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.


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