TETRAPLEGIA.

While editing a medical article I just came across the term “tetraplegia”; I assumed it should be quadriplegia, since it wasn’t in my Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate, but a Google search led me to the relevant Wikipedia article, which says:

Quadriplegia, also known as tetraplegia, is a symptom in which a human experiences paralysis of all four limbs… The condition is also termed tetraplegia; both terms mean “paralysis of four limbs”, however tetraplegia is becoming the more accepted term for this condition. Tetraplegia, used commonly in Europe, is the more etymologically correct version since both “tetra” and “plegia” are Greek roots whereas “quadra” is a Latin root.

I wasn’t aware that anyone still cared about what used to be called “bastard words,” and I’m very pleased to be proved wrong. Now if only they’d do something about television
Of course, I’m not comfortable taking Wikipedia’s word for it; does anybody know whether the tetra- form is in fact increasingly used in English?

Comments

  1. ‘Television’ is a perfectly good 16th-century port from medieval Latin ‘televisio’, used in the 14th-century Vita of St. Clare of Assisi to describe her mystical experience of clarevoyance.
    Now, ‘h*m*s*xual’ on the other hand…

  2. Searching Googe in English yields tetraplegia = 177,000; quadriplegia = 607,000.
    In French, the same search is tetraplegia = 873; quadraplegia = 611. In German, 813 to 313.
    So if, in fact, English usage is increasing, it still has a way to go.

  3. I think one could make a decent case that “tetra” and “quadra/quadri” are now English prefixes, available for arbitrary combination. Indeed, I think this is true of most Latin and Greek roots that have entered English use, though perhaps not prefixes like “auto” (in the sense of “self”) that have been largely superseded by cran-morphings (since an “auto-~-er” is nowadays most likely either something that ~-s automatically, or someone or something that ~-s automobiles).

  4. The French is tetraplégie — which together with hemiplégie and their adjectives in -ique is a perfectly commonplace word to refer to people who are paralyzed — so I think the handful of French results with quadri- are either artifacts or from the medical literature.

  5. Isn’t this discussion another case of hair-splitting, as nearly all of those who usually tow a photocopier behind their automobile don’t give a damn about the origin of some words?
    Uh… by the way… when one splits hairs, in how many parts should each one be divided? Some reckon the good number is four, thus calling this type of hair-splitting “tetracapillotomy”, which is definitely a sin since only tetratrichotomy or quadricapillosection are allowed to exist.

  6. Ah but Sutor, you neglect the fact that ‘hair-splitting’ is only a calqued idiom from Hebrew pilpul, misinterpreted by early Oxford wits as L. pilus ‘hair’ + pull. Thus any suggestion of bastardization is beside the point.

  7. Siganus Sutor says:

    Sorry: photocopier* (in italic).
    * from Greek photo, light, and Latin copia, abundance (c.f. cornucopia)

  8. Siganus Sutor says:

    Conrad, the bald man that I has to agree with you. But given the subject (and the four ‘essences’ (?) of man), I thought that you would have at least mentioned this one: YHWH.
    (Pilpul: it reminds me of dear Rabbi Chaim [Potok]. Was it in The Chosen that we had all this Talmudic hair-pulling?)

  9. Siganus Sutor says:

    Ah, tired? >>> the bald man that I am has to agree with you…
    Or, rather, the bald fish. Amongst Little Sutor’s neighbours there are some tetraodons * (or tetrodons), which are not double-sized diodons.
     
     
    * Etymology: Greek, tetra = four + Greek, odous = tooth, teeth (Fishbase.org).

  10. YHWH?
    No, you’ve lost me. Is that like CMYK?

  11. For once it is. I only ever knew quadriplegia when young, and it’s only in recent years that I’ve seen tetraplegia. I supposed some pedant had sneaked it in; but it is certainly becoming common, to the point where I would now expect either equally.

  12. A last one before I go back to my sheep
    LH: does anybody know whether the tetra- form is in fact increasingly used in English?
    Cannae say, but I’ve heard something very far-fetched: there would be an American (meaning USAian) company called “Du Pont de Nemours”. Who would believe something like that?
    But anyway, the said company has apparently developed a product called Teflon®, which comes from tetra and fluor — or, more accurately, from a tasty substance simply called polytetrafluoroethylene. “Poly-tetra”? How many courses in a contemporary meal?

  13. Siganus Sutor says:

    ego: which comes from tetra and fluor
    My mistake: fluorine, not “fluor”. (For once French is more concise than English.)
    Since we are on fluorine* properties, which of a fluorescent or a phosphorescent substance — or object — glows more? (We are not speaking of polonium yet, be it 210 or not.)
    * an adjective as well?

  14. Siganus Sutor says:

    > Conrad
    CMYK? Never seen this tetragram before. Does it refer to some kind of Indian divinity? Linked to the omnipotent YMCA by any chance?

  15. Siganus Sutor says:

    Linked to the omnipotent YMCA by any chance?: a “Pueblo” divinity, for sure.
    (“Village people”: wouldn’t there be some sort of pleonasm in this name?)

  16. Siganus Sutor says:

    Are tetrazarre words words that are twice bizarre as bi-zarre*?
    * always had problems in the past to remember how many Rs, Zs and Ks

  17. Siganus Sutor says:

    Hum… Steve, you can ask a quasi quadrumane to tetrashut his mouth for a while…

  18. Steve’s going to have a good laugh when he wakes up this morning…

  19. Siganus Sutor says:

    What about you, dear Conrad? You’re not feeling poly-sleepy to-day/night?

  20. My god, I get a little sleep and look what you maniacs get up to!
    *calls Sorcerer’s Apprentice to sweep up, goes for coffee*

  21. I’m a veterinary neurologist, and I and the people I have worked with all use tetraplegia, although quadriplegia is understood. I have heard both from physician neurologists, but I don’t know the frequency of either on their side.
    Many of these “two correct terms” situations in medicine depend on the school you came from, at least until one reaches a critical popularity.

  22. David Marjanovi? says:

    Polytetrafluoroeth(yl)ene is the polymer of tetrafluoroeth(yl)ene. Easy.
    “which of a fluorescent or a phosphorescent substance — or object — glows more?”
    That depends. The difference is that fluorescent ones glow immediately when irradiated (with the right wavelength), while phosphorescent ones slowly give off the energy, one molecule after another. Glow-in-the-dark stuff is phosphorescent.

  23. Siganus Sutor says:

    Thanks, David. I shall remember this.
    (The lab you’re working in in Paris is a chemistry one?)
    Another question though (it never ends…): when in turn polytetrafluoroethylene polymerizes, what is the compound that you finally get?
    (As far as I can remember from the auld student days in France, fluorine isn’t tetravalent like carbon, is it?)
    (BTW, do you know how to say fluoré in English?)

  24. Siganus Sutor says:

    In my previous comment, something disappeared after the word get: 😉

  25. Doug Sundseth says:

    “… when in turn polytetrafluoroethylene polymerizes, what is the compound that you finally get?”
    Polytetrafluoroethylene, it’s just a bit more poly.
    ps. There’s both a parrot joke and an insect joke in there, but neither is very good. Your imagination is probably better than mine today, so imagine I came up with really good ones. Think of it as a comparative advantage sort of a deal.
    pps. See? My economics joke is pretty lame, too.

  26. instead of “television” should it be “teleopticon”–?
    i’m THERE.
    m.

  27. how to say fluoré in English?
    Berger’s Clouded Yellow
    (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.)

  28. David Marjanovi? says:

    (The lab you’re working in in Paris is a chemistry one?)
    No, paleobiology. It’s not actually a lab, it’s just called one because it has several tables with floor tiles on them. It’s more like an office.
    I’ve done much chemistry at school, though, and even studied it for a year before it became too mathematical. Then I changed to molecular biology (while continuing paleobiology), which still contains a lot of chemistry, even sophisticated analytical chemistry that I’d never have expected in there.
    Another question though (it never ends…): when in turn polytetrafluoroethylene polymerizes, what is the compound that you finally get?
    It can’t polymerize, it doesn’t contain any double bonds.
    (As far as I can remember from the auld student days in France, fluorine isn’t tetravalent like carbon, is it?)
    No, mono-.
    (BTW, do you know how to say fluoré in English?)
    Fluorinated. 😐

  29. cavorting says:

    As a UK medical student, I can say that the general resistance to change among British doctors is reflected by my not having encountering tetraplegia in use, though I’m sure everyone would understand what you meant.

  30. Orion Montoya says:

    Checking in the Oxford English Corpus [(cfr.] for hits in the years 2000-2005:
    2000: 10*
    2001: 5
    2002: 9
    2003: 9
    2004: 6
    2005: 19
    * Many of these are referring to a single a 1986 court case Housecroft v Burnett.
    With hitcounts counts this low it is not really appropriate to make any real judgment; the sort of W-shape of a graph of this data probably says more about the particulars of the corpus coverage than it does about the frequency of use year-to-year. And while there is some year-by-year variation in the corpus’s precise token count, it is not proportionate to the counts here — 2004’s unusual lowness is indeed unusually low.
    By comparison, quadr[ia]pleg.* has a pretty steady token count of 50-80 from 2001-2003, then shoots up in 2004 and 2005 with discussion of The Sea Inside.

  31. Here’s an indicator that shows tetraplegia is indeed catching up with quadriplegia.
    From Google Books, here are the relative citations for the last 3.7 decades:
    1970-1979: quadriplegia 223; tetraplegia — 35 books; a ratio of 6.4 to 1.
    1980-1989: 333 versus 49, a ratio of 6.8 to 1.
    1990-1999: 636 versus 206, a ratio of 3.1 to 1
    2000-2007: 668 versus 457, a ratio of 1.5 to 1.
    Previously, however, the ratio from 1900-1969 was 3.1 to 1. Some of the variation over time is probably due to variation in the geographic mix so far available on GB. The earliest citation of tetraplegia on GB is 1904.

  32. John McChesney-Young says:

    My wife is a registered nurse who’s worked in physical rehabilitation for many years, and she reports that the tetra- form is now standard in medical contexts in this area, although certainly quadri- is still common in non-technical conversation. A deliberate change in terminology was made a few years ago at her hospital.

  33. Perhaps there is a general pressure for use of more Greek and less Latin in the language of medical professionals. The Latin is too easily understood by “outsiders”. I’m thinking of topical instead of local (as in topical application); and even of psychological illness instead of mental illness.

  34. As for teleopticon, it would almost certainly be smoothed to telopticon, especially because there is a difference in meaning between telos (standardly yielding the prefix tel[e]-) and teleos (standardly yielding the prefix teleo-). I suppose the thing might reasonably have been called telescope, if that word had not been already taken. Compare platypus, which had already been allocated to a beetle, so the monotreme bears the genus name ornithorhynchus instead.
    Teleblepticon, anyone?

  35. Here’s an indicator that shows tetraplegia is indeed catching up with quadriplegia.
    I can picture it in my head; a sea of Hellenophile cripples running, sweating, trying to make it past an equally vast sea of those who prefer Latin. Or rather I can’t, but that comment provoked a weird reaction for me.

  36. Siganus Sutor says:

    Thanks again, David. (You’re very helpful indeed, and very patient.)
    Once you read fluorinated, it seems fairly obvious (though fluorine does sound like an adjective too). What is strange however is that I haven’t been able to find it in any one of the dictionaries I have at home. The OED (Shorter) has just this one: fluoric.
    So you are working in paleobiology? That’s great! While being an absolute layman regarding paleontology, I’ve always had an interest in this particular branch of science. Have you by any chance worked on the Flores “Hobbit”, to check whether he is ‘one of ours’ or not?

  37. Siganus Sutor says:

    > Noetica
    No need to worry about all these teleopticon, telopticon, telescope or teleblepticon since, sad as it may sound, they have no chance of replacing télé* or TV.
    * Isn’t it symptomatic that amongst all the words using the prefix tele- (telepathy, telescope, telegraph, telegram, telephone…), it is television that has been abbreviated to this very prefix? The power of images overtaking the power of words – as well as many other things…

  38. Alas yes, Siganus Sutor. By the way, longinquivision would seem to be the pure Latinish name for the teleblepticon. It has the virtue of yielding two hits in a Google search (one more or less duplicating the other), which is two better than teleblepticon itself manages.

  39. David Marjanovi? says:

    Compare platypus, which had already been allocated to a beetle, so the monotreme bears the genus name ornithorhynchus instead.
    Genus names always start with a capital letter (just like how species names never do)!
    Funnily enough, Echidna is similarly preoccupied, so the monotreme is now Tachyglossus.
    Never encountered “fluoric”, but I haven’t read that much about chemistry in English… German: Fluor, fluoriert…
    So you are working in paleobiology? That’s great! While being an absolute layman regarding paleontology, I’ve always had an interest in this particular branch of science. Have you by any chance worked on the Flores “Hobbit”, to check whether he is ‘one of ours’ or not?
    GRAA! No, I’ve written my (equivalent of) M.Sc. thesis on dinosaurs, and my dissertation is supposed to dig, er, climb even deeper down the Tree of Life. I can’t tell last week from last ice age, and the hobbit is from last ice age (18,000 years ago is the Last Glacial Maximum). There are (more than…?) enough paleoanthropologists, and you can only fit so many around all known hobbit bones. — Personally I wouldn’t be surprised if it turned out to really be, as usually claimed, an island dwarf just like the mastodonts it may have hunted, but that’s not something I could find out if I had the bones in my hands. Whether it’s a different species depends on the species concept, however; there are at least 25 out there, depending on which you pick there are 141 or over 200 endemic bird species in Mexico, and most species concepts are not applicable to fossils (for lack of data). — Oh, its oh so surprisingly reduced brain size: in mammals at least, brain size has a peculiar relationship to body size, so when you take that into account, we, the chimpanzees, the dolphins, the elephants and the sperm whales all have brains at the maximum of the range expected for mammals of our respective sizes — not beyond. It’s a good question what brain size is really good for.
    Last but not least, let me become grumpy and repeat the prejudice: the closer you get to humans, the worse the science gets.

  40. Here in Maryland, we feast in summer on Callinectes sapidus. I suppose that there is a workable justification for a Greek description of athletic form and a Latin description of gastronomic appeal.

  41. Genus names always start with a capital letter
    Yes, I hesitated before committing myself on the case of ornithorhyncus. I would certainly have capitalised it if I were writing the binomial Ornithorhyncus anatinus. I might defend my choice of lower case in the context of my post, but I would do so only the spirit of playful competitiveness. SOED has this definition in the entry for ornithorhyncus, and no hint of capitalising:
    = PLATYPUS. Chiefly as mod.L genus name.
    (just like how species names never do)!
    Species names are capitalised at the start of sentences and in similar contexts. (“We are all pedants now.” –Anon)

  42. I prefer “telorama” myself. Snappier.

  43. Plus it’s very close to the modern Greek form (τηλεόρασις or τηλεόραση).

  44. Siganus Sutor says:

    And it’s not too far from the ± left-leaning magazine Télérama.

  45. David Marjanovi? says:

    Species names are capitalised at the start of sentences and in similar contexts.
    Nope — because they can’t occur there. Species names are incapable of independent existence; they must be preceded by at least an abbreviated genus name, come hell or high water. (One of the reasons is that they are usually not unique.)
    (“We are all pedants now.” –Anon)
    In that case, I should point out that I’ve used “species name” in the zoological sense. The botanists call that the “specific epithet”, and that’s way better from the pedantic point of view, because the actual name of a species is the complete binominal.

  46. More seriously, David, I had inadvertently misspelt ornithorhynchus. I am mortified.
    Anatinus is (at least on some accounts) the species name of Ornithorhynchus anatinus, and it may occur at the start of a sentence such as the present one, and must then be capitalised! However, this involves some trickery on my part, doesn’t it? After all, I have just mentioned anatinus, not used it.
    I admire your precision. But now let us simply agree on the core facts here, such as “the correct form for all binomials is Genusname speciesepithet“, ja? The rest is play.

  47. Siganus Sutor says:

    Noetica, it’s madness to believe that psychological illness would be less easily understood than mental illness.

  48. Siganus sutor [sic]: Are you crazy? Don’t you see that it would certainly have been less commonly understood when it was first introduced, as a learnèd euphemism for lunacy?
    But now, of course, the age is grown so picked that the toe of the peasant comes so near the heel of the courtier he galls his kibe.

  49. Noetica, I may be somehow crazy — the lunatic is (sometimes) on the seabed grass — but I believe the Sutors wouldn’t like to see their beloved name written like any taxonomic* designation, since they are very proud of their Roman ancestors who stood firmly on their (two) feet.
    * Taxonomy or taxinomy? There have apparently been some debates about this important topic.

  50. Sute thyself, Spinefoot: but see to’t thou ultracrepidatest not.

  51. Siganus Sutor says:

    No need to worry about that — and you are not the first one to warn me about inaccessible heights (c.f. the telorama-man above).
    For instance, I have always been troubled by the pronunciation of the name ‘Melbourne’ (a city in a place that was called New Holland according to a map I saw tonight, probably because its inhabitants used to travel on tractors). And today, talking about current bush fires, there was a BBC speaker speaking from Bush House who said it in a rather Frenchy way — melboorn — while the foreign correspondent who had his head upside down pronounced it differently — something like melbun. So the small scaly creature humbly asks: how “should” it be said?
    Re: platypus, l’ornithorynque, the ‘flat-footed’, venomous, egg-laying mammal with a beak: what a mongrel! No wonder it ended up being like this given its half-cast name. And what to say about anatinus… as if it was a joke written in some anatidé satirique like the mordant [sic] Canard enchaîné

  52. As an inhibitant of the Antibodies I can assure you that Melbourne is pronounced with a schwa on the second. Same for Brisbane.
    And yes, the male platypus does have venomous spurs on its hind feet. Perhaps the binomial ought to reflect this spinefootedness, rather than the duckbillèdness of that mosaic beast’s other end. Spinefootedness was, however, already taken.
    As for your Anas vinculata, I have nothing answeriform. But hush… ad crepidam: we are watched.

  53. We Don't Need No Stinkin' Vowels says:

    [Siganus Sutor, Jan 11]
    CMYK? Never seen this tetragram before. Does it refer to some kind of Indian divinity? Linked to the omnipotent YMCA by any chance?
    I believe he’s the Welsh god of desktop publishing.

  54. we are watched
    Not by me, that’s for sure. I long since washed my hands of the whole crazed lot of you.

  55. Well spotted, LH!

  56. Well, if the AF can decide that the perfectly sensible phrase taxe à metre, which says exactly what you (the customer) do, is to be replaced by the falsely Latinizing taximetre, and the first half of this then spreads into all other language, well, what’s a poor taxonimist to do?

  57. Siganus Sutor says:

    > We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Vowels
    This Welsh god hasn’t been speaking to me recently and I wonder if I ever met him, but [Siganus Sutor, J(e)an 11] does look like a quote from the Bible. Never knew that I was mentioned there.
     
     
    > Noetica
    (thanks for you anseriform answers; they made me laugh comme une baleine)
    Wouldn’t you have an idea about the binomials used for creatures generically known as “gods”? I believe there ought to be some Greek in their name, even if it gives them a dual nature.

  58. Siganus Sutor says:

    Oh… John has been cut in two. Read [Siganus Sutor, J(e)an 11]. *cross fingers*

  59. Wouldn’t you have an idea about the binomials used for creatures generically known as “gods”?
    Your goose is as good as mine.
    As for John 11:
    Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin. “What are we accomplishing?” they asked. “Here is this man performing many miraculous sig(a)n(u)s.”
    (John 11:47, New International Version)
    Or did you mean something more general involving Ἰησοῦς Χριστός, Θεοῦ Υἱός, Σωτήρ? I’m afraid we are no longer on the same whaleslength.
    But I can help with the tetragrammatoid CMYK. See here.

  60. David Marjanović says:

    The oldest spelling is taxonomie and was in French. Then the word spread to the rest of the world. And then the French changed it to taxinomie for unfathomable reasons; nobody else has followed that change. I wonder if it started as a typo (look where i and o are on your keyboard). Or they thought it was Latin and might do better with a more reduced connecting vowel… ~:-|
    I didn’t know Brisbane rhymed with Melbourne. How much there remains to learn…

  61. I didn’t know Brisbane rhymed with Melbourne.
    Hmm. Even with the schwa, the two do not rhyme canonically in English. For one thing, the accent is on the first syllable in each, and the first-syllable vowels and final consonants differ. For another, even if we were to look for rhyme only on the last syllables, the initial consonant is the same in each. No good for English rhyme.
    Still, you are right that there remains much to learn, for all of us.

  62. Siganus Sutor says:

    > David
    If you look at the etymology of taxonomy, you may read this: “The word comes from the Greek τάξις, taxis, ‘order’ + νόμος , nomos, ‘law’ or ‘science’.” So maybe that’s why the French took the cab to go back to Athens, to the Greek origin of everything — even species.
    Incidentally, while wandering around, trying not to get caught in the [fishing] net, I discovered that there was a Wikispecies site, a project which is “meant to become an open, free directory of species.” And on its main page there is a subtitle which doesn’t seem to have a “pure” pedigree at all: “Taxonavigation”.

  63. Had enough of ichduology, Sutor Resutus? That about stitches it up? Two-taxing, such taxwax becomes a pain in the nuque (in the end), piscing one off (after a whale)? Very well, enough for now. Maybe next time we can trade baleinedromes.

  64. Siganus Sutor says:

    Noetica: Had enough of ichduology, Sutor Resutus?
    I’m afraid not. But I would be tempted to think that nothing compels you to jump in the pool — in which I could wash not only my face but my sins too, if need be.
    Regarding the “tetragrammatoid CMYK” you pointed at, there’s something quite hippie in the icon it draws. What is more noticeable however is the fact that the French version of this Wikipedia article is far less mysteriously titled “Quadrichromie”, a word that doesn’t really seem to exist in English — thank God, since it should rather be tetrachromie, shouldn’t it?
     
     
    John: if the AF can decide that the perfectly sensible phrase taxe à metre, which says exactly what you (the customer) do, is to be replaced by the falsely Latinizing taximetre
    Wasn’t there a -t missing in “taxe à mettre”, “tax to be introduced” (to feed the always hungry taximeter)? Mettre — from mittere, to send, or to throw (c.f. missile). (Funnily enough though, it seems that during the Middle Ages mittere could also mean to spend, to pay.)
    Of course, the mètre of taximètre is to measure. The trip that is, not the taxi, which itself comes from… taximeter, as the vehicles in which taximeters were used became known later as “taxis”. But — and that’s probably what you were referring to — it started in the late nineteenth century as taxameter (apparently in Germany), a word which might make more sense since it could have come more from taxa, the Medieval Latin word for tax, than from the Greek taxi/s, arrangement. However, “Taxa Driver” would probably sound strange nowadays…

  65. Siganus Sutor says:

    LH, your software is really baffling at times:
    “Your comment submission failed for the following reasons:
    Your comment could not be submitted due to questionable content: i*e*s*p*a*n*a.es”

  66. David Marjanović says:

    ARGH! Stupid me! Of course Brisbane and Melbourne can’t rhyme…
    Thanks for the etymology of “taxonomy”. So the French actually got it right. (As with the somewhat more subtle case of psychanalyse.)
    Still Taxameter in German.

  67. Siganus Sutor says:

    David: Still Taxameter in German.
    Really? That’s quaint, that’s nice. But then how do you say taxi in German?

  68. David Marjanović says:

    Taxi.
    After all, nothing here measures taxis…

  69. Siganus Sutor says:

    A simple tape maybe? A tetra… oops! A quadri… oops! A small half-decametre
    would be ± enough I suppose.
    Errr… in the end, should meter/metre be considered Latin or Greek? From Latin metrum or from Greek metron?

  70. Siganus Sutor says:

    David: — Personally I wouldn’t be surprised if it turned out to really be, as usually claimed, an island dwarf just like the mastodonts it may have hunted
    It looks as if you guessed well, dear David:
    Monday, 29 January 2007, 22:30 GMT
    ‘Hobbit’ human ‘is a new species’
    The tiny skeletal remains of human “Hobbits” found on an Indonesian island belong to a completely new branch of our family tree, a study has found.
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/6311619.stm
    What language could Homo floresiensis have spoken? We missed it by a few thousand years — what a pity… Noam Chomsky would probably have had a nice theory about it.
     
     
    so when you take that into account, we, the chimpanzees, the dolphins, the elephants and the sperm whales…
    “We, the chimpanzees”? So you agree for instance with Jared Diamond, who reckoned we are just one of the three species of chimps still alive today? (The inarticulate and brutish ape-man that I often am really loved reading his Third Chimpanzee, uh!)

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