From time to time I ponder the names people assign their children. We all know people who have given their children what we might consider a strange name that the parents think is wonderful. You know, like Richard Head. Why would you consider Melaena, though?
I’ve known a few children and at least one adult who are known as Melaena. I don’t mind if there is a slight variation in spelling like Meleana or Melina. The variations are important, and it’s so much better if the second letter is “a” or “i” rather than “e”.
Why does it matter?
Well, the prefix mel- is important. Think of the following words:
Melancholy has a dark sense to it and could come from ‘black bile’.
Melanesia stems from “the islands inhabited by blacks”.
Melanin is a black pigment found in animal bodies.
These words stem from the Greek melas (Genitive melanos) which means black or a dirty colour.
So do you know what melaena means?
I remember learning about melaena in third-year medical school and then I had my first clinical experience as a fourth-year student in the wards. Melaena is black tarry stool which is the result of faeces containing partly digested blood. This happens because of internal hæmorrhage usually high in the gastrointestinal tract like in the stomach or by consuming (orally) lots of blood.
In gastroenterology wards, in the old days when gastric and duodenal ulcers were common and bleeding ulcers were difficult to control, you would have a few patients from time to time quite unwell and their bedpans would contain melaena. The smell was quite offensive. It’s a smell you don’t forget.
It’s for this reason that Melaena is not a name for your daughter.
Have you come across anyone named Melaena? Do you know anyone with an unfortunate name?
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