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Hysteria

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Hysteria

Postby Dr. Goodword » Thu May 16, 2013 10:28 pm

• hysteria •


Pronunciation: his-ter-ee-ê, his-ti-ree-ê • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun, mass (no plural)

Meaning: 1. Loss of control of the emotions resulting in frenzied crying, laughter, screaming, or flailing about. 2. Panic, uncontrollable fear. 3. An obsolete term for a mental disorder characterized by high anxiety, and sensory and motor disturbances such as memory loss, blindness, or deafness.

Notes: Today's Good Word was chosen because its origin explains a long prejudice against women. It is a good word to demonstrate how far we have progressed (or not progressed) since ancient times. The adjective for this word is hysteric or, if you need an extra syllable for your poem, hysterical. You must use the extra syllable for the adverb, which is spelled hysterically.

In Play: The assumption that women are more prone to hysteria than men is a prejudice that has persisted for 2000 years: "Whenever the Red Sox won a game, all the men in our house gave way to hysteria." I'll bet you never thought of calling reactions at a sports event "hysteria". Yet, it fits the first definition above. "Orson Wells did not expect his radio broadcast of The War of the Worlds in 1938 to cause mass hysteria." But it did.

Word History: Hippocrates started the rumor that women—and only women—become hysterical. Today's Good Word is based on Greek hystera "womb", as in hysterectomy. Hippocrates thought that the womb was an independent "animal", free to move around inside a woman. When it began to move, women became hysterical. He concluded this, no doubt, by observing women's behavior during childbirth. Galen disagreed that the womb was free to move about, but when Galen went to Rome, the prejudice was allowed to persist. Since all doctors were familiar with Latin and Greek, they could easily spot the hystera inside hysteria. So, the medical assumption that hysteria was caused by a "wandering womb" persisted for centuries in Europe. The medical term was often identified as "female hysteria" down to the late 19th century. The prejudice continues to this day.
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Re: Hysteria

Postby Perry Lassiter » Fri May 17, 2013 12:07 am

I'm sure I've seen the term referred to in psychological literature over the past decade. I remember pausing over the term to figure what exactly the writer meant, especially since I knew its source in uterus. I would suggest that some have disconnected the word from its past, or tried to, to use it to point to radical expression of emotions that are out of control. This is probably unnecessary since naming the emotion and classiifying it can work. Still, from its long history the word may for some to be a handy term for out of control emotion, though we've all certainly seen it in men.
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Re: Hysteria

Postby MTC » Fri May 17, 2013 8:36 am

Tablets attributed to Hippocrates recently unearthed at an archeological dig near Athens upend the traditional notion that the ancient scholar unfairly targeted women as hysterical. On the contrary, the tablets reveal Hippocrates harbored a far more balanced view of the sexes, referring to the male equivalent of hysteria or wandering womb as γαλλοπινγ γοναδσ ("galloping gonads.") Tit for tat, so to speak. Women everywhere will console themselves with this much-needed correction to the hysterical record.
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Re: Hysteria

Postby David McWethy » Fri May 17, 2013 11:00 am

Whether
Hippocrates started the rumor that women—and only women—become hysterical.

seems to me is secondary to a question of much greater significance: Regardless of who started the rumor, why wasn't it called hyrsterical??? :roll:
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Re: Hysteria

Postby gailr » Fri May 17, 2013 7:46 pm

Because the Greek is hystera, not hyrstera.
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Re: Hysteria

Postby David McWethy » Fri May 17, 2013 11:33 pm

Well, THAT attempt to make a play on words (his-teria vs. her-steria) sure fell flat!
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Re: Hysteria

Postby LukeJavan8 » Sat May 18, 2013 12:41 pm

gailr wrote:Because the Greek is hystera, not hyrstera.



Heh,heh
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Re: Hysteria

Postby Perry Lassiter » Sat May 18, 2013 2:02 pm

Personally, I thought hyrsteria was pregnant with humor.
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Re: Hysteria

Postby David McWethy » Sat May 18, 2013 2:45 pm

Apparently it was an elephantine pregnancy that brought forth a mouse.
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Re: Hysteria

Postby Dr. Goodword » Mon May 20, 2013 11:00 pm

I added a note about this word from a reader to my Language Blog today.
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Re: Hysteria

Postby misterdoe » Tue May 21, 2013 11:25 pm

Dr. Goodword wrote:Notes: You must use the extra syllable for the adverb, which is spelled hysterically.

Really? How does one spell hysterically? :)
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Re: Hysteria

Postby misterdoe » Tue May 21, 2013 11:59 pm

MTC: γαλλοπινγ γοναδσ ("galloping gonads.")
Image I Δουβτ ιτ
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Re: Hysteria

Postby David McWethy » Wed May 22, 2013 12:46 am

misterdoe asks:
How does one spell hysterically?

I'm not sure, but I think you do it the same way you drive a baby buggy; you tickle its little toes...
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Re: Hysteria

Postby MTC » Wed May 22, 2013 6:53 am

misterdoe wrote:MTC: γαλλοπινγ γοναδσ ("galloping gonads.")
Image I Δουβτ ιτ

I am shocked, misterdoe, shocked, that you would question the authenticity and scholarship of the announcement. True, it may have skirted the boundaries of belief, but it came from a very reliable source, The Apocrypha of MTC. I should have thought serious etymologists and women in particular would rejoice at the news. But no, the announcement was greeted with silence and an arched brow. Perhaps some mistook it for sniggering, adolescent humor about sexual matters. If so, they have only their own impure thoughts to blame. I for one raise a toast to Hippocrates, a man whose reputation has finally been cleared of the slanderous charge of Sexism by the judgment of History. Here, here!
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Re: Hysteria

Postby Slava » Wed May 22, 2013 11:56 am

MTC wrote:Here, here!
There, there now, MTC. Fear not, many of us hear you quite well. :)
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