Today’s word: Nostalgia

~ The term nostalgia was originally coined by Johannes Hofer, a medical student in 1678 (nostos = returning home, algos = pain/longing) roots, to refer to “the pain a sick person feels because he wishes to return to his native land, and fears never to see it again”. This neologism was so successful that people forgot its origin. Moreover, its original meaning–referring to a serious medical disorder–has been lost as the word nostalgia entered everyday language.

During the period, from the late seventeenth century to the late nineteenth century, that doctors diagnosed and treated nostalgia, it also had other names in various languages — mal du pays (country sickness) in French, Heimweh (home-pain) in German, and el mal de corazón (heart-pain) in Spanish.

Cases resulting in death were known and soldiers were sometimes successfully treated by being discharged and sent home. Receiving a diagnosis was, however, generally regarded as an insult. In 1787 Robert Hamilton (1749-1830) described a case of a soldier suffering from nostalgia, who received sensitive and successful treatment.

By the 1850s nostalgia was losing its status as a particular disease and coming to be seen rather as a symptom or stage of a pathological process. It was considered as a form of melancholia and a predisposing condition among suicides. Nostalgia was, however, still diagnosed among soldiers as late as the American Civil War.

By the 1870s interest in nostalgia as a medical category had all but vanished. Most saw the decline of this serious disease as a good thing, the result of progress. Nonetheless some lamented what they saw as the loss of the feelings for home that gave rise to the illness. Of course the phenomenon of nostalgia did not disappear with its demedicalization.

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13 Responses to Today’s word: Nostalgia

  1. Anonymous says:

    So…

  2. Anonymous says:

    So…

  3. mrdapper says:

    So!! Nostalgia is a mental illness! It explains SO much about America!

  4. Anonymous says:

    Apparently it isn’t a mental illness…

  5. mrdapper says:

    Merely that american capitalist huns have demedicalized it in order to control the population with their happy dayses and their that 70s showses and various other baby boomer era conspiracies.

  6. Adam Jacot de Boinod says:

    Dear Sir

    I wondered if you might like a link to both my Foreign word site and my English word website or press release details of my ensuing book with Penguin Press on amusing and interesting English vocabulary?

    http://www.thewonderofwhiffling.com

    with best wishes

    Adam Jacot de Boinod

    (author of The Meaning of Tingo)

    (www.themeaningoftingo.com)

    adamjacot@fastmail.co.uk

    or wish to include:

    1) THE MEANING OF TINGO
    When photographers attempt to bring out our smiling faces by asking us
    to “Say Cheese”, many countries appear to follow suit with English
    equivalents. In Spanish however they say patata (potato), in Argentinian Spanish whisky, in French steak frites, in Serbia ptica (bird) and in
    Danish appelsin (orange). Do you know of any other varieties from around the world’s languages? See more on http://www.themeaningoftingo.com

    2) THE WONDER OF WHIFFLING

    The Wonder of Whiffling is a tour of English around the globe (with fine
    coinages from our English-speaking cousins across the pond, Down Under
    and elsewhere).
    Discover all sorts of words you’ve always wished existed but never knew,
    such as fornale, to spend one’s money before it has been earned; cagg, a solemn vow or resolution not to get drunk for a certain time; and
    petrichor, the pleasant smell that accompanies the first rain after a
    dry spell.
    Delving passionately into the English language, I also discover why it
    is you wouldn’t want to have dinner with a vice admiral of the narrow
    seas, why Jacobites toasted the little gentleman in black velvet, and
    why a Nottingham Goodnight is better than one from anywhere else. See
    more on http://www.thewonderofwhiffling.com

    with best wishes

    Adam

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