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October 23, 1967


JAMA. 1967;202(4):357-358. doi:10.1001/jama.1967.03130170157030

The ancients called it quinta or quintana because its cough supposedly came in paroxysms every five hours. To the Italians the cough apparently reminded them of a dog's bark (tosse canina). To the Germans it apparently was reminiscent of the howling or braying of wolves and asses (Wolfshusten, Eselshusten); and the name "chincough" was derived from an Old English word meaning boisterous laughter. Sydenham named the disease pertussis which remains the accepted scientific name; however, to most laymen and physicians it is still whooping cough.

The persistence of the common name is unfortunate for the younger generation of physicians who have limited experience with the disease, since it reinforces the myth that all children with pertussis have a characteristic whoop. The infinite variations in the course of pertussis are emphasized by Brooksaler and Nelson in a study of 190 bacteriologically confirmed cases of pertussis, reported recently in the American Journal