Sunday, March 02, 2008


Few parts of a newspaper interest me less than any section that has "fashion" or "style" in its title, but I didn't flip past this in today's NYT on "compounding" eating disorders with other dangerous behaviors. The opening list contains these disturbing, if not instantly transparent, terms:
Manorexia. Orthorexia. Diabulimia.
If this was a GRE question, I guess you'd say that the second is not like the others morphologically. The initial element of the first item is not from manic (as I first wondered) but rather man — it's male anorexia. The second uses a familiar prefix, and it's a fixation on eating healthy food, according to this description, a disorder unto itself, not directly compounded with anorexia. And the third is about diabetics who avoid insulin because it can cause weight gain but apparently doesn't involve purging. More immediately obvious in meaning is drunkorexia, mentioned in the subtitle and discussed at length in the article.

The blends above all refer to potentially fatal health problems (and we have blends that are negative in meaning — smog, stagflation) but it seems like a lot of blending in English is commercial or playful, like in Lewis Carroll or the celebrity names you can see here. Using blends here not only makes these terms distinctly non-clinical sounding, but it also feels awkward given concerns about glamorizing eating disorders (like here), not to mention that we surely don't want to do anything that sounds like it trivializes them.


The Ridger, FCD said...

I agree. They're so cuuuute.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, and they sound completely dismissive. I find this kind of disturbing.

Mr. Verb said...

Yeah, the more I think about this, the worse it sounds. A thread is just starting over on ads-l ... I wonder if people there will be bothered by the term?

mighty red pen said...

I did hear another one the other day: tanorexia, which is to say someone that tans too much (which kind of doesn't make sense now that I think of it, if anorexia is not eating enough).

Although I find mandals (male sandals) amusing, I've always been really troubled by manorexia (I think there was a story a couple of years ago about Dennis Quaid having it). It bugs me in the way in suggests that anorexia is only something that women have, and that for guys, manorexia is somehow different. Hey, it's all anorexia.

Mr. Verb said...

Wow, so this is more productive than I realized. Tanorexia is also probably relatively trivial -- at least I hope you can't die from that.

Ollock said...

Hmm -- I suppose a compulsive tanner could end up with skin cancers fairly often. Hopefully they'd at least know enough to get their moles treated. (BTW, tanorexia is odd to me for a different reason than for red pen -- namely that in other terms -rexia refers to eating, but then that's just a false etymological argument.)

Manorexia bothers me as well. Anorexia nervosa is a medical term and doesn't distinguish gender of the patient (it doesn't really need to). I usually don't worry over other people's usage in this sort of way -- often I enjoy hearing about playful uses of language -- but I think it might be a little poor taste to trivialize these disorders.