Saturday, March 21, 2009

Here's another one

So what is the phenomenon where you learn something and then you see it everywhere? Seriously, how often does this happen to you? It happens to me all the time. It's kind of freaky.

I was watching Law & Order: SVU the other night and not really paying attention. Anyway, the whole case seemed to hinge on the fact that this kid ate pencils and it was this doctor's fault for not noticing that the kid had had unusual amounts of lead in his blood when he was little. Actually, it turned out to be this toy manufacturer's fault for lying about the paint they were using on their toy cars, but that came later. The shrink on the show did a major double-take when he saw the boy eating the pencil and then in the big reveal scene, he diagnosed the boy as suffering from this condition that made him eat things. Non-food things.

Now, if the next day, or even this morning, you had asked me to name that condition, I would have drawn a total blank. But then, this morning (are you following this?), I was looking up how high-fructose corn syrup is made (from some really nasty-sounding chemical treatments to the least healthy part of the corn grain, in case you were wondering) and saw an off-hand reference to a condition called amylophagia—"the compulsive consumption of excessive amounts of purified starch. It is a form of pica..."

Pica?
I thought to myself. Hmmmm. That sounds familiar. Click, click.

Pica is a condition that causes people to compulsively eat things that aren't actually food. Yup. That was the word the shrink used on the show. Which I promise you I've never heard before this week. And now it's been twice inside of seven days. And it's not like that's an ordinary word.

My partner called this phenomenon "mental shleptichnach," but I'm pretty sure that's not a technical term. Though I like it.

1 comment:

dawn said...

G -- So true: I had an amylophagia experience yesterday!

In the course of emailing a friend about his bourgeois tendencies, my spellchecker kept wanting to change my erroneously spelled bourgeious to courgette, a word I'd never even heard of...

and at a dinner party just a few hours later, two friends who had just returned from Ireland recounted their experience of ordering from a waitress who could not find another word to describe the courgette on special, "perhaps, as the French call it, Zu-ki-nii?"