second thoughts on Nkinis

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Sun Dec 26 19:24:50 UTC 2004

At 1:12 PM -0500 12/25/04, Douglas G. Wilson wrote:
>>But if you dislike the negated eponym, you're out of luck; it is standard
>>medical terminology. See the American Cancer Society's page on it
>>and my instructions to the annotators who work for me in the project on
>>information extraction from the biomedical literature for which I am
>>research administrator
>>in the bulleted list, under "eponymy").
>In recent years there seems to have been some effort to remove these
>possessive endings entirely: e.g.:
>... where the CDC stipulates:
>Diseases or syndromes named after a person or place are generally not
>Bright disease
>Chagas disease
>Down syndrome
>Hodgkin disease
>Kaposi sarcoma
>Kawasaki syndrome
>Lyme disease
>Marfan syndrome
>Minimata disease
>Reye syndrome
>Rocky Mountain spotted fever

To my eye and ear, this is a heterogeneous grouping.  The place
eponyms never take apostrophes, do they?  Rocky Mountain's spotted
fever?  Lyme's disease?  Both seem utterly impossible, unless the
latter is what Harry L suffered from in The Third Man (or was that
Lime's disease?)

The others are a mixed bag.  I can vouch for Hodgkin's being used far
more often (whether spelled with or without the apostrophe) than
"Hodgkin disease", which I suspect I've never heard, nor have I
encountered "non-Hodgkin disease."  I'm pretty sure "Bright's
disease" works similarly, although for various reasons I'm less sure
of my intuitions.  Some, like "Kaposi('s) sarcoma" and the syndromes
are hard to distinguish in spoken language, but I have the feeling
I've usually seen "Reye's" but "Down" and "Marfan".  And Chagas
disease, not Chagas's.

>It seems to me that the change has been quite perceptible in the last 20
>years or so (I think "Hodgkin disease" was a rare expression much earlier),
>but I think the initiative has been resisted quite strongly. I suppose
>probably some journals insist on the non-possessive usages, but I think
>"Hodgkin's disease" still outnumbers "Hodgkin disease" in the leading
>medical journals, at my very brief glance. Perhaps Mark Mandel or another
>of the scholars knows much more about this.
>-- Doug Wilson

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