Tag Archives: sweetbreads

Wednesday’s Sick Notes

In the course of researching some (likely obscure) phenomenon the skeptical cardiologist encountered  a reference to a book with the fascinating title of “Fritz Spiegl’s SICK NOTES: An Alphabetical Browsing-Book of Medical Derivations, Abbreviations, Mnemonics and Slang for the Amusement and Edification of Medics, Nurses, Patients and Hypochondriacs.”

The book is no longer in print but I was able to purchase a used version for less than 10$ via the wonders of the internet.

Published in 1996 with a forward by Lord Smith of Marlow, the President of the Royal College of Surgeons, the book is most enjoyable, quite suited to short bursts of reading.

From time to time I will share random selections, most likely on a Wednesday.

Without further ado I give you today’s tidbit- the pancreas.

The name of the digestive gland comes from the Greek pan, all + areas, flesh; or so all the dictionaries tell us. It is actually fish-shaped, and the all-flesh connection is puzzling, as surely all our soft giblets-human as well as animal-are ‘all flesh”.

Could there be a connection with Latin panis, bread, in view of the fact that the pancreas of lambs, calves, etc. when used in cooking, are called sweetbread(s)-although the pancreas is, of course, neither sweet nor bread?

Further etymological investigation seems called for. The pancreas also contain small groups of cells called ISLETS of LANGERHANS, which secret two hormones, INSULIN and glucagon, regulating blood-sugar levels:  another connection with sweetness. See DIABETES.

I can’t reference the islets of Langerhans without thinking about the brilliant humor of Firesign Theatre

Langerhangingly Yours,

-ACP