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Word of the Week (185): RAPHANIA (probability 23021), by David Sutton

RAPHANIA is a form of ergotism, attributed by Linnaeus to the eating of wild radish. The current version of Zyzzyva has a spectacular misunderstanding on this one, defining it as 'egotism (self-conceit)'. No, no, Michael, eRgotism. ERGOT is a disease of grasses such as rye, caused by a fungus, and ergotism is thought to have been responsible for some of the outbreaks of dancing mania in the Middle Ages.

We're probably safe from RAPHANIA now, the consumption of wild radish having declined, but of course there are still plenty of diseases caused by the ingestion of wrong things, or the lack of ingestion of right things. PELLAGRA, for example, is caused by a deficiency of nicotinic acid, which may be associated with a maize diet, and one suffering from pellagra may be called a PELLAGRIN. Another name for pellagra is MAIDISM, from the word maize.

BERIBERI is caused by a lack of thiamin, while KWASHIORKOR, which, let's face it, is not the most useful of words for the Scrabble player, is caused by a lack of protein.

Watch yourself near lead if you don't want to become SATURNIC (affected by lead poisoning). Too much selenium in the diet will give you SELENOSIS; too much iron, SIDEROSIS. But don't be too cautious in your diet lest you suffer from MARASMUS (wasting away) and become MARASMIC. And the other two anagrams of MARASMIC are?


   













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