Wednesday 9 March 2016

Obstetrics and ovicology

Ob & gyn is a speciality in medicine which until very recently was, like all medicine and most other things, dominated by men.  We still have a Master of the Rotunda [maternity hospital] Fergal Malone replaced Sam Coulter-Smith about this time last year.  We are not yet ready for a woman in that job?? Obstetrics has an interesting etymology coming from obstetrix [Latin] a midwife; which in turn comes from ob+stare to stand across from or opposite to . . .  across from what?  I'm guessing across from the orifice-of-delivery.  Having been an assistant catcher in two home-births, I know something about this.  Gynaecology also has in interesting etymological history; the first syllable comes Greek γυναι ultimately from proto-indo-european PIE gwen = woman from which we also derive queen. The science-speak for sheep is Ovis aries, ovis [Latin] is also from the PIE root owi = sheep, from which we get ewe via Olde English eowu meaning a female sheep. The word sheep is a bit of an orphan, shared by Dutch schaap and modern German Schaf but not by other Germanic [Swedish får, Danish faar] languages, etymology beyond skæpan in West German is unknown.

Last night I was just settling down to a night of aimless youtube when my farming neighbour called asking if we had a sack-needle about the house.  We are currently painting the hall, so everything has been shifted from its usual place and you can hardly see the floor for piles of books. After a bit of shouting and hunting I located the sewing box and set off across the river in the rain with the largest available needle. Fortunately, my pocket also had couple of meters of fine white cotton string which had been sealing a 25kg feed-sack up until I was feeding the sheep earlier in the evening.  As I suspected, my neighbour and his Polish friend had a prolapsed uterus on their hands; or rather threatening to spill out onto the straw of the ewe's bedding. The two feeble spotlights in the barn made it light enough to see by, but not light enough to thread a needle, but these new-fangled mobile phones have a reading light.  With no backup, this was not the time to drop the implement and have us all looking for a needle in a haystack.

I threaded the needle and then held the light, the Polish friend held the sheep and neighbour sewed up her vulva so that the uterus aka the lamb-bed would stay in, we hope.  This same operation was carried out on one of our post-partum ewes a few years ago with only transitory success.  I hope it works out this time.  Not more than 30 minutes after getting the call, I was back on my cosy sofa looking up the etymology of obstetrics; youtube idleness forgotten.

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