second thoughts on Nkinis

Douglas G. Wilson douglas at NB.NET
Sun Dec 26 21:38:10 UTC 2004

>>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?)

Is it that obvious whether Kawasaki disease is named after a person or a
place or a motorcycle company? There are of course thousands of Web
instances of "Lyme's disease", and the medical journals probably show a few
examples too. Anyway, the CDC style guideline (among others, I believe)
says "no possessive ending in any case" so one doesn't need to know who or
what inspired "Minimata disease" or "Cronkite-Canada syndrome" or whatever
(there are hundreds of these eponyms in current use).

>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."

"Non-Hodgkin['s] disease" would be unusual in careful writing, as would
"non-Alzheimer['s] disease". But "non-Hodgkin['s] lymphoma" and
"non-Alzheimer['s] dementia" are routine.

>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.

I think it's often (traditionally) "Chagas'" with a terminal apostrophe,
but how often does the subject arise in casual US speech or writing anyway?
If it appears in a CDC publication, I guess it will be "Chagas", if in JAMA
it will be whatever the JAMA editors like ... or maybe they're laissez-faire.

-- Doug Wilson

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