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Shashi Tharoor’s Word of the Week: Valetudinarian

There are some people who can’t see beyond the rash of ailments they believe they suffer from. There’s a word for that.

ht weekend Updated: Jun 08, 2019 16:03 IST
Shashi Tharoor
Shashi Tharoor
Hindustan Times
Shashi Tharoor,Valetudinarian,Ailment
(HT Illustration: Sudhir Shetty)

Valetudinarian, noun: a person with a weak or sickly constitution, especially one whose chief concern is his or her ill health

USAGE:“With her litany of complaints about aches and pains, my friend’s grandmother was a valetudinarian, though her concerns seemed belied by her robust appearance.”

I actually once knew a lady like that, a woman of considerable heft, pink-cheeked vigour and strength of voice, whose only conversation seemed to be about her alarmingly poor health, which was apparent to no one but herself. Everyone humoured her lamentations, thinking them to be reflective of a harmless hypochondria, until, to everyone’s general astonishment, she passed away in her sleep one night without having exhibited the slightest symptom of the maladies she was constantly complaining about.

Indian society seems full of valetudinarians, not least because health is such a popular subject of conversation. Everyone has home remedies to suggest and miracle cures to offer for your slightest affliction, which seems to bring out the self-pity in all of us. We are all amateur doctors, and every bit of medical advice gets a receptive audience, because every one of us is at heart a valetudinarian!

First Published: Jun 08, 2019 16:03 IST