[Editor's note: This review is about the first edition of Yasgur's Dictionary. The current edition being sold is the fourth edition.]
This book review is reprinted from The Homoeopath with permission from Nick Churchill of The Society of Homoeopaths.
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A DICTIONARY OF HOMOEOPATHIC MEDICAL TERMINOLOGY
by Jay Yasgur RPh MSc
Hardback, 93 pages
reviewed by Francis Treuherz [read an Interview with the reviewer, Francis Treuherz]
Francis Treuherz RsHom, is the editor of this journal and a Director of the Society practices in London.
Years ago, before homoeopathy, (was there ever such a time in my life?) I had access to a coffee table book, a Funk and Wagnall Encyclopaedic Dictionary from 1896. I call it a coffee table book because of its size - it was big enough and was used as an occasional table! It told me the answers to several important Scrabble questions, such as the existence of the Zymotic fever' But now that I do not have regular access to it, I use a Webster's Dictionary, also from 1896, found for a low price in the obscurely irrelevant northern town of Rochdale. This one has been freshly bound in three parts since it was so big and because I no longer need a coffee table (since homoeopathy, I do not drink coffee!).
With the arrival of this new 1990 Dictionary of Homoeopathic Medical Terminology, I do not have to get out of bed to manipulate three volumes. Instead, I can slouch in comfort with a single volume and learn that a Zymotic fever is an infectious disease that was thought to originate in a fermentation process. This is the book to help locate and understand the funny words that are no longer in common use outside our repertories and materia medicas. It has great potential, particularly for students who panic when confronted with the archaisms of 'sordes' (in the mouth), and 'panorychia' (of the nails) and hurry to reach for their 'maniaa-potu' (delirium tremens).
Many source dictionaries like the Oxford give a date of first usage of a word, but this Dictionary does not. Rather, it may give only a vague idea that, as with Zymotic Fever, it 'was in vogue years ago.' And my allopathic colleagues would often be mystified if they were searching for enlightenment about our jargon. 'Potency' refers one to 'Attenuation' which is defined as 'Potency or dilution. Some homeopaths say 'I gave the 30th attenuation" which is just like saying "I gave the 30th potency" or "I gave the 30th dilution."' I should have expected a definition of the potentizing process and the meaning of potency, which is distinct from the meaning of dilution which is not succussed or triturated. 'Succussion' is not defined while 'trituration' is. So we cannot completely rely on the book for specifically defining the terms of homoeopathy. Miasms are loosely defined according to Hahnemann with a suggestion to read Vithoulkas, but there is no reference to anyone in between. Hering's Law is defined without a date as to when it was first published.
This book is not about homoeopathic terminology (as its title suggests), as much as it is about archaic medical terminology. It happens that homeopaths are often the only ones interested in such terminology, since much of our literature was written in the late 1800's, while conventional medicine speaks in a more modern tongue. To satisfy our needs, the author does define a host of obscure archaisms very competently (there are over 2000 entries), but the reader is often sent on a goose chase because the author has not adequately developed some cross references. Many obscure words are themselves used in definitions and then are not defined. 'Purpura haemorrhagica' refers to four further terms which are themselves either missing or amazingly referred back as circular references and not defined themselves.
A work like this is a major undertaking, and we have often wished for it 'all to be in one place.' The brief Dictionary of Kent's Repertory published by the National Center for Homoeopathy was a small first step. This is a second, much larger step. It would, however, be a far more useful book if some Arsenical work were done to correct it, to add the homoeopathic medical terms which the title leads us to expect, and to perhaps even explain the old usages for emotions.
The Homoeopath Vol.11 No.2 1991