Tuesday, June 18, 2013


While looking through Evernote for references to the word lungs, I came across a couple of quotes from Barnaby Rudge, by Charles Dickens. It's not his best-known novel, and some critics disregard it entirely.  However, the great section in the second half in which the Gordon riots take place is phenomenal reporting.  How Dickens got his facts, and how he built on those, is irrelevant;  this section is amongst the most vivid and violent in the Dickens canon, matching the similar horrors that are written about in A Tale of Two Cities.  

The quote that includes the word lungs is this: Many of those who were banded together to support the religion of their country, even unto death, had never heard a hymn or psalm in all their lives. But these fellows having for the most part strong lungs, and being naturally fond of singing, chanted any ribaldry or nonsense that occurred to them, feeling pretty certain that it would not be detected in the general chorus, and not caring much if it were.

And the next paragraph that I noted when I was reading this has a kind of delightful charm, although it has only a small connection with lungs: It is a familiar expression in describing a great crowd, that a person might have walked upon the people's heads. In this case it was actually done; for a boy who had by some means got among the concourse, and was in imminent danger of suffocation, climbed to the shoulders of a man beside him and walked upon the people's hats and heads into the open street; traversing in his passage the whole length of two staircases and a long gallery.

And having got those out my hair I can focus a little better on the reason I was looking up lungs. I wanted to check what a spirometer was, since they were discussing spirometers at medicaldevicedepot.com.
According to Wikipedia, a spirometer is an apparatus for measuring the volume of air inspired and expired by the lungs. It is a precision differential pressure transducer for the measurements of respiration flow rates. The spirometer records the amount of air and the rate of air that is breathed in and out over a specified period.  

I think those three sentences pretty much say the same thing, but sometimes that's useful if you don't get the hang of it the first time.  I always find it intriguing that, medically, 'inspire' and 'inspired' are used of breathing in, whereas the common use of the words is somewhat different.  We don't think of breathing in when we say we're inspired; at the very least we might think of taking something into ourselves, but it isn't usually breath.  

Ah, the joys of language!
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