black cramp

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kemot

New Member
Polish - Poland
Hi,
Can someone please help me understand what kind of a malady "black cramp" is? Example: She stayed in bed with megrims or the black cramp or some other malady. This is a term used in 1800s and it seems to be an inappropriate name for some health problem... Anyone, please?
 
  • Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    It's not a specific malady, but a layman's term used two hundred years ago for any pain of some severe kind.

    I'm suffering from it at the moment.
     
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    kemot

    New Member
    Polish - Poland
    It's not a specific malady, but a layman's term used two hundred years ago for any pain of some severe kind.

    I'm suffering from it at the moment.
    And do you have any idea why it was referred to as black? Or maybe black stands simply for severe?
    I am sorry for you but to be honest I am not much better ;)
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    a malady "black cramp"
    Please give us the source and the context. These are essential in this case.

    In The Annual Report of the Registrar-General of Births, Deaths, and Marriages ...(Great Britain). General Register Office (1842) [Google Books] it was given as

    "Black Cramp (a bad term) - Cholera (?)" (a bad term = an inaccurate description)

    This is from a list of diseases from which death had occurred.
    She stayed in bed with megrims
    There is something wrong here, nobody died of "megrims" which is depression or a general feeling of lassitude, and yet "cholera" was usually fatal, so the juxtaposition of the two is strange.
     
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    kemot

    New Member
    Polish - Poland
    @PaulQ It is a piece of fiction, a description of a young girl. Actually, it seems her mother is trying to conceal her real condition and gives vague explanation. Megrims is indeed a synonym for low spirits and I doubt the black cramp stands for cholera because as you have noticed it is not adequate. What if it means something related to menstrual pain? Could it be?
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    It is a piece of fiction
    Please! The source! What is the name of the book/story and author? And in which year is the book set? If it is historical, the answer will be different from the answer if it is set in modern times.
     

    kemot

    New Member
    Polish - Poland
    Please! The source! What is the name of the book/story and author? And in which year is the book set? If it is historical, the answer will be different from the answer if it is set in modern times.
    I thought it was clear I mean the use of the word in 19th century. It is Robert Aickman's story PAGES FROM A YOUNG GIRL'S JOURNAL set in ca. 1830s.
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    Thank you.
    This is a term used in 1800s
    This is poorly written and misleading: "Tram" is "a term used in the 1800s" and it is still used today.
    I thought it was clear I mean the use of the word in 19th century.
    No, not at all. You should have written "The book is set in the 1800s and the term is being used by the mother about her daughter who is in bed."

    As it is set in the 1800, as you suspect, the words will be layman's names for illnesses/complaints that today have different names. If you have looked at the link, you will have seen that these were, to say the least, vague and idiosyncratic even among medical professionals.

    "Megrims (also spelled "meggrums") was also a general term for "feeling ill". "Cramps" can be a term for menstrual pain, and "black" can be used as an intensifier, usually with overtones of "malign."

    Given the context, it seems quite possible that the girl is suffering from period pains and that the mother is being discreet.
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    And do you have any idea why it was referred to as black? Or maybe black stands simply for severe?
    I am sorry for you but to be honest I am not much better ;)
    Black is quite often used as an intensifier, to suggest extreme, in folk language about medicine, as in the 'black vomit' to mean severe vomiting.
     
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