Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Carphology - "Delirious Plucking at the Bedclothes"

Joven dormida
J. R. Alberda Cortina (1841-1890)


Noun. Mid-19th century.
[Greek karphologia, from karphos straw + legein collect: see -Y.]

MEDICINE. Plucking at the bedclothes by a delirious patient.

Anyone that's ever witnessed carphology first-hand knows what a distressing sight it is, seeing a delirious person clutching and grasping at the bedclothes as if searching for imaginary objects. It is a simple compound of two Greek words, karphos (straw) and legein (collect), carrying the idea of a patient picking at bits of straw on the bed. It's also known as floccillation, from the Latin floccus (woolly hairs or filaments).

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  1. It's a shame there's often a cold, contrasting disconnect between the manner and terminology of a doctor and the situation of the patient and their relatives. It takes a special kind of doctor to bridge that gap.


  2. My granny used to do this when dementia started getting the best of her. She was plucking her skirt, sweater, her blanket... it was quite sad to witness how she got so nervous over things we couldn't see. And that there was nothing we could do to make her feel at ease again.

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