Caterpickles consults Daddyo: What does “fever and ague” mean?

Little HouseSeems like every 30th second grader we passed while trick or treating this year was dressed up as Laura Ingalls Wilder. Second grade must be when everyone reads Little House on the Prairie. The Seven-Year-Old, succumbing to the happy sort of peer pressure, pulled down our copy of Little House from the office bookshelves and dove right in.

Almost immediately she was struck by one of the things I love most about reading old books. The weird medical terms you can find buried within them.

The Seven-Year-Old, curiously: “What does ‘fever and ague’ mean?”

Daddyo, authoritatively: “A nonspecific illness involving a fever.”

(A moment later) Daddyo, quietly: “Mommyo, is that really what ‘ague’ means?”

Mommyo, loudly: “Why ask me? You’re the doctor.”

Daddyo, quietly: “Yes. But I wasn’t practicing in 1875.”

For the curious, yes, Daddyo was right. According to Merriam-Webster, ague is:

“a fever (such as malaria) marked by paroxysms of chills, fever, and sweating that recur at regular intervals.”

Strong work, Howell.



About Shala Howell

Writer of things ranging from optical network switching white papers to genetic testing patient education materials to historical fiction set in an 1880s asylum. When I’m not scratching my head over pesky characters who refuse to do things how I want them done or dreaming of my next book (which will of course be much easier to write than the current one), my writerly self can be found blogging about life with a very curious Ten-Year-Old at, or musing about books and the writing life at
This entry was posted in Ask the iPhone, Caterpickles Consults, Funny Stuff My Husband Says, Reading and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Caterpickles consults Daddyo: What does “fever and ague” mean?

  1. rayworth1973 says:

    It would seem to be a rather obscure term but it’s still used quite a bit in the medical field. I know, I’m a medical biller.


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