In Fimo Veritas
January 14, 2019 5:29 PM   Subscribe

Latin continues to provide exact and elegant expressions that have become standard in the international scientific community. Think of “in vitro” and “in vivo.” Here, we propose “in fimo” to indicate samples derived from human and animal excrement and examined scientifically. Microbiologist Dr. Aadra Bhatt and classicist Dr. Luca Grillo have been laboring on company time to produce some impressive output: a proposal in the journal Gastroenterology (direct PDF link) for improved terminology in the study of feces.
posted by duffell (25 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
Well. Ain't that some shit.
posted by me3dia at 5:43 PM on January 14, 2019 [2 favorites]


If this catches on, it'll be a real pain in the ass for the marketing department over at FIMO® Soft Clay.
posted by duffell at 5:57 PM on January 14, 2019 [18 favorites]


I'm not able to load either link. Maybe the server pooped out - after all, technology can be a fecal mistress.
posted by Greg_Ace at 6:05 PM on January 14, 2019 [4 favorites]


I strongly dispute the idea that in vivo and in vitro are "exact and elegant expressions" in the biology / biotechnology fields - at least in the English-speaking world. These terms are totally opaque to outsiders, even to well-educated amateurs (such as lawyers, accountants, VCs, etc.) until such people are "sworn in" by a medical researcher explaining a few articles to them paragraph-by-paragraph.

The word "vitro" in particular has lost all meaning in secular / civilian English, and even a literal explanation that vitro means "glass" fails to capture the huge diversity of experiments that might viably be described as "in vitro" for a given class of molecules or cells.

The ongoing use of these terms is an exclusionary practice with a longstanding intention of keeping "those types of people" out of medicine and medical-related sciences. It is strongly negative and affirmatively a bad idea to expand this practice to new terms that could easily be explained in the lingua franca. I oppose this effort completely.
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 7:02 PM on January 14, 2019 [4 favorites]


could easily be explained in the lingua franca.

So you're saying they should use the Frankish language instead?

Sorry, I'm just being feces-tious
posted by Greg_Ace at 7:19 PM on January 14, 2019 [8 favorites]


Yeah, as someone who spends a lot of time working with and collecting poop, saying "I extracted corticosterone metabolites from fecal samples" seems much clearer than "I extracted corticosterone metabolites in fimo." We already have a simple but scientific phrase for "fecal sample" (it is "fecal sample") and there doesn't seem to be much point in making a Latin phrase to do the same thing.
posted by ChuraChura at 8:01 PM on January 14, 2019 [7 favorites]


MetaFilter: improved terminology in the study of feces
posted by hippybear at 9:48 PM on January 14, 2019 [2 favorites]


as someone who spends a lot of time working with and collecting poop

Intuitively, I think you should have phrased this as "spends a lot of time collecting and working with poop."

It feels... wrong and/or intrusive the other way.
posted by hippybear at 9:49 PM on January 14, 2019 [1 favorite]


I oppose this effort completely.

posted by Joey Butt

No you don't.
posted by hippybear at 10:20 PM on January 14, 2019 [5 favorites]


Back at university, a friend of mine was an amateur latinist, and would translate random phrases/sayings to Latin. He was also on bulletin boards, and one he chose was the signature quote of another user, which read “as shit dissolves in a bucket so are the days of our lives”. His initial translation was “qvam fæces in sitvla dissolvit svnt diei vitarvm noster” (not using the anachronistic letter ‘u’ was how he rolled), though after discussing with others, this eventually became “qvam merda in sitvla dissolvit svnt diei vitarvm noster”. (I'm not sure if “merda” was colloquial Latin for faecal matter, or if it was just back-formed from French.) Now it looks like this might be in need of a further update.
posted by acb at 12:53 AM on January 15, 2019 [1 favorite]


I'll save a brownie point for the first malapropist to reference "in fimo fertilization" in print.
posted by duffell at 2:16 AM on January 15, 2019


hi

im wearing a makeshift paper towel diaper on my way to a colonoscopy

glad there's an appropriate thread in which to share this vital fact
posted by poffin boffin at 2:30 AM on January 15, 2019 [4 favorites]


I disagree that in vivo and in vitro are hard concepts for an English-speaking educated layperson to grasp. I would explain it like this.

"In vivo, as in 'vivacious,' means in life, as in an experiment that was performed in a living organism. In vitro, as in 'vitreous' or glassy, means in glass, as in an experiment that was performed in a test tube. Except it doesn't have to be literally a test tube, it just means a procedure that was performed outside of a living organism."

Not so hard, right? And I think it's often a useful distinction to make and it's handy to have a short phrase with which to make that distinction. I'm not sold on in fico, but I think in vitro and in vivo aid communication more than they hinder it. If basically intelligent, well-educated people are having a hard time grasping it it's probably because nobody is doing a good job of explaining it to them. Although honestly I thought those terms were pretty widely understood (not universally, but widely) even outside of medicine and biology. It's a little surprising to hear that they aren't.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 2:54 AM on January 15, 2019


Yeah, it's surprising to me to hear that "in vivo" and "in vitro" are not widely understood, too. However, ChuraChura and Joey Buttafoucault's points about keeping scientific understanding within everyone's reach and not creating needless layers of obfuscating language are well-taken.

I just thought it was an interesting little nugget worth sharing.
posted by duffell at 3:01 AM on January 15, 2019 [2 favorites]


Oh for sure, and that's why I'm not sold on in fico. Like ChuraChura says, "fecal sample" or just "in feces" or even "in poop" if you want to avoid the word "feces" are equally precise and succinct. I don't think that's the case for vivo/vitro though, I think that's a useful category distinction and that there's not an equally concise way of making it using ordinary English. To be sure you could work around those terms if e.g. you were presenting something to a group of middle schoolers and didn't want to hit them with unfamiliar terminology, but if I were working in or around a scientific discipline where those terms are relevant, I think I would reach for the Latin every time.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 3:21 AM on January 15, 2019


And for concepts as freighted with disgust as excrement, people cope by thinly slicing the concept into as many different words as possible, each only used in a specific context. Thus we have faeces (in a medical context), poo (used when toilet-training toddlers, or casually in conversation), shit/crap (considered mildly obscene, also a mildly edgy placeholder for “stuff”), manure/fertiliser (in agricultural use), and so on. That helps us to avoid thinking about the pungent totality of faecal matter as much as possible, by only focussing on an abstraction.

(In the signage in Stanley Kubrick's 2001, there is a sign giving instructions for using a zero-gravity toilet, which seems to suggest that, in the hypothetical spacefaring era, humanity has come up with another euphemism for faecal matter, specifically in zero gravity, namely the high-tech spacey-sounding neologism “dalkron”.)
posted by acb at 3:34 AM on January 15, 2019 [1 favorite]


"In silico" is another one I come across a lot, meaning "we ran a simulation on a PC, as opposed to to doing an experiment in a wet lab".
posted by kersplunk at 3:45 AM on January 15, 2019 [1 favorite]


If basically intelligent, well-educated people are having a hard time grasping it it's probably because nobody is doing a good job of explaining it to them

I am all for concise, precise terminology and yet I cringed when I had a paper of mine edited by a well-respected, senior academic figure who marked sic in the margin to mean "I think this looks funny". If we can't assume everybody who is literate understands basic latin as a matter of course, introducing a new latin term is just extra impedance.
posted by each day we work at 3:53 AM on January 15, 2019


I wasn't saying they should understand the terms a priori (did I use that right?) just that explaining them should not be difficult as the underlying concepts are simple enough. Connecting the Latin roots to English words often helps as a technique, but just in general these are not complicated concepts.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 6:50 AM on January 15, 2019


If this catches on, it'll be a real pain in the ass for the marketing department over at FIMO® Soft Clay.

As a Sculpee devotee, I approve of this scenario.
posted by grumpybear69 at 7:41 AM on January 15, 2019 [2 favorites]


Metafilter: thinking about the pungent totality of faecal matter
posted by Greg_Ace at 8:12 AM on January 15, 2019


duffell, good job. When I saw this earlier I decided to step away and leave some droppings for others. Wordshore's shitty contest requires several posters, you know?
posted by Bella Donna at 9:37 AM on January 15, 2019 [2 favorites]


Then I think we should manure-facture more, for sure!
posted by Greg_Ace at 10:27 AM on January 15, 2019


"In silico"

Another term that's been coined is "ex vivo" - implying an in vitro experiment using primary cells/ tissue that has been (very recently) removed from a vivo subject whereas in vitro (almost) implies using a more artificial system with immortalized cell lines, micro-organisms, or purified proteins or other macromolecules.

I agree - there's been an explosion of research of feces, especially microbiome-type research but I really don't see the need for "in fimo" to be tossed around.
posted by porpoise at 4:20 PM on January 15, 2019


MetaFilter: an explosion of research of feces
posted by hippybear at 9:42 PM on January 15, 2019 [3 favorites]


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