Wednesday, February 06, 2013

A 17th century Jewish physician warns against the evil effects of alcohol

Came across a fascinating passage in the 17th century Hebrew medical book Ma'aseh Toviyah (link). Fascinating for its remark about drinking alcohol and fascinating to the 8 year old in me for the amusing, to modern English ears, turn of phrase highlighted by me in red.

"Of drinks, they drink whiskey that burns the heart and soul, and mead and beer, and other improper alcoholic drinks. Without a doubt these cause illnesses, and a smoky head causes headaches, dizziness, dementia, ringing in the ears, and eye maladies. Galen had said that even honey itself, when eaten too much, causes boils, because it burns the blood and causes and increase of redness (medical historians, jump in). 
Now, of the intoxicating drink known as beer, it is already known to all who drink two kinds (?) causes the condition of dripping urine known in Latin as stranguria and in German as die kalte piss. We also discover in books that poisonous honey, derived from various herb species which are poisonous, kill all who eat or drink it.  
Now that God has made all this known to us, do not wonder at the bad diseases which befall them because of their terrible practices, but wonder how they are even alive at all."


  1. Pish(pisch), as in the yiddish 'pischer'. German does indeed have piss and pissen but I suspect this is borrowed back from English since it also has Pischen.

  2. Sorry I just can't help it: "8 year olds Dude".

  3. it is already known THAT all who drink two kinds

  4. No, "piss" is right, I think. The term is documented in Roman-letter sources.

    Those מינים look like a measure.

  5. "Cold fish" is another word for urine? who knew?

    G. Pickles

  6. Where "modern" is late 18th-century. (Piss vs Pisse is a regional thing, Adelung is using the Standard German form here.)



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