[Skip to Content]
[Skip to Content Landing]
May 13, 1988

Priapus in Trouble: So What's New? (For the Articulate, Thelerethism)

Author Affiliations

Wright State University School of Medicine Dayton, Ohio

Wright State University School of Medicine Dayton, Ohio

JAMA. 1988;259(18):2695. doi:10.1001/jama.1988.03720180023017

To the Editor.  —Are we impoverishing medical language?I read with interest about "nipple priapism" in QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS.1 I wonder if Dr Shirley is purposely avoiding the accepted—I would even daresay elegant—term for the persistent erection or protrusion of the nipple: thelerethism (also thelothism) from the Greek thele ("nipple," "teat," "the central point of the nipple").2 The same origin can be traced in several words like thelarche, thelalgia, and thelitis.I am trembling at the thought of somebody forgetting the term azoospermia and writing "anovulia of the testis.""Words create ideas," wrote Nietzsche. Let us enrich and add precision to our terminology rather than the opposite.On interrogation, Dr Shirley confessed to being an unreconstructed neologist. The idea conveyed is of an abnormal, persistent, painful, and tender erection in the absence of sexual desire. Despite a classical upbringing, I not only like this term, I can pronounce