The BookBrowse Review

Published June 9, 2021

ISSN: 1930-0018

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The BookBrowse Review

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Editor's Introduction
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Historical Fiction

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Young Adults


  • Blackout by Dhonielle Clayton, Tiffany D. Jackson , et al (rated 5/5)

Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Speculative, Alt. History

H I T Best P

Decipher this well-known saying and you could win a six month membership to BookBrowse (value $19.50). For example 'K The B' = kick the bucket.

In each contest one winner will be selected at random from the correct entries. The winner will be notified by email shortly after the draw closes.

This Wordplay will end on June 21, 2021.

This wordplay ended on 06/21/2021

Past Wordplays |  Past Winners |  Rules

Answer to the last Wordplay:

Question: F A C Starve A F

Answer: Feed a cold, starve a fever

The advice to "feed a cold, starve a fever" has been handed down from one generation to another. But is it medically accurate and where did it originate?

Look around the web and you'll find many references to "feed a cold, starve a fever" being a misinterpretation of a line in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales that reads "fede a cold and starb ob feber" which is translated as "encourage a cold and die of fever." - in other words, a cautionary message that if you allow yourself to get a relatively minor cold you could contract something much nastier.

There is one tiny catch with this - despite searching hard and long, we cannot find this phrase in The Canterbury Tales. If you know otherwise and can point us to the reference, please do send an email as we would love to be corrected.

Another interpretation of the expression that seems to have some credibility is that "feed a cold, starve a fever" is a misquote of "feed a cold and stave a fever." Stave meaning to keep away/drive off.

Others say that the adage is the wrong way around and it is actually "starve a fever, feed a cold" and arose out of the believe that there were two kinds of illnesses--those caused by high temperatures (fevers), and those caused by low temperatures (colds and chills). Thus it stands to medieval reason that if you have a fever you'd want to cut the body's fuel to lower the internal temperature, but with a chill you'd want to stoke your metabolic flames with more food.

But some say that there is truth in "feed a cold, starve a fever." Back in 2002, The New Scientist reported on a very small study of six people conducted by Dutch scientists who found that "eating a meal boosts the type of immune response that destroys the viruses responsible for colds, while fasting stimulates the response that tackles the bacterial infections responsible for most fevers."

What is for certain is that by the 19th century, the expression was well in use, but where it originated is unclear. Some point to a comment by John Withals in 1574: "Fasting is a great remedie of feuer," as the first known reference. But as Withals' great work was a dictionary for children replete with popular proverbs of the day, it is unlikely he would have been originating the advice, merely including a familiar adage of the time.

Moving swiftly forward to the 21st century, what does the medical community advise for colds and fevers? In short, let your appetite lead you - if you stomach can tolerate food eat it; above all else, stay hydrated.

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