A subtle nudge in the direction of choosing the Anglo-Saxon in favour of the Latinate

I was passing the time the other day by browsing through Wikipedia’s list of infectious diseases. Somewhere between actinomycosis and zygomycosis, I noticed something intriguing. Quite a few of them had alternative names next to them in brackets.

Erythema infectiosum is also, curiously, fifth disease. Onchocerciasis is river blindness. Pediculosis corporis and pediculosis capitis are body lice and head lice, respectively.

I could go on.

I’m going to go on.

Pertussis is whooping cough. Tetanus is lockjaw. Tinea barbae is barber’s itch.

In each case, one’s opaque, the other’s clear.

One’s devoid of connotations, the other paints vivid pictures in your head.

One’s formal, the other seems somehow a little bit less serious.

One’s Latin. The other, for the most part, is Anglo-Saxon.


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on Jun 28, 2011

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