As a pick-me-up and drop-me-on-my-head bucket of fun, I have been trying to follow the unhealth care machinations in the U.S. Senate. It is the best situation comedy available on the hundreds of channels that entertain us with sunbathing fish and bugs in bathing suits.
The entire universe came into focus for at least a few minutes last week when I heard a word that prompted me to ramble around on this keyboard thing – dyscrasia.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines dyscrasia (pronounced as “dis-craz-ee-ah”) as, “A bad or disordered condition of the body (originally supposed to arise from disproportionate mixture of the humours); morbid diathesis; distemper.”
That’s my kind of word.
I was listening to Yale History Professor Frank Snowden discuss Epidemics in Western Society since 1600 (what my kids describe as “another one of your boring lectures”), which is a load of entertainment for me. You can check out his lectures on the Yale Open Courses site, oyc.yale.edu/history/hist-234.
I was in my yard at the time, digging around for something unholy, when the word dyscrasia jumped out at me. My ear holes opened into the abyss and heard it as “discrazy you are.” Since all that digging was getting me nowhere fast, I thought it was a dandy time to stop and figure out if Mr. Snowden was singing a special philosophical message to me and my shovel – discrazy I am.
Here is what I discovered. Come to find out, in earlier medical days, physicians believed there were four humors, and none of them were very funny.
The unfunny humorists were phlegm, black bile, yellow bile and blood. Most of us learned some version of this in school. Being of the devolutionary genus maleadipstick, I remember we referred to it as a bunch of colored snot. Our plan was to gross girls out, then they would suddenly like us, and … logic generally does not infect this genus until about the age 60, and in some cases, never.
Come to find out we dopey boys from the olden days weren’t so far wrong. Basically, if one of the colored clumps of snotlyness gets out of balance, you get dyscrasia, and if it lasts long enough, you devolve into me.
The gist of all this unhumor is balance. If our bodies are in balance, everything is artichokes in heaven. If there is a little too much yellow mixed into the red, we go discrazy.
In ancient times, when our Greek buddy Hippocrates of Kos was dragging medical thought into the realm of science, the humors were still hanging around as an explanation of disease. Of course, in those times, the vast majority of medical treatments for illness was only available to the rich folks and political leaders.
Most of the poor and common guys apparently went in and out of dyscrasia – mellow yellow likely had a different usage in those days. The best help for this group was to visit a religious leader with cool robes, and hope for the best in this world or some other.
Fortunately, in the United States, health care has changed for the better, which was clear during the Senate debate. We don’t buy those colored snotlyness ideas anymore, and the best medical care is not restricted to only the rich and political leaders in Washington D.C.
We are in humorous balance and there is dyscrasia no more.