Humorous disease names

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Sat Jun 7 21:08:46 UTC 2008

At 1:23 PM -0700 6/7/08, Brenda Lester wrote:
>people back in the old days would say "yellow jaundice" and "sugar diabetes."

"Yellow jaundice" is just a nice fixed epithet, like Homer's
"rosy-fingered dawn" and "wine-dark sea".  Not quite as lyrical as
Springsteen's "piss-yellow sun" perhaps, but we can't all be poets.


>--- On Sat, 6/7/08, Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at YALE.EDU> wrote:
>From: Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at YALE.EDU>
>Subject: Re: Humorous disease names
>Date: Saturday, June 7, 2008, 11:33 AM
>---------------------- Information from the mail header
>Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>Poster:       Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at YALE.EDU>
>Subject:      Re: Humorous disease names
>At 10:33 AM -0400 6/7/08, Benjamin Zimmer wrote:
>>On Sat, Jun 7, 2008 at 9:19 AM, Jim Parish <jparish at> wrote:
>>>  (Returning to the subject of James Herriot, I recall one of his
>>>  referring to "smilin' Harry syphilis"; if I recall
>correctly, this was a
>>>  misinterpretation of "swine erysipelas", but I don't
>have the books
>>>  anymore.)
>>There's a lot of (mostly apocryphal) medical malapropisms/eggcorns out
>>sick as hell anemia -> sickle cell anemia
>>spinal meningitis -> smilin' mighty Jesus
>or the even more popular "smile on mighty Jesus"
>>Alzheimer's disease -> old timer's disease
>>phenobarbital -> peanut butter balls
>and then there are all those disorders of the prostrate...
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