Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Two Charles Hermanns

This would be a pretty gratifying story if you were the parents of the wrong Charles Hermann, a man thought to have died of consump-tion in a case of mistaken identity at Eloise in 1905. Ironically enough, the same physician tended to both men and somehow overlooked the unhappy coincidence when informing the family of the young man's untimely death.

Luckily Hermann's sister was much more alert than the good doctors at the asylum and didn't take the pronouncement of death of her brother without a little skepticism. Noting that the description of the man's health included in the missive didn't match the physical description of her brother when he entered the infirmary sent a picture to the physician which confirmed the mistake. There was no word on whether Mr. Hermann was merely ill or mentally unbalanced but with the proclamation that he was alive and well, it seems to swing the balance into the latter but that's merely conjecture on my part.

As for the term "consumption" itself: it's the archaic word for TB or tuberculosis. Which sounds about right in terms of wasting away but an odd word just the same.

Origin:
1350–1400; Middle English consumpcyon (< Middle French ) < Latin consūmptiōn- (stem of consūmptiō ) a consuming, wasting, equivalent to consūmpt ( us ), past participle of consūmere to consume ( con- con- + sūmp- (variant stem of sūmere to take up, spend) + -tus past participle suffix) + -iōn- -ion

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