Newman's Notions | September 2021 | FREE
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Take this quiz and see how well you understand terms that predate the precursor to ICD.

Medical terminology is often the first thing you learn as a student. “Know the buzz words” was the best advice ever given to me, by my friend Jon Silver's father. “If you know the lingo, they'll think you know what you are talking about,” he said.

With that tip, when I saw my first patient with hyponatremia and treatment was discussed, I was ready. I pulled “watch for central pontine myelinolysis” out of my hat. (Why I was wearing a hat is a whole ‘nother story.)

Illustration by David Rosenman
Illustration by David Rosenman

Certain terms come and go; others were in vogue when Hippocrates was just an apprentice and still fill our medical records. Take this quiz and see how well you understand terms that were preexisting conditions before the precursor to ICD, the Bertillon classification of causes of death, was created in 1899.

1. What is podagra?

A. Impaired night vision from low vitamin A

B. Gout of the first metatarsal head

C. Scurvy for non-sailors

D. The rash seen in niacin deficiency

2. What is the (very hard to pronounce) disease phthisis?

A. Tuberculosis of the pericardium

B. Tuberculosis of the lung

C. Tuberculosis of the genitalia

D. Tuberculosis of the peritoneum

3. What is apoplexy?

A. Abscess of the spine

B. Infarction of a bone

C. Hemorrhage into an organ

D. Riboflavin deficiency

4. What is gleet?

A. The particulate matter in your eyes when you wake up

B. The wax that accumulates in your ears over many decades

C. The crust of a smallpox lesion

D. Urethral discharge in venereal disease

5. What is costiveness?

A. The inability to concentrate

B. The feeling of being easily aggravated

C. Chronic constipation

D. Fear of seeking medical care due to lack of money

6. What is chlorosis?

A. Overconsumption of bleach-based cleaning products

B. Iron deficiency anemia with pica

C. Infection with a tapeworm

D. Elevated chloride level

7. Scrofula, or glandular tuberculosis, was also known as which of the following?

A. The Queen's Gambit

B. The King's Evil

C. The Joker's Jest

D. The Pauper's Pimple

8. What is cynanche?

A. Cyanosis of the digits

B. Infection of the urethra

C. Inflammation of the throat

D. Infarction of the uvula

9. What is dropsy?

A. A weak grip

B. Frequent falls from thiamine deficiency

C. Systemic volume overload

D. Cardiac arrhythmia with missed beats

10. Who is most likely to get Texas fever?

A. A man from Amarillo

B. An armadillo from the Isle of Mann

C. A cowgirl from Brooklyn

D. A cow from Brooklyn


1. B. Podagra is gout, especially of the foot, from the Greek for “foot seizure.”

2. B. Tuberculosis of the lung. Bonus point for correct pronunciation!

3. C. As in pituitary apoplexy.

4. D. Associated with gonorrhea.

5. C. They may also suffer from A, B, and D, but a costive person is constipated.

6. B. Chlorosis is iron deficiency anemia, especially seen in young women.

7. B. Scrofula (glandular tuberculosis) is the King's Evil, due to the belief that it could be cured by touching royalty.

8. C. Cynanche is inflammation of the throat, related to quinsy, another great old word.

9. C. Dropsy is fluid overload from heart failure or other causes.

10. D. Texas fever was a 19th-century disease of cattle and the first disease identified as having an insect vector, the tick.


10: You might have written this column.

8-9: Your great-grandfather left you his medical library.

6-7: Get ready for ICD-11.

4-6: You are a normal medical person.

1-3: Get your neb in a Victorian novel STAT.

0: Really, not even one? Today is not your lucky day.