Sunday, 11 February 2007

A disease of one’s own

I posted a note last May describing the delight to be had in finding something wrong with you which baffles your doctor (and by the way whatever it was I had has now stopped hurting), but this is a small pleasure compared with the fun to be got by having some nasty affliction actually named after you. Best if you don’t actually suffer from it, of course, but merely devote several decades of your life to discovering it.

There is a splendid website called Whonamedit which is devoted to eponymous diseases, or syndromes, or obscure body parts, or procedures. Work on it is still in progress—it now lists a mere 7,829 eponyms but eventually it will include more than 15,000 eponyms and 6,000 persons.

As one does on a dull Sunday afternoon, I was browsing through it today and found some fascinating and little-known byways to explore. How many people, for example, know that a Morand’s Foot has eight toes, and that it is named after Sauveur François Morand, an eighteenth-century pioneer in urology and the first to devise the Trendelenburg position? And who would not want to learn exactly what the prognosis is if they acquire Espildora Luque's syndrome, or Ledderhose's contracture, or even, God forbid, Kaposi's varicelliform eruption?

But the one which I found the most interesting was not really a medical condition at all. It is called Yentl’s syndrome and is named after the heroine of a story by Isaac Bashevis Singer called Yentl the Yeshiva Boy, in which Yentl had to disguise herself as a man to attend school and study the Talmud at an all-male Jewish school in 19th century Poland; it was made into a 1983 film directed and starred in by Barbra Streisand. The syndrome describes the phenomenon that women are treated less optimally in the management of coronary heart disease than men.

How, exactly? Is it prevalent today? And was the problem first identified by cardiac specialists, or feminists, or, most likely, feminist cardiac specialists? I suppose one could find out, for Google brings up seventy other websites that refer to it, but I shall leave it there, for I think I've got a slight touch of Zenker's diverticulum coming on.


Grumio said...

Well, anyone erroneously contructing a relative form of an absolute ("most optimally") is on a sticky wicket from the start.

Tony said...

Yes. But the original committed an even grosser solecism :"less optimal". Out of the simple kindness for which my name is a byword, I amended this when I quoted it because it is clear that this valuable website was created as a labour of love by non-native speakers of English and I did not want to invite ungenerous carping.
Obviously, I failed.
Happily, it is unlikely that any of the authors will read my post or your comment, and even if they did they would probably not understand "sticky wicket", a tired cliché quite inappropriate in this context.

Grumio said...

Ungenerous carping – poop.

Someone using such an unnecessarily tortured construction instead of just saying 'less well' or 'not as well' deserves to be hauled up on it. I shall track them down and draw your post to their attention.

I love tired clichés, me. Love them.


Erwin Tschirner said...

They're foreigners, for God's sake. Have you no simple human charity? Don't you sometimes slip up when you're writing Hungarian?

outeast said...

For those that care, Yentl's Syndrome was thus dubbed by cardiologist Dr. Bernadine Healy, whom some of you may know as the former President and CEO of the American Red Cross, former Dean of Ohio State University College of Medicine and Public Health, and former head of the the NIH. No small player she!

Also, the perpetrator of solecisms vilified by grumio self-identifies a Serbian, not Hungarian...

Tony said...

Well, Outeast, I do care, and I thank you very much for telling me about the distinguished Dr Bernadine Healy.
I should tell you that both Prof Tschirner and I know that Grumio, besides being a boulevardier and a poet, is a polyglot and has good Hungarian and fair Serbo-Croat. He was only pulling my leg, and we were pulling his.

Grumio said...

Mnogo hvala, postovani prijatelji, skoro sam to o"cekivao!

Mada, ja diviti se Dr. Healy! Jako puno! Mo"zda vi sem toga?


Ruth said...

Odd that Kaposi's sarcoma is not listed. It was considered rare until a cluster of afflicted males showed up in San Francisco in the early 80s.

It turned out to be some kind of indicator for the onset of AIDS.

Tony said...

But it is, Ruth, it is! They have a whole page on Moriz Kohn Kaposi and include his sarcoma and a host of other wonders to which he gave his name.