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Special Millennium Article
January 2000

Need for a Complete Dictionary of Dermatology Early in the 21st Century

Arch Dermatol. 2000;136(1):23. doi:10.1001/archderm.136.1.23

Symbolic for me of all that is rickety about the construct on which dermatology is founded is the oft-quoted line of Hebra, uttered nearly one and a half centuries ago, to the effect that "Eczema is that which looks like eczema." Those words are usually spoken in hushed, reverent tones of approbation by dermatologists, instead of with a smile that conveys amusement at a sentence that is tautologic and therefore uninstructive. Perhaps that is why the word "eczema," the cornerstone of dermatology, has yet to be defined in an understandable, repeatable way. In fact, hardly any word in the edifice of dermatology has been defined in lucid fashion. If that is a fact, and I believe that it is, then what should be a rigorous discipline undergoing continual refinement is doomed to remain a muddle because not enough discipline has been brought to making the language of it comprehensible. In a recently published work titled A Philosophy of Practice of Surgical Pathology: Dermatopathology as Model (Ardor Scribendi, New York, NY, 1999), I wrote about the problem under consideration here in these words:

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