Words of sickness

Sometimes the English vocabulary demonstrates that the malfunction of the body has more to do with the mind than the body itself. Consider these words, with their coinage dates in brackets:

formication (1707): the sensation of bugs crawling over one’s body.  

blepharospasm (1872): persistent winking.

trichotillomania (1889): a neurosis involving a compulsive desire to pull out one’s hair.

boanthropy (1864): the delusion that one is an ox.  

uranomania (1890): the delusion that one is of heavenly descent.  

calenture (1593): a distemper peculiar to sailors in hot climates, wherein they imagine the sea to be green fields and will throw themselves into it.

Elsewhere, in other languages, the simplest symptoms can announce coming suffering:

(Rapanui, Easter Island): to have a headache or to blow one’s nose.

kirukiruppu (Tamil): dizziness.

cloch (Scots Gaelic): to cough frequently and feebly.

koodho (Anywa, Nilo-Saharan): to fart repeatedly.

ku-susuukirira (Ganda, Uganda): to feel the first shivers of a fever.

svimfardig (Swedish): ready to faint.

motami-ella (Yamana, Chile): to go home or to a place eastward and throw up.

Some people are more likely to succumb to illness than others:

niba n aoraki (Gilbertese): a person very susceptible to catching every disease.

mabuk darah (Malay): one who becomes sick upon seeing blood.

aráttam (Tamil): the anxiety of a sick person.

Love is often described using the terminology of disease, as dongai (Fijian), meaning love sickness; while sex is seen both as a cause of sickness and as a cure:

pham-phòng (Vietnamese): to become sick after having intercourse.

una cachiaspirina (Chilean Spanish): refers to how one will sweat heavily during sex and thus kill a cold (literally, to take a sex-aspirin).

All too soon things become more serious:

peentjes zweten (Dutch): sweating like a pig (literally, sweating carrots).

fare i gattini (Italian): to vomit (literally, to make the kittens).

ca-ca-ca (Tsonga, South Africa): to have diarrhea; to rain heavily.

sarar burer (Chorti, Guatemala): a fever accompanied by an itch.

útsu (Telugu, India): the falling off of the hair from sickness.

oka/shete (Ndonga, Namibia): urination difficulties caused by eating frogs before the rain has duly fallen.

Routine must be interrupted and steps must be taken: 

krankfeiern (German): to call in sick (literally, to celebrate illness). 

tombola (Kalanga, Botswana): to extract a thorn from flesh using a safety pin.

tervismuda (Estonian): curative mud.

verkwakzalveren (Dutch): to spend money on quack remedies.

kudóripannugirathu (Tamil, India): to slit or cut the top of the head in order to put in medicine to cure dangerous diseases.

Few enjoy handing themselves over to doctors, but sometimes it’s unavoidable; or as they say in France inévitable:

trente-trois: say ah! (literally, thirty three: said by a doctor to the patient).

passer sur le billard: to undergo surgery (literally, to go onto the billiard table).

In some societies recommended cures may not be primarily medical:

millu (Quechuan, Andes): a rock of aluminium sulphate used by witch doctors to diagnose illnesses by its color change when thrown into a fire.

ti-luoiny (Nicobarese): to call on the spirit of a sick man to return.

tawák (Tagalog, Philippines): a quack doctor with magic saliva.

anavinakárayá (Sinhala, India): a juggler, one who practices incantations upon persons who have been poisoned or bitten by a serpent.

Ultimately for us all there is one eventuality. Once under the ground, in English, we say we are “pushing up daisies,” “kicking the bucket” or “turning up our toes.” For the French, though, to be dead and buried is either engraisser les asticots (fattening the maggots) or manger les pissenlits par la racine (eating dandelions by the roots). Even more imaginatively the Germans have sich die Radieschen von unten angucken (he’s looking at the radishes from below). Additionally, you have:

colgar los tenis (Mexican Spanish): to hang up or hand in your tennis shoes.

at stille træskoene (Danish): to put aside the clogs.

zaklepat bačkorama (Czech): to bang together a pair of slippers.

oikaista koipensa (Finnish): to straighten one’s shanks.

nalları havaya dikmek (Turkish): to raise horse shoes to the sky.

gaan bokveld toe (Afrikaans): to go to the goat field.

cerrar el paraguas (Costa Rican Spanish): to close the umbrella.

liar el petate (Spanish): to roll up the sleeping mat.

nolikt karoti (Latvian): to put down the spoon.

passer l’arme à gauche (French): to pass the firearm to the left.

ins Gras beißen (German): to bite into the grass.

a da colţul (Romanian): to turn around the corner.

hälsa hem (Swedish): to send home one’s regards.

irse al patio de los callados (Chilean Spanish): to go to the courtyard of the hushed.

ya kwanta dama (Hausa, Nigeria): he is lying on his right arm (Muslims are buried on the right arm facing the Kaaba in Mecca).