Naming diseases

Douglas G. Wilson douglas at NB.NET
Mon Dec 27 14:35:20 UTC 2004

>: Diseases or syndromes named after a person or place are generally not
>: possessive:
>: Bright disease
>: Chagas disease
>: Down syndrome
>: Hodgkin disease
>: Kaposi sarcoma
>: Kawasaki syndrome
>: Lyme disease
>: Marfan syndrome
>: Minimata disease
>: Reye syndrome
>: Rocky Mountain spotted fever
>One problem with this list has been pointed out; another is that the words
>disease, syndrome, sarcoma, and spotted are all consonant-initial. I find it
>easy to believe these could all work without the 's, but i have a harder
>time believing "Broca aphasia" and "Wernicke aphasia" will take firm root,
>particularly when spoken.

They probably won't take firm root soon, because of inertia. But I don't
see that they're any worse than "alopecia areata" or "rara avis" or
"Encyclopedia Americana" (to say nothing of "salpingooophorectomy").
Generally those who like to omit the possessive endings speak "Broca
aphasia" without difficulty. However I think this is a small minority. I
don't hear "Crohn disease" or "Parkinson disease" or "Hodgkin disease" much
either (although I do see them in print). In fact among those in the
business of dealing with (e.g.) Hodgkin's disease I think "Hodgkin's
lymphoma/disease" will tend to be represented often in casual speech by
simple "Hodgkin's" (virtually never simple "Hodgkin" AFAIK): "This one is a

The person who works at "Ford's", shops at "K-Mart's", and/or sells produce
under a sign reading "Fresh Tomato's" may be particularly resistant to
elision of the possessive endings.

-- Doug Wilson

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