or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Monday, March 07, 2011


Often if you should happen to look at the timestamp on one of my blog postings, you may fairly assume that it's a complete lie (I might have started it at one time, which the autosave then preserves as gospel, or I might have deliberately changed it for reasons known only to myself), but this time it's the truth: I'm sitting here writing this at 1:30 in the morning because I have a vicious case of insomnia brought about by a nasty little flu bug which set itself to work on me Thursday last and will not let up. I made the mistake of going in to work on Sunday because I was feeling better, which is to say "better than I was feeling on Saturday", which isn't difficult because I felt pretty dreadful on Saturday, what with the coughing and sneezing and muscle aches that to me always feel like horrible little shivers of electricity running beneath my skin, and since Sunday wasn't that bad, I went in and proceeded to get worse and worse and worse. Lesson learned! And I certainly do apologize to all my co-workers whom I probably didn't expose to my germs but still theoretically might have, and likely grossed them out anyway with all the coughing and hacking and so forth.

I suppose we all know that taking macrodoses of vitamin C isn't going to help a cold or the flu or whatever it is I have, but I still do it, because I figure it's cheap and you really can't hurt yourself--it's water-soluble, so you're going to get expensive pee but nothing worse than that, and hey, it could help, right? (I am also downing hopeful spoonfuls of honey to try and soothe my tormented throat: not really helping.)

I was reading a book in bed tonight while I was trying and failing to lull myself to sleep, and that book is Isabella Beeton's Book of Household Management (using the Kindle app for the iPod), which is much more interesting than you might think, giving you an insight into what life might have been like in an upper middle-class British household in the middle of the nineteenth century. (And she died young, too, contracting child-bed fever while giving birth to her fourth, at the age of 28, which gives you another insight into what life might have been like.)

Here is a sentence I chanced to read tonight, from the section on The Lemon:

Its juice is now an essential for culinary purposes; but as an antiscorbutic its value is still greater.

"Antiscorbutic"! You have but to see the word, even if you've never seen it before, to immediately guess two things:

1) The "-scorb-" in "antiscorbutic" must obviously be the same as the bulk of the word "scurvy", meaning that an antiscorbutic drug (from Latin "anti-, "against", plus "scorbutus") must be a scurvy-fighter, which we know vitamin C to be, which is why English sailors were called "limeys"--from their reputed habit of bringing limes with them on sea voyages.

2) The scientific name for vitamin C, ascorbic acid, must obviously come from the same source--"a-", "not", plus "scorb".

Both of these things are true.

I am reading a whole lot of what looks like contradictory information about the adjective "scurvy" (meaning various shades of "filthy" and "despicable", usually seen in the piratical phrase "scurvy sea dog") suggesting that it is actually unrelated to the disease, being instead a variant of "scurfy", but I am very tired (though not sleepy) and uninclined to go root through the OED, so it will have to wait for later. Sorry.


Post a Comment

<< Home