Saturday, August 12, 2006

Measles, sort of

My hero Barry Johnson writes:
Here's an interesting bit of fact that I just learned myself last week, over a dinner conversation with a physician. "German measles" aren't really measles. Who knew?
I did not know this, either, but I am delighted to learn it, and you inspire me to look it up. "German measles" is another term for rubella, which isn't measles but resembles measles, hence the "German" -- not a reference to Germany but from the Latin "germanus," meaning "similar" (as in the English word "germane"). Those doctors and their Latin!

I guess this means I have to buck the AP Stylebook and its fat ally, Webster's New World Dictionary, and spend the rest of my life lowercasing the G, since "german" is not a geographic reference: hence, "german measles," not "German measles."

This sort of thing buoys my spirits for hours on end.

Hey, Barry, while you were having dinner with that physician, did you ask about that mole on your back and that ache in your toe and that sore place in your mouth, the way I always do? Got to grab the health care where you can.

1 comment:

Beth said...

Is your source really sure it's from germanus or is this a folk etymology? I'd wager a guess that it's German measlese just because this is a colloquial way of indicating 'not true/not standard/from elsewhere' - like Welsh rabbit or French kissing or Dutch courage.

I'm too lazy to go look it up myself tonight, maybe tomorrow.