November 26, 2012

"Smoking 'rots' brain, says King's College study."

Says the BBC, and maybe my brain is rotted, but I can't find the scientific concept of brain "rot" in the article or any justification for using it here. It seems like goofball sensationalism to me. Smoking has well-known health risks that are "significantly associated with cognitive decline." Okay, but is the brain rotting?

Maybe I'm just not getting the British. I know these characters use the noun "rot" to mean bullshit. Here's the Oxford English dictionary definition #5:
slang. Ridiculous or nonsensical talk or ideas; nonsense, rubbish. Also: pointless or fatuous activity. Also as int. Cf. tommy-rot n. at Tommy n.1 Compounds 2.

1846 Punch 10 136/2 Peel and Potato-blight defy To make him hold his tongue, or try To talk aught else but ‘rot’!
1857 T. Hughes Tom Brown's School Days i. vi. 138 Let's stick to him, and talk no more rot.
1879 M. E. Braddon Cloven Foot iv. 96, I thought he despised ballet-dancing. Yet this is the third time I have seen him looking on at this rot.
1889 tr. R. Shilleto New Triposes in C. Whibley In Cap & Gown 228 Your Natural-rot, your Moral-bosh.
1894 G. Moore Esther Waters xxxix. 302 All bloody rot; who says I'm drunk?
1914 G. B. Shaw Fanny's First Play 158, I quite agree that harlequinades are rot.
a1953 E. O'Neill Long Day's Journey (1956) i. 35 It's damned rot! I'd like to see anyone influence Edmund more than he wants to be.
1977 C. McCullough Thorn Birds ii. 36 ‘What if it isn't the Eyetie girl?’.. ‘Rot!’ said Paddy scornfully.
1990 R. Clay Only Angels Forget vi. 78, I insisted on a church wedding. Mother said, ‘What rot, Isobel, you don't believe in any of that’, which was true but irrelevant.
2004 A. Hollinghurst Line of Beauty iii. 78 He talked a lot of rot at dinner on... the coloured question.
‘Rot!’ say I scornfully. It's the mark of bad writing to bolster your saids with adverbs, I say scornfully, brain-rottedly. Now, where are my cigarettes?


Gabriel Hanna said...

They aren't quoting anyone, in the paper or out, who used the word "rot". The quotes around rot are finger quotes, used to indicate something the researchers did not say. Which is the opposite of what quotes are supposed to be used for.

As James Lileks said:

But he didn’t say that.

Exactly? Well,he meant, it though.

He meant it.

Yes, and that’s why I put it in quotes.

Quotes. Which are usually reserved for, you know, quotes.

Right, but I used them here to set the word apart. You know, show that it was a paraphrase.

By using the means we use to indicate direct transcriptions.

Well, sometimes, sure. But I meant them more as, you know, those air quotes you do with your fingers?

So in the future should we have a picture of you with your fingers in the air to indicate that the quote is not, actually, a quote?

Look, the point is true. The guy wants a jihad; look at what he said -

Why look at what he said, when we can just ask you to describe the general aroma? You moron! There’s one standard in this business, and that these little curvy things, these dots with hooks, mean we are using the words of the person we’re talking about. WORDS.

Drew W said...

I don't think smoking is what rots your brain. It's television that rots your brain, at least that's what my mother always said.

Strelnikov said...

At last, a positive effect of smoking.

Ann Althouse said...

"They aren't quoting anyone, in the paper or out, who used the word "rot". The quotes around rot are finger quotes, used to indicate something the researchers did not say. Which is the opposite of what quotes are supposed to be used for."

That out doesn't make any sense when the phrase "says King's College study" follows it.

Paul Zrimsek said...

Somehow I'm not seeing how a list of examples of "rot" used as a noun casts any light on a sentence in which "rot" is a verb.

Gabriel Hanna said...

@Ann: By "in the paper or out" I meant that the scientists who did the work did not say it in interviews, which was the other place they could have been quoted.

The King's College study never said anything "rots" anyone's brain, neither did the researchers who performed the study. It was made up by the headline writer, and put in quotes for some reason known only to himself, but it was not a an actual quote because no one said it.

Tyrone Slothrop said...

Tell me you don't smoke, Althouse.

Amartel said...

May be referring to vascular dementia, cognitive impairment due to damaged/blocked blood vessels in the brain depriving the brain cells of oxygen. Vascular dementia has been linked to smoking in numerous studies. Several MD friends, internal medicine guys, tell me Alzheimers is regularly misdiagnosed; it's usually vascular dementia (now conveniently incorporated into the Alzheimers diagnosis as a type of Alzheimers).
On a personal note: I smoked for years. Weaned myself away from the habit using the e-cigarette then got off the e-cig trip, too.

n.n said...

The etymology of rot:

O.E. rotian "to decay," from P.Gmc. *rutjan (cf. O.S. roton, O.N. rotna, O.Fris. rotia, M.Du. roten, O.H.G. rozzen "to rot," Ger. rößen "to steep flax"), from stem *rut-. The noun (c.1300) probably is of Scandinavian origin (cf. Icel. rot, Swed. röta, Dan. røde "decay, putrefaction"), and is related to the verb. Slang noun sense of "rubbish, trash" is from 1848.

While there are various common connotations, it is principally concerned with decay or, perhaps implicitly, negative progress.

Stephen Brown said...


Cigarette smoking is also known to be inversely correlated with Parkinson's disease risk.

Sam L. said...'s all lies?