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Medical Latin gone awry

 
Monday, June 20, 2011, 12:41 - Bad Latin Quote Alerts
Posted by Administrator


As I was sifting through some modern materials about the Salem witchcraft trials I stumbled upon a curious term which came up in one of the physical examination accounts. Apparently, Elizabeth Procter suffered from a condition described as procedeulia ani." Sounds like a very bad thing to suffer from, especially because, according to my Internet research, she was the only person ever to have this condition! You will find this "procedeulia" mentioned in many a book concerning the Salem trials, and future scholars will undoubtedly attempt to use the term in their books. Why not? Sounds very learned! The problem is, of course, that when in the 19th century all the records pertaining to the Salem Witchcraft trials were transcribed, this particular word fell victim to the transcriber's poor knowledge of Latin. The term used in the original documents must have been procedentia ani (more often seen as procidentia ani), which basically means rectal prolapse. You can look it up, if you will. For now, a fragment of "Examination of a Witch" by Thompkins H. Matteson shall suffice as an illustration of examination practices used by Puritan doctors and ministers. It is certainly my hope that future Salem witchcraft trials researchers will show some curiosity and not merely copy stuff from old books.

See also:
Medical Latin terms and phrases

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