Saturday, November 26, 2016

Some word origins


Mickey Finn:
  • To give someone a mickey, also referred to as a Mickey Finn, is a term beloved of detective story writers and gangster scripts, particularly those of the 1940’s and 1950’s. It is a slang term for a drink laced with a drug (especially chloral hydrate) given to someone without their knowledge in order to incapacitate them and usually to rob them. These days it is more likely to refer to the drinks of females being spiked without their knowledge.
  • The expression originates from the name of the manager and bartender of Chicago’s Lone Star Saloon and Palm Garden Restaurant, which operated from 1896 to 1903 in an area known as Whiskey Row. Michael “Mickey” Finn was tried in 1903 for using knockout drops to incapacitate and rob customers, achieving an unintended consequence of enriching the English language. 
  • According to one of the waitresses at the trial, Gold Tooth Mary, a barmaid at the saloon, there was a sign at the Lone Star inviting customers to "Try a Mickey Finn Special”, a mixture of raw alcohol, snuff-soaked water and chloral hydrate. Once drugged, the incapacitated drinker was taken into a back room, drugged and thrown into the alley.
  • Finn left Chicago after his conviction but later returned and operated another saloon. His notoriety prevented any further Mickey Finn Specials being served but there was a bonus for him: he sold his secret formula to a half-dozen other saloonkeepers, and from there it spread throughout America. Today any kind of knockout drink is still called a Mickey Finn.

A saloon of the time.


  • A derrick is a lifting device which uses one or more frames with pulleys:
  • The name of the device comes from Thomas Derrick, a particularly nasty man who had been sentenced to death for the crime of rape. The Earl of Essex (1565-1601) made him an offer: become the official executioner and he would be pardoned. In those days, being the hangman was not a healthy position, oftentimes the relatives and friends of a hanged person taking retribution on the person who carried out the hanging. Nonetheless Derrick accepted.
  • In his new career he hanged over 3,000 persons, also devising a system of pulleys and ropes for hangings in place of throwing a rope over a beam. That system came to be used for lifting heavy loads, including onto ships, and was named after its inventor, the derrick.
  • In 1601 the Earl of Essex was tried for treason, it being alleged that he had tried to depose the Queen and subvert the government. Found guilty, he had the option of beheading, being a noble. The executioner, Thomas Derrick, was a much better hangman than an axeman. He took three strokes to sever his former benefactor’s head.

Robert Devereaux. Earl of Essex

  • The term hysteria comes from the Greek word hysterika, meaning uterus, hence having the same origin as the word hysterectomy. 
  • In ancient Greece it was believed that a “wandering uterus” was the cause of female excessive emotion, therefore called hysteria. The disease's symptoms were believed to be dictated by where in the body the wandering uterus roamed, the belief being that the uterus was not a stationary organ but instead one which travelled throughout the body. Because there was very little understanding of women's biology the term "Hysteria" was used to describe most of the physical and emotional female illnesses. It was thought that the source of women’s diseases and ailments was the womb.
  • Fast forward to the 19th century. By that time, the belief in a wandering uterus had been discarded so it would be fair to assume that there was a much more enlightened approach to emotional disorders, right? Not so. By the 19th century the term “female hysteria” was a medical diagnosis reserved exclusively for women. Women considered to have female hysteria exhibited a wide array of symptoms, including faintness, nervousness, sexual desire, insomnia, fluid retention, heaviness in the abdomen, shortness of breath, irritability, loss of appetite for food or sex, and a "tendency to cause trouble.”
  • Although there is no authoritative statistical evidence on how widespread the practice was, it was a not uncommon Victorian treatment for female hysteria for doctors, to the early 20th century, to masturbate female patients to orgasm. The masturbation was called “pelvic massage”, the orgasm was termed “hysterical paroxysm”. It has also been suggested that the fact that doctors’ hands became tired in so doing led to the development of the vibrator. (Some historians dispute claims about the prevalence of this treatment for hysteria and about its relevance to the invention of the vibrator, saying that the treatment was not as widespread as others have suggested).
  • The number of women diagnosed with female hysteria declined sharply in the early 20th century as diagnoses improved, female biology was better understood and as understanding of medical and psychological matters advanced. Today, female hysteria is no longer a recognised illness, but different manifestations of hysteria are recognized in other conditions such as schizophrenia, borderline personality disorder, conversion disorder, and anxiety attacks.
  • The American Psychiatric Association didn't drop the term female hysteria until the early 1950s. Although it had taken on a very different meaning from its early roots, "hysterical neurosis" didn't disappear from the DSM -- often referred to as the bible of modern psychiatry -- until 1980.

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