« The unkindest cut | Main | Want to slap AP Stylebook around? »

I may not be a doctor, but ...

From time to time copy crosses the desk with a reference to dying from an aneurysm, which is only half right.

An aneurysm is a bulge like a balloon in a blood vessel with a weakened wall. You could possibly harbor one, undiagnosed, in your brain or in your aorta. It is a time bomb, potentially fatal. And yet you may have had it for years, carrying out normal activities. You will not die from having it. But you may well die if it ruptures before it has been identified and repaired by surgery.

Make that copy read dying from a ruptured aneurysm.

Posted by John McIntyre at 9:19 PM | | Comments (7)


What's sadder than a ruptured aneurysm is the fact that the misspelling "aneurism" gets a half million Google hits.

Ask any vein specialist: an acute (but unburst) aneurysm can indeed be fatal. Not only can they grow to block normal blood flow, but tissue breaking off from them can cause thrombosis is other parts of the body, including the lungs, brain, heart, and kidneys. Please, don't delude your readership in believing the myth the myth that an aneurysm has to burst to be fatal. They're bad, all right, and they can kill in a number of ways.

Sir Bacon's additional medical information is most welcome. But as a practical matter, it is clear in context that virtually all deaths from aneurysm in news reports involve ruptured aneurysms.

One of my personal pet peeves is the ill-considered use of certain tropes, such as the hyperbole of "What's sadder than X is Y." Is a widespread misspelling really sadder than a person's sudden death by a ruptured aneurysm?

My favorite, when cops/court reporters think they can write health stories, is "myocardial infraction." BAD heart! You've committed a crime and are going to JAIL!


Aneurism is not a misspelling. It is recognized as an alternative spelling by, NID3, and AHD4; the OED goes so far as to call it more common than aneurysm (though it's not clear if they mean worldwide or in Britain).

I hope I don't get an anyourism in my cartoid artery.

Post a comment

(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)

Verification (needed to reduce spam):

About John McIntyre
John McIntyre, mild-mannered editor for a great metropolitan newspaper, has fussed over writers’ work, to sporadic expressions of gratitude, for thirty years. He is The Sun’s night content production manager and former head of its copy desk. He also teaches editing at Loyola University Maryland. A former president of the American Copy Editors Society, a native of Kentucky, a graduate of Michigan State and Syracuse, and a moderate prescriptivist, he writes about language, journalism, and arbitrarily chosen topics. If you are inspired by a spirit of contradiction, comment on the posts or write to him at
Baltimore Sun Facebook page

Most Recent Comments
Sign up for FREE local news alerts
Get free Sun alerts sent to your mobile phone.*
Get free Baltimore Sun mobile alerts
Sign up for local news text alerts

Returning user? Update preferences.
Sign up for more Sun text alerts
*Standard message and data rates apply. Click here for Frequently Asked Questions.
Stay connected