#SoCS: chirurgie

This is my first time participating in the Stream of Consciousness Saturday blog hop. Linda Hill posts a prompt every Friday; see https://lindaghill.com/2020/05/22/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-may-23-2020. This week’s prompt: base a post on a word beginning with ch.

I contemplated a few ch words: child and chair immediately came to mind. Then, from nowhere came chirurgie, the French word for surgery. Do I speak French? Non. Not a word. Well, except for merde, because I’m full of it, and one ought to be able to describe oneself in at least two languages, am I right?

So why chirurgie, which I cannot spell without looking it up and am copying and pasting each time I use it in this post? Because it reminded me of the summer of 1991. I was home in Vancouver, Washington (not to be confused with the infinitely cooler Vancouver, BC) between years of library school and landed a job at Oregon Health & Science University doing two things: working the reference desk and cataloging books in the history of medicine collection. There were quite a few French books in that collection, many of which included some variation of chirurgie in the title. And for some reason, that word and its variants stuck in my mind, even though to this day I cannot pronounce it (but I can pronounce merde just fine – thanks to the wonderful Outlander audiobooks).

There was something magical about that summer, sitting in the musty History of Medicine Room, smelling decaying leather (and possibly decaying other things – I heard rumors that we had at least one book bound in human skin, though I was never able to verify that fact) and poring over title pages of books at least a century old–like this one:

L0005170 Title page”Traite des operations de chirurgie” Garengeot Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images images@wellcome.ac.uk http://wellcomeimages.org Amputation: 18th Century 18th Century Traite des operations de chirurgie Garengeot, R.J.C. de Published: 1731 Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

I remember lots of herbals–herbal medicine was big, especially in the days when medicine didn’t have much else to offer–and cringe-worthy gynecology texts from the 19th century. Let me tell you, people with female organs, if you ever want to feel grateful that you live in *this* time, take a look at a 19th century gynecology textbook. Or, worse, 19th century gynecological instruments. We had some of those too.

And I think I’ll leave this post with that happy thought. I love to reminisce about the past, but I also try to be thankful for the current moment, whatever and wherever it is. Have a wonderful weekend, dear readers, and keep safe.

8 thoughts on “#SoCS: chirurgie

  1. Enjoyed your post very much. You have a beautiful way with words! And I learned a new word for the day. Of course, I can’t pronounce it either. And I am thinking to skip the cringe worthy 19th century aforesaid texts, which I think you’re ok with!!
    Do you really think there was a book bound with human skin in that room? That is a level of creepy I don’t want to investigate!
    Have a good weekend and be safe!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! There may well have been a book bound in human skin in there. A medical librarian at USC just wrote a book about books bound in human skin (presumably her book is not itself bound in human skin). See https://us.macmillan.com/books/9780374134709. As long as we’re on the subject of medical grossness, that collection included shadowbox frames filled with bladder stones (one was the size of a softball!!), kidney stones, and gallstones. And once when we were cleaning out a closet, we found a human skull in a box of museum items. We named it Yorick, and last time I visited (several years ago), Yorick sat proudly on top of a file cabinet in the History of Medicine Room.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I lived in Vancouver BC for several years in the 70s. It’s 60 years younger than yours. Simon Fraser University is my Alma Mater, so we used to go down to Washington Sunday nights because the bars were open. Longer weekends we’d stay with friends in Vancouver Wash or visa versa. Lots of fabulous Memories. Don’t remember their weather being warmer. Lol. Seemed to rain Everywhere most weekends. I do remember Vancouver Washington as a very pretty town. Vancouver was much larger, hectic and a bit crazy. I like small towns. … I love your word. Pronounced like chi… orgy, sort of, if you say it fast, or with a Newfie accent. Lol.


    1. Oh, the rain. That’s what finally drove me out of Portland 10 years ago. I’m a Californian, and 9 months of grey and gloom about drove me nuts. The Pacific Northwest is so beautiful, though.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. So glad you joined in with socs! I took French in high school and remember precious little of it (and yes, merde definitely stuck!). You make some excellent points on why we should be grateful for living in the 21st century.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! Discipline is something I struggle with. I love to blog, so that doesn’t take a lot of discipline, but it takes time away from my fiction writing, which takes quite a bit of discipline. It’s a challenge to balance the two.


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