?

5 responses to “Rebranding illness

  1. Two comments:

    first, Lickey End (with an e) was not, in the strictest sense, made up by Terry Pratchett, onnaccounta it’s a very geographically specific disease you get near junction 1 of the M42…,-2.04211|14|4&loc=GB:52.63084:-1.94598

    Secondly, I think your pop quiz is a SIX letter word (not five) of one syllable, the last four letters of which are a similar meaning, two syllable word…

  2. Oh, and one more thing – my favourite is “dropsy”.

  3. I’ve driven past those signs many many times onaccounta the regularly to, through, past and near Longbridge. I just didn’t feel the need to say so. I like the ones for Rubery in the same area. I’ve also driven past the sign on the M5 for Blind Yeo several times, but until didn’t feel the need to wear that one on my sleeve either. Ner.


    Dropsy! How could I forget Dropsy! I’m going to add it now.

    And you are right about the Pop quiz, but only because I’ve already told you the answer. I’ll change that too.


  4. I mourn the passing of interesting anatomical names.
    They had an international symposium a few years ago, at which anatomists, and assorted medics/dentists/etc got together and agreed common names for anatomical features, in the interests of making communication easier.
    For example, we lost The Antrum of Highmore, named after a chap who first described it – and now have a maxillary sinus.
    We lost Stenson’s Ducts and Wharton’s Ducts; they’re now parotid and sub-mandibular, respectively.
    Perhaps we all now understand each other better – but a lot of the colour has gone.

  5. There’s trouble in the Antrum of Highmore…

    Mmmmm, so much nicer than ‘you have sinusitis. Take one lemsip and do not pass Go.’

Leave a Reply to Reed Cancel reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s