Friday, August 20, 2010

Hep Words

I love words and knowing where they come from. In medicine, everything associated with the liver is hepatic, which comes from the Greek word for liver, hepar. Liver cells are called hepatocytes. Hepatitis means inflammation of the liver. A hepatologist is a liver disease specialist. Hepatic encephalopathy means a kind of brain disorder caused by the liver disease.

This week I was looking through a bird book and found a bird called a hepatic tanager. It got the name because the male is liver-colored. In the picture it was the color of a liver. I can just imagine a bevy of ornithologists hanging around, saying, “Let’s call it a rusty tanager. Better yet, a livered tanager. By jove, how about a hepatic tanager!” 

You know what is really funny? The bird is more likely a type of a cardinal than a tanager. If they had called it a hepatic cardinal, it’s name would have been two colors.

Although hepatic may refer to color, it's unlikely that we will see it on a nail polish or lipstick.

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