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Frederick The Monk
16539.  Thu Mar 24, 2005 6:55 am Reply with quote

Cows carrycowpox but Chickens don't carry chickenpox.

In his dictionary of 1755 Samuel Johnson says that chickenpox is so called "from its being of no very great danger." And the Oxford English Dictionary says that it is probably "from the mildness of the disease."

This etymology is not absolutely certain however. For instance, in his Exanthemologia of 1730, Thomas Fuller suggested that it was from "the smallness of the Specks, which might fancy looked as tho' a Child had been picked with the Bills of Chickens."

Charles Fagge in The Principles and Practice of Medicine, published posthumously in 1886, proposed "chick-pease" as the origin. And Lerman (Clin Pediatr 1981;20:111-2) showed that chickpeas can look like chickenpox vesicles, by, wait for it, soaking them and placing them on 2 cm pink discs laid on flesh coloured paper. However, according to the OED, "chick-pea" came into being only through a scribal error for "cich-pease" from the Latin Cicer arietinum (see BMJ 1999;320:990); and that happened in the 18th century, by which time the term chickenpox was already in use.

s:BMJ 16th September 2000

96163.  Sun Sep 24, 2006 5:17 pm Reply with quote

makes me itch just thinkin about it


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