accents & prescriptivism

Douglas G. Wilson douglas at NB.NET
Wed Sep 19 21:08:44 UTC 2001

>No wonder they switched to written prescriptions (albeit famously in
>illegible form).  But I wonder about those "Opening Pills" that were
>evidently intended for poor Ms. Hagley.  Think of all those poor
>people who were inadverently turned into opium addicts, when they
>were just trying to be opened.

I'm not sure prescriptions were required in 1830, even for narcotics. Maybe
Mrs. Hagley just sent for some opening pills (i.e., laxative pills) on her
own. Maybe she should have read the label if there was one (and if it was
legible) ... but I wonder whether in those days it would have been in
pharmacists' Latin with cryptic symbols. One would expect the opium to
worsen her constipation, so she'd take a bigger dose, then later -- if she
still lived -- perhaps she'd be unable to remember whether she had taken
any recently or not, better take several more pills, etc. ....

-- Doug Wilson

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