All About Elfshot

The Dictionary of Old English defines “elfshot” as: “a medical condition of unspecified nature apparently understood as a supernatural assault leading to illness or disease.” Some sources translate it as “rheumatism,” because it clearly references a sudden “twinge or stitch”. It may also mean “hiccups” [according to Wikipedia].

The term “elfshot” completely sums up for me the importance of understanding how people — “consumers” — relate to medical terminology. “Elfshot” incorporates both a cause/belief system (elves) and an effect (a sudden pain that has no explanation) all in one compact, vivid, evocative word of few syllables. It is a word that can be dropped into casual conversation even in 2014. I recommend doing this at cocktail parties.

Are you feeling elfshot today? For an Old English medical text providing an elfshot remedy, look here.


Medical Songs

Music (all kinds) is one of the great enthusiasms of my life. Medicine is a close second. So I have long been interested in music about medicine. To make the collection more manageable, I am tagging each snippet of medical songs I post with a controlled vocabulary term provided by the National Library of Medicine called Medical Subject Headings. This is the controlled vocabulary used to index the world’s biomedical literature. You can browse it yourself here and read more about how MeSH works here.