I’ve been reading.

girl in mountain of books

If we’re friends on Goodreads, you’ve probably noticed I read a lot. Which is a good habit for writers. I recently read What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew, a reference for the general period I write about: the 19th century.

It’s pretty fascinating. And helpful. One of the themes was the different diseases dealt with, and how little was known about them. Since I myself have been annoyed with not knowing how my own body works, I read avidly, and diagnosed myself with the catarrh*.

Catarhh: a disease in which the head, nose, and throat fill up with mucus due to an inflammation (basically like a cold or mild flu)”

But what about the other ‘household names’ that complete my macabre A-B-C-D? Here, in titbit form, are the explanations, for those who read, or write, Regency, or Victorian, or in-between historical fiction:

Ague: malaria and the chills that went with it. Later generalized to include any similar fever or chills”

Bile, or bilious fever (not in the above book, but an interesting exhibit found here): yellow bile and black bile were two of the four humours in the body. The others were blood and phlegm. All people had all four in the [actual] blood, but the preponderance of one or other of them indicated your personality and general state of health.

Dyspepsia: indigestion. It made one cranky and so the term came to be applied by analogy to crankiness in general.”

And here is a quote from Goodreads using the last one:

“He keeps looking at me so oddly.”

“Oddly? How? Give me an imitation.”

Considering that she had only about a second and a half to do it in, I must say it was a jolly fine exhibition. She opened her mouth and eyes pretty wide and let her jaw drop sideways, and managed to look so like a dyspeptic calf that I recognized the symptoms immediately.

“Oh, that’s all right,” I said. “No need to be alarmed. He’s simply in love with you.”
P.G. Wodehouse


Hope that balances out your humours on this Monday!


*How hilarious is it that the New York Times keeps this content available from their archives so that it shows up on the first search page? 1865!

Image via Odyssey