Placebo is Latin for “I shall please.”

“Garden Party” was a hit song for Ricky Nelson and the Stone Canyon Band in 1972.

The lyrics (written by Ricky Nelson) include …

“But it’s all right now, I’ve learned my lesson well / You see, you can’t please everyone, but you’ve got to please yourself.”

Walter A. Brown (The Placebo Effect in Clinical Practice, 2013) wrote …

“The term placebo itself comes with unfortunate baggage. Latin for ‘I shall please,’ it is the first word for the Christian vespers for the dead, and in the 12th century these vespers were commonly referred to as placebos. By the 1300s, the term had become secular and pejorative, suggesting a flatterer or sycophant, a meaning probably derived from the depreciation of professional mourners, who were paid to sing placebos. When, in the late 18th century, the word entered medical terminology, the negative connotation stuck. A placebo was defined as a medicine given to please patients rather than to benefit them. In the modern era, the lack of pharmacologic activity became part of the definition as well.

“As a result, the word placebo brings with it connotations of deception, fakery, and ineffectiveness. But one of the things about placebos that contribute mightily to the healthcare community’s aversion toward them is, in fact, their effectiveness. They provide substantial benefit across a wide range of medical conditions and, in doing so, impugn the value of our most cherished remedies, hamper the development of new therapeutics, and threaten our livelihoods as doctors and other health professionals.”

The placebo effect works on animals too.

According to The Placebo Effect: An Interdisciplinary Exploration, edited by Anne Harrington, 1997 …

“In this year [1975], Robert Ader and his coworkers reported the results of a study with rats that involved a pairing (initially unintentional) of saccharin-flavored drinking water with injections of cyclophosphamide, an immunosuppressive and nausea-inducing drug (Ader and Cohen 1975). At this time, the immune system was believed to be a self-contained system not susceptible to influences from the central nervous system. Yet, when a subgroup of mice who were not given further injections continued to be fed drinks of saccharin water, they kept dying at high rates. It seemed that the saccharin drink, because it was originally associated by the rats with the injections, now triggered the same immunosuppressive effects as the cyclophosphamide itself. By ‘teaching’ the rats to associate the saccharin water with the agency of the active substance, Ader had induced the immune systems of rats to behave in ways different from normal. In this sense, he had created an experimental placebo whose effects on physiological functioning were incontrovertible. The fact that he had achieved this in rats rather than in humans was a further blockbuster, because it undermined the frequent assumption that placebo effects were a product of peculiarly human interpersonal processes and unconscious wishes.”

'I Went to a Garden Party' has 1 comment

  1. October 10, 2014 @ 4:26 pm atomb

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