Professor Joe Hoyle sends us another word, albeit one better suited to Halloween than Thanksgiving. The OED’s definition is brief, “the coexistence of two or more diseases, disorders, or pathological processes in one individual.” First instance they track? 1967, making our word a neologism. These disorders can be psychological or neurological, our graphic shows (creative commons licensed).
The word has deep roots, however; “morbid” goes back centuries, and we associate it with death. Yet our Word of the Week does not imply death; many of us live with diseases for years, even decades. My doctor recently told me about an ailment that, thankfully, I do not have. With this particular disease men my age “die with it, not from it.” It’s often a comorbidity with other disorders.
Our word gets used metaphorically, these days. Professor Hoyle cited an article about a particularly detestable former American leader, where the author claimed that he “was a comorbidity.” I think the claim implies that this rascal carries all the illnesses besetting our the nation: xenophobia, toxic nostalgia, avarice, misogyny, anti-scientific thinking, cronyism, militarism, racism. In short, that man is a walking, bloviating cluster of societal diseases.
Pleasant stuff, even in a pandemic. Stay well, folks. Nation. Avoid comorbidities if you can.
Please send interesting (or morbid) words and metaphors and send them to me by e-mail (jessid -at- richmond -dot- edu) or leaving a comment below.
See all of our Metaphors of the Month here and Words of the Week here.