Antedating of "phantom limb" (1871)

Bonnie Taylor-Blake taylor-blake at NC.RR.COM
Sat May 19 00:38:30 UTC 2007

I see that the OED (draft revision; December, 2005) has the following for a
very early usage of "phantom limb":


1879 G. H. LEWES Probl. Life & Mind 3rd Ser. II. 336 The 'phantom limb', of
which Weir Mitchell speaks, is only one detail in the general picture
mentally formed of the body.


S. Weir Mitchell's "Phantom Limbs," an article detailing sensory disorders
he had observed in those who lost limbs in the Civil War, appeared in the
December 1871 issue (p. 563) of *Lippincott's Magazine of Popular Literature
and Science*.  As *The American Literary Gazette and Publishers' Circular*
("The Magazines for December," 1871, p. 30) noted, "'Phantom Limbs,' by Dr.
S. Weir Mitchell, is a very curious and interesting sketch, descriptive of
the nervous phenomena experienced by those whose limbs have been amputated."

(In 1872 Mitchell followed up with _Injuries of Nerves and Their
Consequences_ [Philadelphia:  Lippincott], which contains a more scholarly
treatment of this sensory syndrome.  In his discussion of the "neural
maladies of stumps," he notes that "[n]early every man who loses a limb
carries about with him a constant or inconstant phantom of the missing
memory, a sensory ghost of that much of himself, and sometimes a most
inconvenient presence, faintly felt at times, but ready to be called up to
his perception by a blow, a touch, or a change of wind."  There, he does
mention a "phantom hand," but "phantom limb" itself is absent.)

-- Bonnie

The American Dialect Society -

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