Thursday, October 15, 2009

Exquisite detail

Sometimes I encounter single words that bind an exquisite detail. Decades ago, I read this in a dictionary:
fremitus: a sensation felt by a hand placed on a part of the body (as the chest) that vibrates during speech
A fremitus is not what is felt by the person speaking, in his own chest and by it, but by a hand (his own or someone else's) placed on his chest. In what situation would the need for such a word arise? I think I read it originally in a medical dictionary. Could an absence of fremitus when someone is speaking be a symptom of some malfunction? Or is fremitus just a reality-detail with a name?

The last sentence of Bacon's essay Of Studies is: "So every defect of the mind, may have a special receipt". I wondered whether "nostrum" had the same connotations as "receipt" in the 16th century, and what the sense was of nostrum = "our". So I looked it up in the OED:
nostrum: A medicine, or medical application, prepared by the person recommending it; esp. a quack remedy, a patent medicine
The exquisite detail is "prepared by the person recommending it", which explains the "our".

4 comments:

empty said...

From a quick look at some online sources, I get the impression that fremitus is (or at least was) indeed a diagnostic tool. The information seems to be not just a matter of whether it is present or absent, but what it is like. The word is also used for some other bodily vibrations.

Part of the pleasure of discovering a word like "fremitus" is the experience of "I didn't know there was a word for that!"

empty said...

Stu, do you know if Blogger offers a way to see at a glance which posts have recently commented on? If not, I will be sorry that I, more or less randomly, picked Blogger instead of WordPress.

Stuart said...

There is something similar to "recently added comments". Note how quickly I got back to you. That's because I've set "notify me when someone comments on a post". Under

   Settings / Comments / Comment Notification Email

you can enter an email address to get this notification.

I find this feature better than "recently added comments". The latter is a linear buffer of size n that expels the oldest elements in it. So if x1, x2, ..., xn, x(n+1) comments are inserted chronologically into the buffer between two times at which you inspect it, you will not see x1, but only the n elements x2, ..., x(n+1).

It's unfortunate that languagehat is on neither WordPress nor Blogspot. I asked Hat recently if there was any way to register at his site for notification of additions to specific comment threads. He said no, the only way he picks up on activity is when he occasionally looks at his "recently commented on" list. He has no internal access to the information.

WordPress has a big disadvantage that many blog operators and their visitors have complained about - it lacks a preview feature.

empty said...

"notify me when someone comments on a post"

I did discover that option, and chose it, but I feel the lack of a recently-commented-on for all to see.

WordPress ... lacks a preview feature.

Yeah, I think that's why I didn't use WordPress.