strange use

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Sun Jan 24 03:26:01 UTC 2010

I fully agree with you, Victor. Would that there were some way to keep
the language out of the mouths of the hoi polloi! ;-)

A couple of months back, on another list, someone made reference to
"the polloi." From the context, it was clear that the writer meant to
convey his knowledge of Classical Greek to the hoi polloi and his use
of simply "polloi" was done on purpose.

(Wonder why my spellchecker thinks that "hoi" is an English word, but
not "polloi.")


On Fri, Jan 22, 2010 at 1:29 PM, Victor Steinbok <aardvark66 at> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Victor Steinbok <aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM>
> Subject:      strange use
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> As stories pour out of Haiti on disaster relief, I've spotted two uses
> of common words that seemed odd to me. By coincidence, both occur in
> medical context.
> Perhaps I am missing something, but, in my use, "fatal" means something
> that necessarily causes death, not "can be lethal". To convey the latter
> meaning, it would have to be "usually fatal" or "sometimes fatal"
> (different degrees). The writer is a Canadian physician in Haiti.
>> The woman had an abruption, where the placenta separates prematurely
>> from the uterus and bleeding is extraordinary. *It’s fatal*, can be
>> lethal to the mother and to the baby.
> I would read this as implying that the injury has the potential of
> killing both the mother and the fetus, but the initial impulse of the
> writer was to say that it is certain to kill the mother. But reading
> further makes it clear that, although both patients died, there is
> absolutely no reason to have foreseen this as a certainty.
> Another strange use appears more than once. (Also in other news
> stories--just do a search for "anesthesia and Haiti" or for "run out of
> anesthesia".)
>> There were unconfirmed reports floating around this week that Cuban
>> doctors providing aid in Haiti had *run out of anesthesia* and that
>> the U.S. embargo of Cuba prevented the U.S. military from replenishing
>> their supplies.
> Presumably, "run out of anesthesia" means that there is insufficient
> supply of anesthetics, chemical agents. I am used to "anesthesia" as
> induced loss of sensitivity or consciousness, i.e., a state or a process
> of getting into that state. But I am not familiar with the use where
> "anesthesia" means the chemical agent that puts one into that state.
> (And I have an anesthesiologist in the family.) The usual reference to
> the agent is as an "anesthetic". Perhaps I am behind the curve on this
> one--there are 36G+ raw ghits for "run out of anesthesia".
> VS-)
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society -

All say, "How hard it is that we have to die!"––a strange complaint to
come from the mouths of people who have had to live.
–Mark Twain

The American Dialect Society -

More information about the Ads-l mailing list