Monday, May 29, 2017

Callus or callous?

Probably never crossed your mind the grammatical difference between 'Callus' and 'Callous', The terms are used synonymously to described localised hyperkeratosis, but should they be used in this way is the burning question on the lips of many. The origins of both words derive from the Latin word 'callum' meaning, hard skin, and are the masculine form. Middle English, from the Old French word 'cailleux', meaning hard skin. They first appeared, as a variant, in the English language in and around the 16th century, just as corn cutters were becoming popular in Europe and Britain.

During the pox epidemics of the Middle Ages physicians were at a loss to treat open sores common to syphilis (large pox), small pox and Hansen's Disease. Lack of understanding meant many doctors refused to treat patients suffering from venereal diseases and hence this sector of the population sought alternative medicine and occult remedies. Many claims corresponded to disease remission as the disease process ran its course to secondary and tertiary stages. Among this ground swell the corn cutter emerged. During this time the Quack Act (England)was introduced which allowed non-medical persons to be legally able to treat open sores with almost anything and everything that made the patient better. Scathingly medical practitioners referred to these alternative persons as 'quacks' and hence the Quack Act.

The word "quack" derives from the archaic word "quacksalver", of Dutch origin (spelled kwakzalver in contemporary Dutch), literally meaning "hawker of salve". In the Middle Ages the word quack meant "shouting". The quacksalvers sold their wares on the market shouting in a loud voice.

To them callus (singular noun) described and area of thickened skin or area of bony tissue formed during the healing of a fractured bone. The plural version was calluses.

As a verb, to callus means to produce or cause thickening of the tissues. Inflected forms of the intransitive verb would be callused, callusing, and calluses. Callous meantime is not a noun but an adjective meaning unfeeling and insensitive. When used to describe callus it means skin that has hardened and thickened. The term callous can also be used as a verb to describe the pathological processes involved in producing callus (es). The intransitive, inflective version of the verb being calloused, callousing, and callouses. All meaning to make or become callus. So as a footnote to this piece allow me to demonstrate correct usage. Do not confuse the adjective callous, as in

"Years of dealing with self centered, self opinionated, patients with self inflicted injuries has left me callous, with the thought of the callus(es) and corns on the soles of their feet."

Also, do not confuse the verb callous, which means “to make or become callous,” with the verb callus “to form or develop hard skin.”

Reviewed 5/12/2016

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