or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Tuesday, November 28, 2006


"Statuere", right? Well, there's plenty of time for that some other day. Tomorrow, maybe.

Jeffrey Steingarten is a food writer, and a really good one, too. He used to write for Vogue magazine, and he's got a couple of compilations of essays, "The Man Who Ate Everything" and "It Must Have Been Something I Ate", both of which you definitely ought to read: the first book taught me everything I know about granita. I'm only a chapter and a half into the second book, but I stumbled across this sentence:

And then there's Pica's disease, in which patients display a 'morbid craving for unusual or unsuitable food, such as the ingestion of ice, clay, laundry starch, lettuce, or cigarette ashes'.

I don't see that lettuce is such an unusual or unsuitable food, unless it's iceberg lettuce, which hardly qualifies as food at all, and, unless you eat nothing but, ice is very refreshing. But that's neither here nor there, and, since it's quoted from another source, isn't Steingarten's fault anyway.

But "Pica's disease" makes it clear that the writer thinks that the disease is named after someone, as are "Hansen's disease" (aka leprosy) or "Parkinson's disease". However, as I've written about before, the disease is in fact named pica, and its name comes from the Latin word for "magpie", because magpies will eat anything. It certainly doesn't derive its name from a person.

What I don't get is that the essay was first printed in Vogue, and they definitely have editors, copy-editors, and fact-checkers, and then the piece was reprinted in a book, and you know Random House has all sorts of fact-checkers, copy-editors, and editors, and not one of those people caught this?


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