Tuesday, March 27, 2018



I was asked how the term “shrink” came to be applied to psychiatrists and I was at a loss to know or even offer a conjecture.

Having now looked into it, I can say that:

·       The use of the term “shrink” for psychiatrists comes from the term “headshrinker”, applied to the headhunting Jivaro tribe of the Amazon.

·       In 1950, Time magazine used the term for the first time in print by stating that anyone who would have predicted the phenomenal success of the television Western "Hopalong Cassidy" would have been sent to a "headshrinker." Because the article contains a footnote that headshrinker is Hollywood slang for a psychiatrist, it is clear that the term was if recent origin.

·       The 1955 movie "Rebel Without a Cause," includes scenes in which characters discuss going to a headshrinker.

·       According to an article by one John Green: 
The headshrinker metaphor arguably reflects the feelings of fear, mystery and hostility traditionally associated with the profession. Another theory holds that it implicitly refers to shrinking a patient's narcissistic, inflated sense of self. Although many mental-health professionals have come to accept the term with self-deprecating humor, it has also been criticized as a relic of an outmoded therapeutic approach that reduces people to mere causes and symptoms rather than regarding them as complex individuals. 


Quarantine comes from the French "qarante" for 40.

Whenever a ship arriving in port was suspected of being infected it had to forego contact with the shore for a period of about 40 days.

A loophole is an ambiguity or inadequacy in a system which can be used to get around the intended purpose.

Originally the terms referred to the slots in castle walls used by archers and later by musketeers.

The use of the word to describe an “out” comes from these slits affording an out in a seemingly impenetrable wall, just as a loophole now is an out in a seemingly airtight law, which only the clever few can use.

It is recorded that a friend visited W C Fields as he was hearing death.  He was surprised to find Fields reading the Bible and martini in his other hand.  When Fields, an atheist, was asked why he was reading the Bible, he responded “Looking for loopholes.” 

The word "curfew" comes from the French phrase "couvre-feu", which means "fire cover". It was later adopted into Middle English as "curfeu", which later became the modern "curfew". Its original meaning refers to a law made by William The Conqueror that all lights and fires should be covered at the ringing of an eight o'clock bell to prevent the spread of destructive fire within communities in timber buildings. 

Although the accepted etymology of the word football, or "foot ball", originated in reference to the action of a foot kicking a ball, this may be a false etymology. An alternative explanation has it that the word originally referred to a variety of games in medieval Europe, which were played on foot. These sports were usually played by peasants, as opposed to the horse-riding sports more often enjoyed by aristocrats. In some cases, the word has been applied to games which involved carrying a ball and specifically banned kicking.

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