[Ads-l] Further Antedating of "Placebo"

Joel Berson berson at ATT.NET
Sun Mar 20 23:44:12 UTC 2016

Good, Fred, especially as it gives the essence of what a placebo is!  "do not, however, deserve the name of medicines."

I was reading a history of medicine which noted the OED's 1811 quotation from a lexicon (probably written before the current OED3 1785 quotation was entered) and which then asserted that since dictionaries lag speech, "placebo" probably could be found, and placebos used, in the 18th century.  We've pushed it 30 years into the 18th.


      From: "Shapiro, Fred" <fred.shapiro at YALE.EDU>
 Sent: Saturday, March 19, 2016 8:06 PM
 Subject: [ADS-L] Further Antedating of "Placebo"
Here's a further antedating:

placebo (OED, 4., 1774)

1770 Andrew Duncan _Elements of Therapeutics_ 82 (Eighteenth Century Collections Online)  Where a _placebo_ merely is wanted, the purpose may be answered by means, which, although perhaps reduced under the _materia medica_, do not, however, deserve the name of medicines.

Fred Shapiro

From: American Dialect Society [ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] on behalf of Joel Berson [berson at att.net]
Sent: Friday, March 18, 2016 11:41 PM
Subject: placebo 1774; antedates OED3 sense 4. 1785--

"(*) My friend Francis Pearce, Esq; of Sancta Cruz, not only admits cold air, but cold water; for instead of giving two spoonfuls every three hours of some placebo, he orders the patient to be taken out of bed, and supported till two or three pailfuls of cold water have been thrown upon him, which is repeated every three hours."

Lettsom, John Coakley.  _Medical Memoirs of the General Dispensary in London, for part of the Years 1773 and 1774_.  London: Printed for Edward and Charles Dilly, 1774.  Page 18.

Google Books, full view.


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