BL: leech
Posted: 12 November 2015 06:08 AM   [ Ignore ]
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What’s the difference between a doctor and a leech? One is a disgusting bloodsucker; the other is a worm.

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Posted: 12 November 2015 06:36 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Huh, I had no idea that the two senses come from distinct roots—I just assumed doctors were called leeches because that was one of the tools of their trade.  Thanks for that!

Obligatory: Theodoric of York.

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Posted: 12 November 2015 08:58 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Same here. A completely unexpected explanation. Ta muchly, Dave.

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Posted: 12 November 2015 09:10 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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That explains something that I had thought of as anachronistic in The Lord of the Rings. As I recall, it’s when Prince Imrahil notices that Eowyn, though injured and unconscious, is still alive, and he calls for help, saying, “Are there no leeches among you?” It seemed odd that the Gondorians (or the Rohirrim) would subscribe to the theory of bodily humors that led to the medicinal use of leeches.

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Posted: 12 November 2015 12:22 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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It seemed odd that the Gondorians (or the Rohirrim) would subscribe to the theory of bodily humors that led to the medicinal use of leeches.

Did it? Given how completely Tolkien was drawing on the medieval literature that was his academic specialism, and how little he invented out of whole cloth, it would surprise me more if they didn’t.

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Posted: 13 November 2015 02:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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That’s amazing!

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Posted: 13 November 2015 08:34 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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That took me by surprise too. Great entry, Dave!

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Posted: 15 November 2015 03:14 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Interesting that the homophone ‘leach’ for the action of liquid percolating through another material comes from the Old English ‘leccan’ - ‘to water’
is that likely to be related?

[ Edited: 20 November 2015 02:12 PM by schnaxxl ]
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Posted: 15 November 2015 03:39 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Interesting that the homonym ‘leach’ for the action of liquid percolating through another material comes from the Old English ‘leccan’ - ‘to water’
is that likely to be related?

I don’t think there’s a relationship. The word you’re referring to is spelled leach.

OED

leach, v.2
Etymology:  Probably repr. Old English lęccan to water (translating Latin rigare ) < West Germanic type *lakkjan < *lakjan , < *lak- : see lake n.3 There appears to be no trace of the verb between Old English and the examples of the technological use in the 18th cent., except the doubtful instance in Shakespeare and one other (see 1, 2 below). The form letch is normal; the variant leach is phonologically obscure.(Show Less)
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†1. trans. To water, wet. Obs. rare.

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