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Fillers When I use a word …


BMJ 2000; 321 doi: (Published 16 September 2000) Cite this as: BMJ 2000;321:682
  1. Jeff Aronson, clinical pharmacologista
  1. Oxford

    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.” Although this banal explanation is probably the correct one, other suggestions abound.

    For instance, in his Exanthemologia of 1730, Thomas Fuller suggested that it was from “the smallness of the Specks, which [our Women] might fancy looked as tho' a Child had been picked with the Bills of Chickens.” Well, believe it if you like.

    Then 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 …

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