super soft word power


prescribing medicine can be a hit and miss affair. what works for some doesn’t work for others, and there’s always the placebo effect to take into account. if a patient believes something will work, it often does, even when there’s no known medical reason for it to do so. Robert Lawrence included a chapter on this in his book,  Primitive Psycho-Therapy and Quackery (1910)

In a “Book of Counsels to Young Practitioners” (1300) are to be found some interesting items regarding contemporary manners. Fledgling doctors are therein advised to make use of long and unintelligible words, and never to visit a patient without doing something new. In brief, a reputation for infallibility must be maintained.

when a Chinese physician cannot procure the drugs which he desires in a particular case, he writes the names of these drugs on a piece of paper, which the patient is expected to eat;[50:2] and this mode of treatment is considered quite as satisfactory as the swallowing of the medicine itself.


Dr. John Brown of Edinburgh (1810-1882) reported the case of a laboring man affected with colic, for whom he prescribed some medicine, directing him to “take it and return in a fortnight,” assuring him that he would soon be quite well. At the appointed time the man returned, entirely relieved and jubilant. The doctor was gratified at the manifest improvement in his patient’s condition, and asked to see the prescription which he had given him; whereupon the man explained that he had “taken” it, as he had understood the directions, by swallowing the paper.


I don’t advocate the eating of paper, prescriptive or otherwise. if your doctor prescribes a medication, be sure to ask about contraindications and possible side effects. if in doubt, seek a second opinion. just think of me as the guardian angel of your health and remember to follow my advice. especially when I tell you to use the soft paper.


Published in: on March 20, 2008 at 8:29 am  Comments (15)  

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15 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I suspect Dr. John Brown may have been the original inspiration behind McDonalds.

  2. … and I immediately thought of those famous words from Woodstock: “Don’t eat the Dr. Brown acid.”

  3. I prefer to self-medicate.

    me too 🙂

  4. I have learned to avoid all advertisements! I only believe what the old wives tell me!

  5. I always heed your advice and have learned so much from my guardian angel ;-D

  6. What kind of side effects does paper ingestion have? I know that my blood pressure and OCD medicine have an occasionally unfortunate side effect, which is coincidental that you’d title this blog super soft.

  7. Hi. I emailed you a little present. Hope you like it. 🙂

  8. I wonder if it works if you write the name of the medicine on a chocolate cake. Something easier to swallow.

  9. excellent idea. ‘scuse me while I go bake a cake

  10. So I should have been sceptical and asked a bunch of questions about getting an entire shot of codeine every day for a cough? The hell you say. If my doctor decides it’s Christmas, I am not arguing.

    Been lurking a while, really like your blog.

  11. hi casey! we love new commenters at the gimcrack, especially those with connections to understanding doctors 🙂

    do you have a blog I could visit?

  12. I think I’d give up atheism if nursemyra was my guardian angel. Wings, halo, and a corset. That would make me a believer in the Almighty.

  13. Sure.

    I would link it all fancy if I knew how.

  14. I see you’ve got my friend tetherdcow on your blogroll. why don’t you ask him how to do it? he’s both knowledgeable and obliging 🙂

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