STICK YOUR TONGUE OUT AND SAY "VESOPHAGOGASTRODUODENOSCOPY"

Unveil The History Behind These 12 Medical Terms!


Published on January 25, 2024


Credit: Sasun Bughdaryan

Medical science is in constant evolution. Many of the procedures that now are considered state-of-the-art might be deemed barbaric in just a few decades. Each discovery in the field generates new medical concepts and illustrates the different paths that human ingenuity takes in its quest to save and improve lives.

Behind each seemingly clinical term lies a rich narrative, a story that traverses centuries and continents, revealing the evolution of medical understanding and the often-surprising origins of the words we take for granted in the modern healthcare lexicon.

1

Hospital

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Fewer words within the medical realm are so used as this one. The word has two traceable origins: The Old French ospital, meaning hostel, shelter, or lodging; and the Late Latin hospitale, meaning guest-house or inn. But the definition we give to the word these days was first recorded in the 1540s when its meaning shifted toward "institution for sick or wounded people".

2

Anesthesia

Credit: Ibrahim Boran

Anesthesia must have been a very welcome innovation within the medical world when it first appeared back in the 19th century. The term itself unfolds as a testament to the remarkable evolution of medical science in alleviating human suffering.

Rooted in the Greek language, with an, signifying absence, and aisthesis, representing sensation; anesthesia illustrates the profound concept of rendering patients insensible to pain during medical procedures.

3

Biopsy

Credit: National Cancer Institute

While not every medical term describes an ancient discovery, many rely on the Greek language for a definition. The term "biopsy", for example, combines the Greek words bios (life) and opsis (a sight).

This mix describes a medical procedure crucial for studying the intricacies of living tissues. Dating back to the early 20th century, the concept of biopsy gained prominence with the advancements in medical microscopy and pathology.

4

Borborygmus

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A much less used word than the previous ones, borborygmus is a term that describes those loud gurgles your belly sometimes makes. The seldomly heard idiom traces to the Greek verb borboryzein , which means "to rumble".

Often referred to as stomach or bowel rumbling, borborygmus is the audible result of the movement of gases and fluids within the digestive system. While typically a normal bodily function, excessive borborygmi can be indicative of underlying gastrointestinal issues.

5

Megrim

Credit: Sander Sammy

This unusual word shares its origin with the more common migraine. Both Latin and Greek speakers afflicted with a pain in one side of the head called their ailment hemicrania , from the Greek terms hemi -, meaning "half," and kranion , meaning "cranium."

The French people who experienced this ailment used migraine, a modification of hemicrania, for the very same condition. Nowadays, megrim and migraine can still be used interchangeably, but megrim is much less common.

6

Warfarin

Credit: Myriam Zilles

Warfarin is an anticoagulant drug used to prevent blood clots in conditions such as atrial fibrillation and rheumatic heart disease. Interestingly, the drug was originally developed for use as rat poison before it was used in human medicine.

Warfarin is derived from dicoumarol, which can be deadly in large doses. It was discovered in the 1920s after previously healthy cattle in the Northern Plains of America and the prairies of Canada started dying. It was found that the cattle were grazing on hay infested with mold, which turned the naturally occurring chemical coumarin (responsible for the smell of newly mown grass) into dicoumarol.

7

Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis

Credit: Simon Kadula

An extremely specific word, pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis is a string of Latin terms that together describe an inflammatory lung disease caused by long-term inhalation of silica dust.

The formidable term claims to be one of the longest words in the English language. This tongue-twisting word showcases the intricacies of medical nomenclature.

8

Xenotransplantation

Credit: Francesco Ungaro

An almost mystical word, "xenotransplantation" marks a frontier in medical science, combining the Greek roots xeno (foreign) and "transplantation." This term defines the concept of transplanting organs or tissues from one species to another.

While the idea dates back centuries, the term gained prominence in the 20th century with advancements in immunology and genetic engineering. Xenotransplantation holds the promise of addressing the shortage of human donor organs, yet it confronts challenges related to immune rejection and the risk of cross-species infections.

9

Muscae Volitantes

Credit: Chris Curry

Medicine has a word for almost everything. For example, those little transparent threads you sometimes see floating across your eyeball have a name: muscae volitantes ("flying flies"), the name for the little bits of protein or other material in the jelly inside your eye.

A term born from the intricate world of ophthalmology, where Latin meets the art of describing visual phenomena, muscae volitantes captures the floaters or specks that drift across one's field of vision due to particles or debris within the eye's vitreous humor.

10

Veisalgia

Credit: Sander Sammy

A more dignified word for "hangover", veisalgia originated in a 2000 paper in a medical journal. It combines the Norwegian word kveis ("uneasiness following debauchery") with the Greek word for pain.

The undeniable universality of this human experience made it a matter of time -even if took so long- for a more serious defining term to appear.

11

Arachibutyrophobia

Credit: Towfiqu Barbhuiya

The realm of phobias has room for some strange fears and this one is near the top spot. Arachibutyrophobia is a kind of phobia -in the sense that is not recognized as an official phobia- where the person fears that the peanut butter being consumed could get stuck on the roof of their mouth.

The term is a combination of Greek words: arachi for "ground nut", butyr for butter, and phobia for fear . As we see, even the most specific and peculiar fears can find expression in the rich world of medical language.

12

Esophagogastroduodenoscopy

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There is a good reason for doctors abbreviating so many of the words in their everyday lexicon and this one is one of those. "Esophagogastroduodenoscopy," a formidable amalgamation of Greek roots, unveils a crucial diagnostic procedure in the realm of gastroenterology.

This term, often abbreviated as EGD, signifies the examination of the esophagus, stomach, and duodenum through an endoscope. Coined in the mid-20th century, the term reflects the precision demanded by medical language to encapsulate complex procedures.


UNTRANSLATABLE

12 Foreign Words That Will Blow Your Mind


Published on January 25, 2024


Credit: Valeria Reverdo

There is an old adage among translators that says traduttore traditore , which is Italian for "the translator is a traitor". This is because, when something is translated into another language, many subtleties and cultural associations are inevitably lost in the process - meaning that the original sense of a word or phrase can change radically.

Although most languages have millions of words, no single language can cover the entirety of human experience with the words you can find in their dictionaries. So, translators usually have terrible headaches trying to translate certain words whose meaning is incredibly difficult to convey in another language.

Here at Dictionary Scoop, we chose 10 foreign words or concepts that come into this category and cannot be easily translated without at least some context and an explanation. Feel free to use them afterward! It can be a refreshing way to think about different cultures and a great topic for conversation (perhaps during a sobremesa ).

1

Sobremesa

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I wish English had a word for this. This Spanish noun refers to the small talk or conversations that happen after a meal when everyone is still seated.

2

Ngày kia

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A very useful one. This is Vietnamese for "the day after tomorrow".

3

Schadenfreude

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For mean people… or anyone who likes to watch videos of funny accidents (not so funny if they happen to you, certainly). This is a German word that refers to getting joy from the misfortune of others.

4

Lagom

Credit: Jordane Mathieu

This is a Swedish word that means something like "not too much and not too little, just the right amount". Why do people from northern Europe seem to have such concise words for almost philosophical concepts?

5

Epibreren

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A Dutch word that means to act convincingly as if you are doing something important, while actually doing nothing useful at all. Sort of sums up most office work.

6

Komorebi

Credit: Erik van Dijk

Japanese is a beautiful language full of deeply insightful metaphors or poetic images. This word is no exception, referring specifically to the sunlight that filters through forest trees.

7

Ahorita

Credit: NONRESIDENT

A fun one. This baffling Spanish adverb can mean anything from "right now" to "maybe later", or "maybe never". So if you ask someone to do you a favor and they say ahorita , don’t wait around.

8

Kalsarikännit

Credit: Patrick Slade

Often translated as päntsdrunk , this delightful Finnish word refers to the habit of drinking home alone in your underwear. The fact that this intriguing habit got its own word might have something to do with the fact that many Finns stay mostly isolated at home during Finland’s long and brutal winters. Self-isolation of people everywhere in recent times due to the COVID-19 pandemic created a global trend for this drinking habit, with many people embracing the kalsarikännit tradition.

9

Fargin

Credit: Al Elmes

A very wholesome word. Fargin is a Yiddish verb that means to "wholeheartedly appreciate the success of others". Kind of an antagonist to schadenfreude if you think about it.

10

Verschlimmbessern

Credit: Nandhu Kumar

A German verb that literally means "to make something worse while trying to improve it". Most of us have probably been guilty of verschlimmbessern -ing some situations. Ever tried fixing a bad haircut yourself? Well, there you go.

11

Tsundoku

Credit: Priscilla Du Preez

I'm guilty of this myself. This Japanese expression refers to "leaving a book unread after buying it, usually piled together along with many other unread books". Book hoarders, don’t let this word apply to you.

12

Saudade

Credit: James Hose Jr

A personal favorite. This is a Portuguese word that conveys a feeling of nostalgia and bitter-sweet melancholy for something that is irretrievable, lost in time, or maybe even non-existent. Other languages have similar words, like the German word sehnsucht , or the Touareg assouf . Although English has technically no equivalent to saudade , some people say that the African-American concept of the blues can approximate the same feelings of yearning and nostalgia.

13

Wrapping-up…

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Languages are a complex thing, and their particular idiosyncrasies can result in baffling or even poetic misunderstandings. Sometimes these confusions can be due to a bad translation, but many times words carry over such a large burden of cultural wisdom, that it ends up rendering any translation efforts almost impossible without delving into the singular philosophies behind the words.

If you liked our selection of weird, funny, and inspiring untranslatable words from all over the world, stay around! We will keep uploading content like this.

Looking for an extra scoop of literary fun?

Learn more with our Word of the day

quibble

/ˈkwɪb(ə)l/