Fillers Words to the wise

Words that count

BMJ 1998; 317 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.317.7151.121 (Published 11 July 1998) Cite this as: BMJ 1998;317:121
  1. Grant Hutchison, consultant anaesthetist
  1. Dundee

    It is possible to suffer simultaneously from acalculia and renal calculi, which is an odd state of affairs, on reflection. Both terms come from the Latin calculus, a small stone: a word that is formed by adding a diminutive ending to calx, the Latin word for chalk or limestone. Calx gives us our words calcium and calcine; but the os calcis, you may note, is not a particularly chalky bone. For reasons unknown, the Romans also used calx to mean “heel,” and our word recalcitrant derives from that usage: it suggests a person who is liable to kick with their heels, like a mule.

    But we should return to the little stones: they can be used to calculate …

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