Ditch the digraph

BMJ 2006; 332 doi: (Published 04 May 2006) Cite this as: BMJ 2006;332:1071
  1. Marcus Gore (, resident surgical officer
  1. St Mark's Hospital, Harrow

    A surgeon uses a ligature to tie off a bleeding vessel, although the word is somewhat archaic and conjures up an image of John Hunter tying off a popliteal aneurysm. Yet lexical ligatures cast a long shadow, at least on this side of the Atlantic. Medical language is full of words containing ae and oe: although these pairs are now printed as separate vowels (digraphs), a look in an older text will reveal their earlier form as ligatures ∞ and œ. Haemoglobin and oesophagus show no signs of losing ae and oe respectively, and some august surgeons and physicians are inordinately proud of …

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