Consumption, The Vapours, Leeching

LORELAI: Actually … I’m sick.
EMILY: I knew it, what’s wrong?
LORELAI: Consumption with a touch of the vapors. I’m going for a leeching tonight after coffee.

Consumption: a 19th century word for tuberculosis, an infectious disease mostly affecting the lungs. It was seen as a romantic disease affecting artists, poets and composers, whose creative talent would somehow be amplified. In real life, it was primarily a disease of the urban poor, due to their cramped conditions.

The vapours: an old word, dating to antiquity but still used in the 19th century, for a variety of medical issues which might include depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, fainting, or PMS. It was only ever used towards women, and ascribed to female hysteria.

Leeching: from ancient times, leeches were used medically, becoming especially popular in the medieval and early modern period to take blood from a patient, which was thought to balance the “humours” of the body. Although this went out of fashion, leeches began to be used in the 1970s, as it was realised the proteins in their saliva had numerous medical benefits, and they were classified as a medical device in the US in 2004.

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