Talk:nostrum

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English synonymsEdit

  • Synonym for Nostrum: "panacea"? No!
  • Panacea is vaguely related in the sense that they both are "cures," but "Nostrum" has a negative connotation attached to it.
Dou, Gerard - The Quack - 1652.jpg
  • But does "panacea" have a positive connotation ? Arapaima 09:08, 9 June 2010 (UTC)
  • I too think that the definitions for panacea (cure all) and nostrum (ineffective remedy) are very different. They might be vaguely related; that certainly doesn't qualify as synonymity. Attys 09:39, 9 June 2010 (UTC)
  • A nostrum is not an "ineffective remedy", it is a remedy that has not been demonstrated to work. It might work, or it might not, but it is advocated as a cure anyway. The word panacea, in it's original sense, is also a putative remedy but not known to work. --EncycloPetey 13:40, 9 June 2010 (UTC)
  • I think there is a sense that a "nostrum" is ineffective (a "quack rememdy", the OED says), or at least the "not demonstrated" bit is very central -- whereas the main sense of panacea is of something mythical that cures everything. So I agree with the OP that they aren't good synonyms. Ƿidsiþ 13:44, 9 June 2010 (UTC)
  • Despite the fact that they are equated in the Fielding quotation? --EncycloPetey 14:02, 9 June 2010 (UTC)
  • Quacks naturally like to believe that their own nostrums are also panaceas -- but the point is that nobody believes them, and they're generally proved wrong. Ƿidsiþ 14:04, 9 June 2010 (UTC)
  • That's beside the point. People used to believe in unicorns too, but the fact that we now know them to be fictional does not mean the term vanishes from the English language. If the words are used synonymously, then they're synonyms. --EncycloPetey 14:07, 9 June 2010 (UTC)
  • It's not like that. He isn't using them synonymously, he's implicitly contrasting them. The sentence means, "no quack ever regarded their home-grown remedy to be such a cure-all as Jones regarded beer." But the comedy is exactly in the fact that a "nostrum" is the last thing normally associated with a "panacea" (just as beer is rarely a helpful medicine..). If they were synonyms the sentence would hardly be worth saying. Ƿidsiþ 14:21, 9 June 2010 (UTC)
  • Then can you explain why the French translation of nostrum is panacée, if there is no lexical relation? --EncycloPetey 20:39, 9 June 2010 (UTC)
  • My French dictionary offers two translations for different senses, one glossed patent medicine which they translate as panacée, the other glossed as quack medicine which they translate as remède de charlatan. I feel there is no French word which gets at the English, which combines elements of both of those ideas. I don't know what to say, all I can tell you is in my experience nostrum in English generally has an undercurrent of something which lots of advertised virtues, but which is homemade and unlikely to really work. With panacea the stress is more on the fact that it cures everything. I just did a quick Guardian search for the two terms – and I see sentences like ‘Competent opposition allows ministers to retreat from daft manifesto commitments and thinktank nostrums’, or ‘the "fatuous breeziness" of bullet-pointed self-help manuals or the nostrums of the new science of wellbeing’, where a nostrum is painted as something vaguely pejorative and trite. Panacea is different, here the idea is of something wonderful though sadly unrealistic: ‘Lawyers often see regulation as a panacea, but [...]’; ‘It's not a universal panacea, but it's a model we already know works’; ‘Durham also received notice from Leicestershire that sacking a captain is no panacea’. Etc. Ƿidsiþ 05:20, 10 June 2010 (UTC)
  • Thinking about it more, maybe the best way to pinpoint what I feel the difference is is that a nostrum is only said to have many virtues by those selling or promoting it; whereas a panacea actually has those wonderful properties. Thus there are many examples of nostrums around, but no panaceas, which are almost mythical objects. Ƿidsiþ 05:26, 10 June 2010 (UTC)
Last modified on 10 June 2010, at 05:26