patent liver-pill circular

Discussion in 'English Only' started by sami33, Jan 27, 2013.

  1. sami33

    sami33 Senior Member

    Hi everybody!

    Would you please help me to understand the underlined expression.

    I knew it was my liver that was out of order, because I had just been reading a patent liver-pill circular, in which were detailed the various symptoms by which a man could tell when his liver was out of order. I had them all.

    Source: Three Men In A Boat by Jerome K. Jerome Chapter 01.

    Thank you so very much.
  2. Beryl from Northallerton Senior Member

    British English
    A circular is some kind of pamphlet.
    Patent describes the 'liver-pill' (I'd say) and means 'protected by a patent'.
    I think you know what liver pills are.

    It may (arguably) have been clearer if it had been 'a patent-liver-pill circular' that he'd been reading.

    circular: (n) "a printed or duplicated advertisement or notice for mass distribution"
    patent: (adj) "3. concerning protection, appointment, etc, of or by a patent or patents" "4. proprietary"
  3. mplsray Senior Member

    Just as a point of information: As it says in this Wikipedia entry, most "patent medicines" were not actually protected by patents.
  4. Beryl from Northallerton Senior Member

    British English
    Thanks for 'clarifying' that, ray.:) I think that's exactly the kind of 'patent' that's referred to in the text.
  5. RM1(SS)

    RM1(SS) Senior Member

    English - US (Midwest)
    Nor, in many cases, were they actually medicines....

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