The profanity of disease

Over spring break, I spent a day in Tombstone, Arizona. This is the town where, if you don’t know the story, Wyatt Earp and his brothers, accompanied by their friend Doc Holliday, had a shootout
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Over spring break, I spent a day in Tombstone, Arizona. This is the town where, if you don’t know the story, Wyatt Earp and his brothers, accompanied by their friend Doc Holliday, had a shootout with a group of cattle rustlers at the OK Corral. Though the Earp brothers wore the badges, when the tale is told the hero is usually Doc Holliday—noted gambler, crack shot, prodigious drinker, educated southern gentleman, dying all the while of tuberculosis. Contemporary accounts (1880s) of his exploits occasionally refer to him as “consumptive,” but in the 1993 movie Tombstone and the 2015 book Epitaph by Mary Doria Russell, various characters deride him as a “lunger.” According to the OED, the first recorded use of lunger is in 1893, and it reflects an interesting change in societal attitudes to people with tuberculosis. Pre-1880, tuberculosis was mysterious, a possibly inherited condition thought to bestow on sufferers a heightened sensitivity and creativity. The physical frailty and. . .

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News source: Linguistics – OUPblog

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