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July 31, 2015Posted in: News & Information Tagged:

“What’s in a name?” Revisited

This Tourette blog post is a little different.

It begins with a quote from William Shakespeare’s famous play, Romeo & Juliet: “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet”.

Juliet obviously didn’t understand what it was like to have Tourette Syndrome! If she did, she might have said something like this: “Names matter. Names can bring understanding or they produce ignorance. If a rose were called a sunk-flower, no one would ever think to enjoy its sweet smell.” Shakespeare wrote these words long ago.

Long before the condition which causes people to tic had a name – Tourette Syndrome. In place of this name, TS was called many other things: devil, possession, witchcraft, insanity, retardation, St. Vidus Dance. People who were believed to be “afflicted” were confined, jailed, written-off, institutionalized.

Recognition of what Tourette actually is came slowly. Today, people with this tic disorder are not forced to live in the shadows, however they are often misunderstood. Many in society see tics and frequently assume that there is something weird or wrong. Perhaps they believe the person is “strange” or “mentally unstable”. Perhaps they shy away from speaking with them. At least, if given the chance to explain themself, a person can say: “I have Tourette Syndrome. It is a medical condition that causes me to move or make sounds when I don’t want to do so.”

At Tourette Canada, we share what the name Tourette Syndrome means. We strive to have the condition understood for what it is. This is challenging but we are making progress.

Sorry Juliet. While your quote is famous, it is dead wrong. There is a lot in name. A name is important. Tourette Syndrome means something very different from St. Vitus Dance. It denotes a medical condition not a demonic possession. It brings understanding not ignornance.

What’s in a name? A whole lot of meaning.

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