Friday, 20 June 2014

Constipation - A Crowded Etymology

I have no idea, but it seemed appropriate
(photo by Douglas Muth)


Noun. Late Middle English.
[Old & modern French, or late Latin constipatio(n-) crowding together, (in medieval Latin) costiveness.]

1(a) obsolete. Contraction or constriction of passages or tissues of the body. LME-M17

1(b) Irregularity and difficulty in defecation. M16

1(c) figurative. Abnormal lack of efficacy or ease. E19

2 obsolete. Compression or condensation of matter. L19

The ultimate Latin root of constipare carries the sense of 'press, cram', and this could be applied in many different ways. The Spanish, for example, use it to mean 'to have a cold' (think 'congested'), which gives rise to oh so many delightful misunderstandings when a Spaniard declares: "¡Estoy tan constipado!" It goes the other way too, of course, and it's worth remembering the difference when holidaying in Spain. Go into a pharmacy complaining of that you're constipated and you're likely to be given a nasal spray, which would be interesting to say the least ...

Do please crowd around and leave your most compacted comments in the box below.


  1. There is that old joke: How do mathematicians deal with constipation? They work it out with a pencil.

    1. Geometrists work it out with a pair of compasses.

    2. There's a film I want to see called Constipation, but it hasn't come out yet.

    3. Geologists use a hammer and chisel, but a miner, if it can't be shifted with a pick and shovel, does the job with the aid of a stick of dynamite.

    4. So this is what Lexi has become - a repository of constipation jokes ....

  2. Perhaps their authors should be blocked...

  3. I just stopped by to 'dump' my ~ THANK YOU ~ for the enjoyment I find here, every time I visit :o)