Sunday, January 25, 2015

Placebo Humor

A while back, discussing the placebo effect (link), I came across another interesting usage of that word in Wikipedia’s article on the subject (link). The word in Latin means “I shall please,” as in the 9th verse of Psalm 114: “Placebo Domino in regione vivorum.” That is the Vulgate, the Latin version used by the Catholic Church. “I shall please the Lord in the region of the living,” usually translated as “I will walk before the Lord…” in English, there using Psalm 116:9. (How the verse wandered from 114 to 116 still remains unresearched.) Well, the Latin version was once recited as part of the Catholic funeral service, that phrase being a response by those attending. Now back in those days of yore, some people in no way related to the deceased—or to his or her family—used to arrive at funerals and claim such a relation strictly in order to take part in the funeral festivities and the meals there served. Such people were once called “placebos,” and in that context the word meant a “mooch.” — Which reminds me that, not quite as far back as that, mooches were also referred to as “nosebaggers” with reference to horses that, wearing a nosebag filled with oats, would worry and worm them avidly when they got to the bottom of the bag. I’m one of few people left alive who actually saw such “nosebagging” done by horses “parked” near a store somewhere harnessed to a cart…


  1. Thank heavens you did not continue on to "nosegay".

    1. Limited knowledge of nose-ology. I cant use the word nosology because it refers to a branch of medicine having to do with nosos, rather than noses, thus of disease...


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