It seems my German is a little… crappy…

Apologies for the subject matter of this post, but I thought it was interesting from a linguistic point of view!

I’ve known for a while that the wonderful English word diarrhea (or diarrhoea) comes from the ancient Greek word diarroia (διαρροια), a participle form of the verb diarrein (διαρρειν). The “dia” (δια) prefix literally means “through”, and the verb “rein” (ρειν) means “to rush” or “to flow”. Therefore the literal translation of διαρροια means “a rushing through” – a very accurate description of the condition itself!

However, I only realised recently that while English takes the word almost straight from the Greek, the literal translation lives on in other languages. In German, for example, the word is durchfall – and again, “durch” is a preposition meaning “through”, with “fall” meaning pretty much what it means in English.

Similarly, a Dutch word for it is buikloop – “buik” means “stomach”, and “loop” means a “run” (and can even mean a “stream”, though of course I don’t wish that upon anyone).

As a related aside, my English teacher at school had a great mnemonic for remembering how to spell the word diarrh(o)ea, which has served me well to this day: Dashing, In A Rush, Running Hard, (Or) Else, Accident!

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