Date: Thu, 8 Jan 1998 01:19:26 EST
From: Bapopik Bapopik[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]AOL.COM
Subject: BOOK REVIEW: Medical Meanings: A Glossary of Word Origins
MEDICAL MEANINGS: A GLOSSARY OF WORD ORIGINS
by William S. Haubrich, M.D., F.A.C.P.
American College of Physicians, 1997
253 pages, $29.95
This book reminds me of LADYFINGERS & NUN'S TUMMIES (about food words).
You read it, and it's mildly interesting. Then you realize this has been done
before, probably several times before. Then you check a few entries. Then
you start to get really mad!
In a year, this is the type of book that could appear on the Barnes &
Noble or Strand book store discount shelves, and at $8.95 you'll go home
happy. At $29.95 for 253 pages (without illustrations or charts or diagrams),
you want your money back.
The jacket states, "Enjoyable for browsing, indispensable for research
(really?--ed.), _Medical Meanings_ is a unique volume (unique?--ed.), one sure
to please students, physicians, and word connoisseurs." There you have it.
I'm sure to be pleased!
Author Haubrich, the back flap tells us, has written more than 115
original or review articles for major medical journals and served as
consultant in the life sciences for THE AMERICAN HERITAGE DICTIONARY OF THE
ENGLISH LANGUAGE, 3RD EDITION.
Basically, a word is presented, the Latin and Greek roots are explained,
and that's it!! No historical citations. No slang and current jargon. The
book looks like it could have been written 500 years ago!
There's no bibliography. In the acknowledgments, the author credits Henry
Alan Skinner's THE ORIGIN OF MEDICAL TERMS (1949, 1961 2nd ed.), the OED,
DORLAND'S ILLUSTRATED MEDICAL DICTIONARY, Skeat's ETYMOLOGICAL
Brewer's DICTIONARY OF PHRASE AND FABLE, BULFINCH'S MYTHOLOGY, Patridge's
SHORT ETYMOLOGICAL DICTIONARY OF MODERN ENGLISH, and the OXFORD
ENGLISH ETYMOLOGY. No wonder it seems musty.
No credit is given to 1995's CURRENT MED TALK: A DICTIONARY OF MEDICAL
TERMS, SLANG & JARGON by Joseph Segen. That book (which may soon be headed
for a second edition) is much more current and lively, and included article
citations. It was not an historical dictionary and it looked more like a med
tome than DARE or the RHHDAS, but it was a grand, long-overdue start.
For example, "gaspers" is not in MEDICAL MEANINGS, nor is "auto-erotic
asphyxiation"--medical terms we discussed here on ADS-L. I looked up a bunch
of sex terms such as "homosexual" and "transvestite"--neither is in MEDICAL
MEANINGS, but "homo-" and "trans-" are. How unique!
I got on Amazon.com and found out that MEDICAL TERMS: THEIR ROOTS AND
ORIGINS by A. R. Tindall was due out August 1997, but I haven't seen it yet.
A book called MEDICAL TERMINOLOGY FROM GREEK AND LATIN by Sandra Thompson
Lawrence Petterson was published in June 1978. The "unique" MEDICAL MEANINGS
did not cite it. Also not cited in the "unique" MEDICAL MEANINGS is MEDICAL
TERMINOLOGIES: CLASSICAL ORIGINS by John Scarbrorough, published in November
The words in MEDICAL MEANINGS are presented alphabetically and are not
grouped at all by any medical specialty. Thanks a lot. I haven't read the
reviews, but CHOICE (October 1997, pp. 275-276) gave the book a favorable
review and JAMA (August 27, 1997, pp. 688-689) gave it a mixed review.
AMERICAN SPEECH hasn't reviewed it.
Although there are many medical dictionaries and word books, a top-quality
historical dictionary of medical terminology (that includes slang and jargon)
is still needed. If you buy both CURRENT MED TALK and MEDICAL MEANINGS,
you'll have spent about $80 and you'll have come close, but you still won't
have that cool medical word book/database that you can impress on your friends
who watch ER.