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October 23, 1981

Ondine's Kiss or Curse?

JAMA. 1981;246(17):1901. doi:10.1001/jama.1981.03320170017017

To the Editor.—  The editorial by Samuel Vaisrub, MD (1981;245:1152), referred to my Lancet letter.1 He seemed to have taken my whimsical suggestion that "Ondine's curse" be changed to "Ondine's kiss" rather too seriously; more important, he failed to appreciate that the version of the story of Ondine he described in the first paragraph has no literary foundation whatsoever, as the documentation of the origins of the story by Comroe2 and Sugar (1978;240:236) have clearly shown. The story by de la Motte-Fouqué3 is the original source for the eponym and not merely another version, although earlier references to ondines (water nymphs) certainly exist.Perhaps we should adopt Humpty-Dumpty's point of view—that words should mean just what we choose them to mean4—so that loss of respiratory automaticity may be described as Ondine's curse, while recognizing the literary error of this nomenclature. Current advances, however, in the