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Boozing during pregnancy..

Eddie Mair | 17:30 UK time, Thursday, 11 October 2007

what do you think?


  1. At 05:32 PM on 11 Oct 2007, Dr S Prokop,BSc,MBBS,MRCPswych wrote:

    USA pharmacologists have clearly shown brain damage in rat embryos at frighteningly low alcohol levels(pro rata).Please stop talking about this as a debate.The scientists strongly suspect the worst and the alcohol industry is putting up stooges to defend the indefensible

  2. At 05:35 PM on 11 Oct 2007, Sid Cumberland wrote:

    Take an egg. Crack it into a glass of white wine. Watch it cook This is rather a slow job). Then think: Do you really want to cook your foetus's brain?


  3. At 05:39 PM on 11 Oct 2007, richard ralley wrote:

    My mum was prescribed a bottle of stout a day by the doctor when she was pregnant with me. Now I've got a PhD, and drink a lot of guinness.

    (Dr Richard Ralley,
    Senior Lecturer in Psychology
    Edge HIll University

  4. At 05:51 PM on 11 Oct 2007, G Bandon wrote:

    my doctor told me that every time I took a drink the umbilical cord would collapse momentarily. It was a surefire way of making sure I never touched alcohol during my pregnancies. I gacve birth to healthy sons - both nearly 9lbs in weight.
    I have made up for the deprivation since, of course.

  5. At 05:53 PM on 11 Oct 2007, Suzanne O'Leary wrote:

    Can we have links to the research evidence? t's not very helpful to scaremonger about cooking eggs in wine and brain damage in rats.

    What about women who drink before they realise they are pregnant? Could epidemiological research be done on how many of their babies have been brain damaged or cooked?

  6. At 06:02 PM on 11 Oct 2007, Gledwood wrote:

    Hang on hang ON! I'm 35 years old. What we all seem to be forgetting is that most of OUR parents drank when they were carrying US - yet we escaped unharmed... DIDN'T WE?!?

    The great alcohol in pregnancy debate was sparked, as I remember it, by photographs from America in the late 80s depicting "foetal alcohol syndrome" - a severe condition where the baby is deformed as a result of vastly excessive boozing. One drink a day - even a big drink - I'm quite sure isn't going to harm anyone, pregnant or not.

  7. At 06:11 PM on 11 Oct 2007, Sid Cumberland wrote:

    Research evidence? As I say: "Take an egg. Crack it into a glass of white wine. Watch it cook. (This is rather a slow job)." I'm not sure what more you need, unless you want me to come round to your house and show you.

    I don't think I'm scaremongering, by the way; I believe in giving people all the information and letting them make their own choice.

    Children whose mothers drink between 19 and 21 days of pregnancy have a distinctive look, presumably related to specific developmental patterns. I'd hazard a guess that drinking outside that period will have similar - but not so visible - effects.

    For more information, Ask.com - 'foetal alcohol syndrome'.


  8. At 06:16 PM on 11 Oct 2007, DI Wyman wrote:

    rr (3)

    I am with you on that one!

    I drank through all three of my wifes pregnancies and we now have three strapping, well educated and gainfully employed sons. Oh and two grandsons....

  9. At 06:32 PM on 11 Oct 2007, Perky wrote:

    This is a serious issue, but I distinctly remember thinking when I was pregnant that giving up alcohol was a very good idea - and that all I needed when I went into labour was a good bottle of champagne: I'd have been off the booze so long that it would instantaneously relax me, and the baby would get a burst of energy form the bubbles and come flying out with a smile on its face.

    The midwife, however, wasn't amused and I ended up with normal drugs like everyone else.

  10. At 06:39 PM on 11 Oct 2007, Chris wrote:

    I can’t quote evidence but I’m sure that I have been told that alcohol consumption in the uk has increased over the last 35 years and that women’s consumption is higher. Alcohol is a toxic drug why would anyone want to argue that drinking it would be a good idea during pregnancy. Is there any evidence that consumption is a good idea? I know that if I want to perform optimally then I don’t drink alcohol.

  11. At 06:46 PM on 11 Oct 2007, jonnie wrote:

    After reading sid's post (7) I doubt if I was a female and pregnant I'd ever touch a drop.

    And yes I do recognise some people with the distinctive look:


  12. At 07:14 PM on 11 Oct 2007, Cj McAuley wrote:

    1st regarding the Diana inquest, it seems quite obvious that all photographers who took the time to take a photo rather than help are nothing but scum. Along with any paper or magazine that published said photos, as well as anyone who bought them.
    It also is so easy for the opposition to critique everything the government does, but they always have caveats. Witness Mr.Muirrison's implication that citizens somehow "send" soldiers into war, during his comments on changes in payments to severely injured soldiers in the current hostilities. I am thankful that everything is now recorded so their words can be played back to them in the future.
    Finally, regarding internet polls or polls of any kind; I do not trust any of them, for the mind-set of the poll taker is impossible to ascertain, especially with single question ones on the net. Depending on my mood, I have no problem in answering whimsically to any pollster, particularly those over the telephone.

  13. At 07:19 PM on 11 Oct 2007, Charlie wrote:

    Please define:

    * Boozing
    * Pregnancy

    In the meantime, I'm "expecting" my first alcoholic drink of the day any minute now..

  14. At 07:34 PM on 11 Oct 2007, Piper wrote:

    Eddie, why the interest..?

    Have you, dare I ask, popped a Bun-in-the-Oven?

    Come on Eddie, you can tell me. It'll only be shared with about 60 million other people...

    PS no alcohol during pregnancy Eddie. You, or anyone else. Not good at all

  15. At 07:43 PM on 11 Oct 2007, Gillian wrote:

    Suzanne (5) I spent the first 3 months of my first pregnancy blissfully unaware that I was expecting. I had a fantastic traditional Scottish Hogmanay during that time, and drank small amounts of alcohol during the remaining 6 months.

    Richard (3)I was also encouraged by my mother to drink a particular brand of Irish stout, and it was indeed good for me, through my 3 pregnancies.

    I am happy to report that my (nearly all adult) children are beautiful and intelligent. Having said that, I wouldn't advise my daughters to do the same!

  16. At 08:20 PM on 11 Oct 2007, Chris Ghoti wrote:

    Is the brain of a foetus *really* exactly like a raw egg? None of the ones that get autopsied seem to be.

    I strongly suggest that anyone who doesn't want to be clobbered should *not* tell a pregnant woman that her expected pride-and-joy has a raw egg for a brain!

    A glass of white wine would be very bad for the same amount of fresh milk, if they were mixed, but I don't see that this means anything except that white wine and milk don't go well together.

  17. At 08:40 PM on 11 Oct 2007, Bedd Gelert wrote:

    I don't agree with much of the 'scaremongering' directed at pregnant women. Everything from fish to cheese to peanuts seems to be described as mega dangerous.

    However, on the alcohol front, if one is going to be restricted to one glass of wine per day at absolute maximum, then is it really worth the bother and worry ? If one isn't even going to feel mildly woozy and relaxed, surely it is best not to bother ?

  18. At 09:34 PM on 11 Oct 2007, barrie singleton wrote:


    Copulation is a pure animal act, urged on by the need of all animals to “make up the numbers” lost to disease and old-age. We are no exception. We are animals.
    Mankind’s aberrant culture – a product of the unfortunate development of big brain and language – grafted onto the basic animal, has led us to the routine intake of alcohol, and a lot of other un-natural activities as well.
    Nature would not water a plant-seedling with alco-pop.

  19. At 10:12 PM on 11 Oct 2007, Chris Ghoti wrote:

    Jonnie, I went and looked at askdotcom, and the key words all over the place are 'too much' and 'excessive'. If a glass of wine is excessive, a lot of people taking a glass a day for the good of their health (as I think we have discussed here before) are going to have a horrible dilemma if they want to have a baby.

    Excessive drinking is bad for adults (have a seance and ask George Best) and there is no reason to think it would be any less bad for infants in utero, but there is a difference between binge drinking and a glass of wine with a meal, say.

    If a glass of wine a day inevitably caused mental defects in infants, the human race in Europe would surely be in far worse trouble than we are; and what about the days when alcoholic drink was *safer* than water because it wasn't full of germs? We discussed that before... If you were pregnant which would you rather for the baby: alcohol, or disease?

  20. At 10:39 PM on 11 Oct 2007, Karen Beattie wrote:

    For the last ten years I have been looking after a child whose mother drank during pregnancy. She has learning difficulties. These will be with her for the rest of her life. It was not her choice that her mother drank, but it is her life which is affected.
    If she could have just one wish it would not be to get a million pounds or to be a famous pop star, it would be just to be able to do things other people do, and not find everything an endless struggle.

  21. At 10:50 PM on 11 Oct 2007, Sid Cumberland wrote:

    Chris Ghoti (16)

    "Is the brain of a foetus *really* exactly like a raw egg?"

    No one has suggested that apart from you.

    Just as a matter of interest, the word is 'fetus' (and the adjective 'fetal'). 'Foetus' is a sort of false Greekism.


  22. At 11:14 PM on 11 Oct 2007, Séverine Serizy wrote:

    Susan Bordo, in her wonderful book "Unbearable Weight" talks about :"the extraordinary levels of vigilance now expected of and taken upon themselves by pregnant women. Yet at the same time as supererogatory levels of care are demanded of the pregnant woman, neither the father nor the state nor private industry is held responsible for any of the harms they may be inflicting on developing fetuses, nor are they required to contribute to their care". (p83)

    In other words, get off women's backs. A wee glass of wine is not going to kill a foetus. In fact, what if it even helps the woman relax? If a mother is suffering from stress, that can also harm the baby.

  23. At 11:53 PM on 11 Oct 2007, Grant Gill wrote:

    I have to say that our son was born a couple of weeks before the news aticle on the BBC news that said that all alcohol was considered bad for unborn babies by some organisation. I am sure that they are absolutely correct and that if no one drinks during pregnancy there will be fewer children damaged in this way. However the levels of damage in this way is surely much less than smoking or drug taking and unfortunately these things go on as well. I made sure that my wife didn't see the news for a couple of weeks; she drank sensibly throughout both of her pregnancies, but she already feels guilty enough without having this load put on her as well. Our children are beautiful and well; mainly due to the effort my wife has put into looking after them.

  24. At 11:10 AM on 12 Oct 2007, Ed Iglehart wrote:

    It is plausible that our supposedly 'special' level of consciousness (compared to our sibling life-forms) is drug-induced.

    As we came down from the trees and ventured onto the plains, we followed the herds, opportunistically getting a bit of meat from left-overs at the predators' tables, some interesting fruit, bud or flower, the odd beetle, grub, slug, etc., and particularily fungi.

    This was nothing new, as we'd always been opportunists, but in following the herds we were certain to come across certain fungi which associate with droppings and quite a few of which are psychoactive in varying degree.

    Most cultures have stumbled onto alcohol, cheeses, yoghurt, Kim Chee, and other fermentation products through consumption of not-so-fresh foodstuffs.

    In fact, the real deterioration set in when we began to give up the opportunistic gatherer-hunter lifestyle and settled down to become cultivators. Our diet's diversity shrank drastically and deficiency diseases emerged, we became susceptible to contagious diseases due to living indoors too close together and too long in fouled nests.

    In spite of this, due to the relative abundance of food (never mind the quality, feel the quantity!), we began the inexorable expansion of population which brought us to the present situation where the Earth's soils will be asked to produce more food in the next half-century than they have done in the past ten millennia.

    In short, the Neolithic revolution was a BAD IDEA!

    (with apologies to Terrence McKenna and others.)

    The Gods made humans because (for their own ineffable reasons) they wanted all the topsoil transferred to the seafloor.

    Happy days! Have a Guinness - it's better for you than a Big M*c!


    Tell a man there are 300 billion stars in the universe and he'll believe you.
    Tell him a bench has wet paint on it and he'll have to touch to be sure.

    Fri Oct 12 10:38:46 BST 2007
    Would you believe it? The 502 still stalks the frog!

    Cruickshank's Law of Committees:
    If a committee is allowed to discuss a bad idea long enough, it will inevitably decide to implement the idea simply because so much work has already been done on it.

  25. At 12:13 PM on 12 Oct 2007, Rachel G wrote:

    Sid - I really don't think the egg and white wine trick amounts to evidence or is at all helpful in a serious debate.

    A glass of wine would have an alcohol content of about 10% and I can believe that is enough to denature protein in egg. When consumed by a pregnant woman it would translate into a blood alcohol content of less than 0.05%. So try your experiment again but dilute your glass of wine about 200 times and see if the egg cooks.

    Scaring pregnant women isn't helpful. Telling them honestly, and without hysteria, about the risks is the way to do it.

  26. At 01:31 PM on 12 Oct 2007, Sid Cumberland wrote:

    Rachel G - actually, I find the photos of FAS kids scary. Shall we tell pregnant mums not to look on the internet?

    The egg 'trick' as you prefer to call it is evidence of something. You may discard it if you wish.

    I note that you don't mention my other trick (the disruption of normal facial development at 19-21 days).

    I do take this issue seriously. I do not suggest that no pregnant woman should ever have a drink. What I do say is that we should look at all the evidence we have, and continue to collect more.

    We know that all sorts of things, good and bad, cross the placental barrier. It's our choice - stress hormones v alcohol etc. We should just be aware that our actions have effects.


  27. At 03:51 PM on 12 Oct 2007, Rosalind wrote:

    If a sensible alcohol limit was stuck to during parties then fewer babies in any case.

    I found that I was unable to drink during my pregnancies, I think my body was saying 'no'. My first glass of wine each time was on delivery. Much needed.

  28. At 03:54 PM on 12 Oct 2007, madeleineh wrote:

    Sid, I think that might be evidence that the alcohol level in wine's enough to denature egg protein, but not sure if it tells us much about whether a glass of wine will cause FAS!

    I'm just over 3 months pregnant, stopped drinking as soon as I found out (but still keep wondering guiltily if that night with the neighbours and the 3 bottles of fizz was before or after the big event). I've dutifully taken my folic acid, stopped eating any decent cheese, started cooking my meat til it bounces and learnt to hide unexpected retching with a cough.

    Now I've passed the magic 3 month stage, if I could stand the smell/taste of it (have they changed something while I've been on the wagon?) it would be lovely to have the occassional glass of wine with dinner.

    Apparently we can stop taking the folic acid at 3 months because the nervous system is sufficiently developed. If women who've passed this stage fancy a wee drop, why not? Our French sisters are probably still washing down the brie with a slosh of burgundy, lucky buggers.

  29. At 04:15 PM on 12 Oct 2007, Chris Ghoti wrote:

    Sid, this won't get through because it'll be 502ed, but I'll try anyway.

    If the brain of the foetus is *not* being put forward as an analogy with an egg, what is the point of wasting a perfectly good egg in order to demonstrate that wine and egg mix badly? So do many pairs of substances. What some of the things people drink all the time do to solid food if you mix them would turn your stomach. Saying 'wine is bad for eggs' is no more meaningful than 'wine won't run cars' in relation to the effect of wine on the unborn brain, since the human brain is neither an egg nor a car, and there is no reason to expect it to behave as either.

    And I think when you write "the word is 'fetus' (and the adjective 'fetal')" you mean "I prefer to spell this word 'fetus'." Except of course when you don't: if you want me to believe that you're not quibbling there, you'd better not write 'foetal' in your own posts. :-)

    The spelling 'foetus' is in all the 12 dictionaries in this house, dating from 1926 through to 2001, with comments ranging from 'variant spelling of fetus' in Websters through to 'usual form of fetus' in Chambers and 'from the Latin fetus, foetus' in the S.O.D. The S.O.D. 1933 doesn't include 'fetus' as a separate entry at all, the 1972 S.O.D. gives merely 'fetus; see foetus', and the 1998 New S.O.D. has the entry 'fetus: variant of foetus'; only the American dictionaries give preference to 'fetus', and even the 2001 Websters gives the spelling with an o as an alternative. Both spellings occur in Cassells Latin dictionary.

    I use 'foetus' because it avoids any confusion with the words that relate to 'fetid', because it makes the proper pronunciation clear, and because I am English.

  30. At 05:21 PM on 12 Oct 2007, Myles Na gCopaleen wrote:

    "The Brother can't look at an egg.”
    “Is that so?”
    “Can't stand the sight of an egg at all. Rashers, ham, fish, anything you like to mention - he'll eat them all and ask for more. But he can't go the egg. Thanks very much all the same but no eggs. The egg is barred.”
    “I see.”
    “I do often hear him talking about the danger of eggs. You can get all classes of disease from eggs, so the brother says.”
    “That is disturbing news.”
    “The trouble is that the egg never dies. It is full of all classes of microbes and once the egg is down below in your bag, they do start moving around and eating things, delighted with themselves. No trouble to them to start some class of an ulcer on the sides of the bag.”
    “I see.”
    “Just imagine all your men down there walking up and down your stomach and maybe breeding families, chawing and drinking and feeding away there, it's a wonder we're not all in our graves man, with all them hens in the country.”
    “I must remember to avoid eggs.”
    “I chance an odd one meself but one of these days I'll be a sorry man. Here's me Drimnagh bus, I'll have to lave yeh, don't do anything when your uncle's with you, as the man said.”
    “Good Bye.”
    The Best of Myles.

  31. At 01:09 AM on 13 Oct 2007, Val P wrote:

    Chris Fish - I'm with you on 30 :o)

  32. At 01:10 AM on 13 Oct 2007, Ed Iglehart wrote:

    Go Chris!

    Sid, I'm sorry, but, after a very positive first impression a couple of months ago, you seem to be in danger of going 'off' a bit. Not yet fetid (or foetid, for that matter), but not nearly as fresh as before.

    Pedantry can be fun, but it can also be less so.

    In the beginning there was data. The data was without form and null, and darkness was upon the face of the console; and the Spirit of IBM was moving over the face of the market. And DEC said, "Let there be registers"; and there were registers. And DEC saw that they carried; and DEC separated the data from the instructions. DEC called the data Stack, and the instructions they called Code. And there was evening and there was morning, one interrupt.
    -- Rico Tudor, "The Story of Creation or, The Myth of Urk"

    Sat Oct 13 01:10:01 BST 2007

  33. At 01:18 PM on 13 Oct 2007, Chris Ghoti wrote:

    This post went to a black hole an hour or more ago, so I am trying again; if it now appears more than once, I'm sorry, but that's the blog at the moment. Trying at 13.12 Saturday...

    Ed @ 32, 'foetid'; yes, it's interesting that the Latin root for that can be spelt with an o (foetidus, stinking, from foetere, to stink; the S.O.D. 1933 goes so far as to say 'often erroneoulsy foetidus') rather than just with the e, and yet the English language firmly ignores that possible origin, and the dictionaries don't give 'foetid' as an entry standing alone, and give 'foetid' only as a variant spelling -- they seem unanimous about it, which given the way they generally disagree is really quite surprising.

    Pedantry is usually fun for the person doing the research, less so for the person it is thrown at^Wto. As I know perfectly well, so I only do it if I am poked with a stick, as a rule.

    The silly thing is that I absolutely agree that getting habitually and wildly pissed while pregnant is almost certainly bad for the foetus' brain, but I *have* to argue when the examples given are either irrelevant or unproven. For instance, I feel profoundly sorry about Karen's ten-year-old whose responses are faulty and whose mother drank, but I would want a definite demonstration of causality before I felt able to accept that the drink was the *reason*: that maternal drinking may have been a factor in the condition I find easy to accept, but as with depression, there are a lot more complex matters at play here that just a simple 'Any Drink At All Makes Your Child's Brain Go Wrong' assumption following from the case, really.

    If finding the causes for any disease or condition were really that clear-cut, there would be no argument, and life would be a great deal simpler for the medical profession!

  34. At 02:17 PM on 13 Oct 2007, Charlie wrote:

    Sid Cumberland @ 21

    Why so hard on the "foetus/fetus" issue?

    Fowler's Modern English puts it:

    foetus, fetus. British dictionaries favour foetus, American the etymologically preferable "fetus".

  35. At 03:44 PM on 13 Oct 2007, Chris Ghoti wrote:

    Charlie @ 34, which edition of Fowler's?

    *evil grin* If I'm going to play Ed's pedant game I might as well go the whole hog. This will go the way of my last post and be 502ed into a black hole, but since I have all three books here I might as well...

    The 1st (1926) just quotes the O.E.D. of the time and says 'the etymologically preferably spelling with e in this word and its cognates is adopted as the standard form in some recent dictionaries, but in actual use is almost unknown'; the 2nd (1965) says 'British dictionaries favour foetus, American the etymalogically preferable fetus'; the 3rd (1996) says 'Despite its etymology (from L. fetus 'offspring'; cf effete from L. effetus 'that has brought forth young, hence worn out by childbearing) the form with -oe- has been consistently used in BrE for some four centuries and should be retained. The AmE spelling is fetus, and this spelling has gained ground in medical writing outside the US, but has not yet established itself outside N. America. The corresponding adj. is foetal in BrE and fetal in AmE.'

    I don't always feel that Fowler is the most authoritative source, but that's what he (1) Gower (2) and Burchfield (3) have to say on the subject.

    First posted at 1531, 13/10/2007

  36. At 04:55 PM on 13 Oct 2007, Sid Cumberland wrote:

    I'm not sure why I come across as 'hard' or even 'not quite fresh' over the spelling of 'fetus'.

    What I actually said was: "Just as a matter of interest, the word is 'fetus' (and the adjective 'fetal'). 'Foetus' is a sort of false Greekism." How hard is that?

    Well, it obviously doesn't interest everyone, but I'm afraid I am interested in language and how it evolves, so it interests me. Note that while British dictionaries generally give 'foetus' as an acceptable alternative, the key (for me) is 'etymologically correct' (='fetus').

    Apologies to all those who have no interest in how we spell words.


  37. At 04:57 PM on 13 Oct 2007, Sid Cumberland wrote:

    What I actually said about foetus/fetus was: "Just as a matter of interest, the word is 'fetus' (and the adjective 'fetal'). 'Foetus' is a sort of false Greekism." I do apologise if that seems hard. It's just that I'm interested in how our language works and develops.


  38. At 10:27 PM on 13 Oct 2007, Chris Ghoti wrote:

    (after waiting for its appearance for most of the evening I am trying again, so I hope this won't now appear twice)

    Sid, I too am interested in how the language got the way it is, and this 'foe' versus 'fe' spelling argument is definitely interesting. It looks to me as if the 'Greekism' of the Latin 'fetus' took hold really quite early, enough so for Cassells Latin dictionary to have both spellings in it. Should we believe Burchfield's 'four centuries'? That would take it back to Shakespeare, which is a reasonably long time for it to have lasted in English spelling! It's even too early for 'fetus' to be English-gone-to-America, like 'gotten'. I don't have an O.E.D. to look for first usages in literature.

    (Apparently the original root is the Aryan bhwe-, an extension of bhw-, bhu-, from which we got the verb 'to be' (via the Old English beon), but that doesn't help with the spelling, nor explain what we're doing with that Greek diphthong. -- and don't even *think* about the word diphthong! Even if it has been around since the 1480s. The things I find in the S.O.D....)

    But I still reckon neither of us ought to say it *is* spelt one way or the other or that 'the word is': 'I prefer to spell it' is a safer way to phrase that, when the facts about its pedigree are ambiguous. In English, the spelling is rarely rational, and in American we have to make allowance for Webster's personal foibles.

  39. At 09:38 AM on 14 Oct 2007, Sid Cumberland wrote:

    Chris (38) - I'm afraid my comments here reflect what happens when you are in a hurry (and you think your message probably won't get through anyway).

    But you are right. I should not have said 'the word is'.

    Again as a matter of interest, if you have a library card you should be able access the OED online via your local council website - I believe they have pretty well all signed up.

    the entry on fetus/foetus is smallish:

    [a. L. fetus (u stem) offspring (incorrectly written foetus), f. root *fe- to produce offspring:Aryan *bhw-, an extension of root *bheu-, bhu-, to grow, come into being: see BE v.
    The etymologically preferable spelling with e in this word and its cognates is adopted as the standard form in some recent Dicts., but in actual use is almost unknown. (N.E.D.)]

    The young of viviparous animals in the womb, and of oviparous animals in the egg, when fully developed.

    1398 TREVISA Barth. De P.R. V. xlix. (1495) 167 The chylde that is conceyued in the moder hyght Fetus in latyn. 1594 T. B. La Primaud. Fr. Acad. II. 397 At this time the burthen is called Foetus of the Latines, and Embryon of the Greekes. 1660 BOYLE New Exp. Phys. Mech. Digress. 373 The Foetus respires in the Womb. 1796 DE SERRA in Phil. Trans. LXXXVI. 500 The gems as correspondent to living born foetuses. 1847-71 T. R. JONES Anim. Kingd. (ed. 4) 867 We have yet to learn how the foetus is matured after the exhaustion of this supply.
    transf. 1692 BENTLEY Boyle Lect. 142 The soil, pregnant and big with foetus's of all imaginable..structures of body.

  40. At 12:25 PM on 14 Oct 2007, Chris Ghoti wrote:

    (ready for the 502s: this may appear twice or notat all)

    Thanks, Sid! Spoken like a gentleman. I'd settle for 'is more properly' instead of just 'is', because I do accept that if the Latin is properly spelt fetus then you are right that the English ought to be as well -- it just hasn't been. Is that a compromise that would do the job?

    I do have access to the O.E.D. at the house of the ex-Professor of English at my local university (and I'n sure my university library has it) but he and his wife are away for the weekend. :-)

    The O.E.D. plays fair by saying how the word was being spelt in 1594 and so on; that is the business of dictionaries, to give the information. I am surprised that they actually comment on what they think it *ought* to be, in fact. That isn't the usual business of the dictionary, which ought to be a witness rather than a judge.

    It still leaves the question: why did that -oe- happen in (and possibly before) 1594? I suppose it could be the New Learning creeping in, especially if the Greek gives us 'embryo' and needs no alteration. Maybe these chaps just wanted to show off their book-larnin', and suggest that medical words ought to be less obviously spelt! Or maybe it was a case like 'aluminium' in the 1800s, which Davy called 'aluminum', and which is still 'aluminum' in American English. The S.O.D. says that 'aluminium' is 'the better name', but doesn't say why this might be so. Bah. Judgemental lot. I'd rather know the reason for the variation...

    On what was actually being discussed in this thread before we got side-tracked, the silly thing is that I absolutely agree that getting habitually and wildly pissed while pregnant is almost certainly bad for the foetus' brain, but I *have* to argue when examples may be irrelevant or unproven. For instance, I feel profoundly sorry about Karen's ten-year-old whose responses are faulty and whose mother drank, but I would want a definite demonstration of causality before I felt able to accept that the drink was the *reason*. That maternal drinking may have been a factor in the condition I find easy to accept, but as with depression, there are a lot more complex matters at play here that just a simple 'Any Drink At All Makes Your Child's Brain Go Wrong' assumption following from the case, really.

    It's like the extrapolation from 'too much salt is bad for people' (true) to 'everyone ought to cut all salt out of their diet' (false; too little salt leads to painful cramps, and if we get no salt at all we die). Too much alcohol is bad, but since the human metabolism seems to make alcohol and nobody has zero alcohol, we *can't* aim for none. Unfortunately almost nobody seems able to grasp the idea of 'moderation' once they start advocating things: it seems always to end up coming down to 'none' rather than 'a sensible amount' being the thing to preach.

    If finding the causes for any disease or condition were really clear-cut, there would be no argument, and life would be a great deal simpler for the medical profession! But it ain't, any more than we really have any answers in the nature/nurture debate.

  41. At 01:07 PM on 14 Oct 2007, Ed Iglehart wrote:


    "Unfortunately almost nobody seems able to grasp the idea of 'moderation' once they start advocating things: it seems always to end up coming down to 'none' rather than 'a sensible amount' being the thing to preach."

    A very key point.

    What is a 'sensible amount' of rainforest destruction? Globetrotting? Soil erosion? Overpopulation? Net migration into one of the most (sensibly) overpopulated countries?


    What, after all, is a halo? It's only one more thing to keep clean.
    -- Christopher Fry

  42. At 01:32 PM on 14 Oct 2007, Sid Cumberland wrote:

    Chris - at the risk of straying off the point ... the OED says about the etymology of aluminium: "[a modification of ALUMINUM, the name given by its discoverer, Sir H. Davy c 1812 (for which he had first of all used ALUMIUM), f. ALUMINA. The termination -ium now preferred harmonizes best with other names of elements, as sodium, potassium, magnesium, lithium, selenium, etc. Both alumium and aluminum lived for some time.]"

    One wonders why British scientist went for the -ium ending, while Americans stuck with -um.


  43. At 01:43 PM on 14 Oct 2007, Sid Cumberland wrote:

    Back to the original discussion: is anyone else alarmed at the notion that pregnant mothers might be 'prevented' from having access to tobacco?

    "The comprehensive report will make a strong case for the Government to increase the scope of anti-smoking legislation. It even suggests a possible move to try to ban pregnant women from getting tobacco altogether.' (Indie on Sunday)

    My feeling again is that the role of government is to make sure people have the information they need to make an informed choice - not to make the choice for them.


  44. At 04:37 PM on 14 Oct 2007, Frances O wrote:

    Chris, I'm struck by your saying that the human body makes alcohol. Any further info on this?

    I know we make our own 'high' or 'feelgood' chemicals, endorphin, serotonin, dopamine and doubtless others I can't recall or don't know about.

  45. At 06:34 PM on 14 Oct 2007, Chris Ghoti wrote:

    (Since posts can take a while to appear -- my last one claimed it wouldn't because it was 'malicious' -- I am doing one big answer here.
    Posting, 1842)

    Ed @ 40, if you have started eating rainforest destruction I am *worried* about you! ;-) I was thinking only of what ye shall eat and what ye shall drink, and hadn't even got as far as worrying about wherewith ye shall be clothed (on account of the Lord saith, 'thou foolish one...') My mis-typing there. I'd agree with you that 'none' may be a good amount to advocate of, say, wilful murder...

    Sid @ 41, thanks *again*, for the 'it goes with sodium' explanation for aluminium. I suspect the cussedness of human beings probably explains why it went in different directions.

    As for not *allowing* women to smoke because they are pregnant, and legislating about it, how do they expect to enforce it? Informers? Home raids in the early hours? What about the ones who don't show yet, or know yet; what about the ones who lost the baby? Stupid interfering, that's what that would be; I am with you on the role of governments. Have you looked at the regulations about bathroom fittings recently? have you measured the floor-to-window area ratio in the room where the boiler for the central heating lives, or the distance between the central heating boiler ventilation pipe and the nearest window (even if it doesn't open)?

    Frances O @ 43 -- no idea, except that the statement wasn't challenged by the anti-booze lobby when it was put forward as a reason for the impossibility of having breath-test equipment set to zero, because on that basis nobody would ever be allowed to drive at all. I think I may have noticed a court-case somewhere where 'no alcohol at all' for drivers was tried and had to be amended.

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