Pickwickian Syndrome: obesity – hypoventilation syndrome


Mr Pickwick, illustrated by Frederick Barnard
Mr Pickwick, illustrated by Frederick Barnard

From Wordsmith.org – The Magic of Words

PRONUNCIATION:  (pik-WIK-ee-uhn)

1. Marked by generosity, naivete, or innocence.
2. Not intended to be taken in a literal sense.

After Samuel Pickwick, a character in the novel Pickwick Papers (serialized 1836-1837) by Charles Dickens. Mr Pickwick is known for his simplicity and kindness. In the novel Mr. Pickwick and Mr. Blotton call each other names and it appears later that they were using the offensive words only in a Pickwickian sense and had the highest regard for each other.
Another term that arose from the book is Pickwickian syndrome, which refers to a combination of interlinked symptoms such as extreme obesity, shallow breathing, tiredness, sleepiness, etc. The character with these symptoms was not Mr. Pickwick, but Fat Joe, so the term is really coined after the book’s title. The medical term for the condition is obesity-hypoventilation syndrome.

“I kept a happiness diary, after the discovery by Professor Sonia Lyubomirsky that collating one’s daily blessings resulted in Pickwickian good cheer.”
Hannah Betts; The Pursuit of Happiness is Driving Me to Despair; The Daily Telegraph (London, UK); Apr 3, 2009.

“Mr. Tribe: Now, anybody reading that would realize that’s a deadline only in a kind of Pickwickian sense. It’s not a real deadline.”

A Transcript of Arguments in the Supreme Court Over the Florida Recount; The New York Times; Dec 2, 2000.

“A Pickwickian chairman, rosy-cheeked, in frock coat and old-fashioned cravat, adopted the role of Santa Claus.”
Mungo MacCallum; Growing Up: The Day Had Come; Sydney Morning Herald (Australia); Jan 21, 1987.

We have not passed that subtle line between childhood and adulthood until we move from the passive voice to the active voice – that is, until we have stopped saying ‘It got lost,’ and say, ‘I lost it.’ -Sydney J. Harris, journalist (1917-1986)


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