Dissociating from Disassociation

Ran into ” parenchymal disassociation” on a medical research webpage, and googled it because I wasn’t  sure what parenchymal meant.  Lo and behold, the only exact matches for the phrase (5 or 6 of them) came from the same webpage. Proceeded next to “parenchymal”, and got the definition, then tried “parenchymal dissociation”. Result: hundreds of exact matches. So on and so forth ended with OED reference:

“dissociate” is from the Latin dissociare (to separate from fellowship). “Disassociate” was modeled after the 16th-century French verb désassocier.

Both words are recognized, and they mean the same thing.  Dissociate saves a syllable and some hissing, so there seems little reason to follow the French. Today’s international news bolsters my skepticism:

France, having recently purchased $20.5 billion worth of new trains, now realizes that the trains will not fit into many regional stations. More hundreds of millions will be spent modifying station platforms. Transport Minister Frederic Cuvillier blamed an “absurd rail system” for the problems. “When you separate the rail operator from the train company,” he said, “this is what happens.”



4 responses to this post.

  1. I have a thing about highly paid designers. I used to have a telephone with a recorded message facility. The phone stood in a cradle vertically. The light to inform you of a newly left message was behind the phone so you couldn’t see it.


    • I’m sure auto instrument panel design has caught your attention more than once, CR. Fuel gauges and clocks hidden behind levers and the steering wheel and the like. We still call the instrument panel a “dashboard” here, a vestige from horse drawn days when the panel would intercept snow and rocks thrown up from the road. We now have air bags and seat belts to prevent its being dashed from within the vehicle.


  2. The French have a national tendency towards hypochondria; judging by your self-admitted reading matter it seems they are not alone.

    Are you saying “parenchymal” and “disassociation” are the same thing? Not according to my researches. In general terms the noun derived from the p-word (just knock off the final l) is: the bulk of the substance, typically, the functional part of a body organ. Not that that’s entirely satisfactory since it’s hard to imagine a non-functional part of an organ.

    The Guardian carried a longer story about the train/platform mismatch in France including some extra details which go some way towards explaining why it happened. A shame really. I’ve used regional French trains and they’re much better than the equivalent networks in the UK.

    On top of that France has a well-developed TGV (Train de Grande Vitesse) network which claims top speeds of about 200 mph and offers centre-to-centre averages which compete very favourably with planes over distances up to (I think) about 500 miles. A modified TGW running on a reinforced track between Paris and Strasbourg achieved an unbelievable 357 mph in 2007.


    • No Robbie, I was attempting to say that dissociate and disassociate have the same meaning, and I suspect your response is subtle comment on the organizational quality of my writing. It’s easy to gloss over the extra “sa” in the latter dis-word while reading, but pronunciation will give away one’s preference. The webpage was that of a company called InVivo. An acquaintance recently took over as CEO. The outfit has been granted HUD (Humanitarian Use Device, not Housing and Urban Development) privileges for clinical trials of a device/procedure they hope will restore function to injured spinal cords. “Age 55 and over” is among the exclusion criteria, along with “parenchymal disassociation”, so I’m still being cautious about falling off rooves. A tongue in cheek dissing of the French here, just trying to add a little zest to my tedious obsession with the extra syllable. This post was not written exclusively with you in mind, I thought the engineering angle would perk up Hatch as well, and that you’d probably both rush to defend the French. I’ve pestered all my other readers in person about the matter, and so do not expect comment from them here.


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