Archive for August 15th, 2013

August 15, 2013


Works Progress Administration

Quackery [kwak-uh-ree] is the promotion of unproven or fraudulent medical practices. Random House Dictionary describes a ‘quack’ as a ‘fraudulent or ignorant pretender to medical skill’ or ‘a person who pretends, professionally or publicly, to have skill, knowledge, or qualifications he or she does not possess; a charlatan.’ The word ‘quack’ derives from the archaic word ‘quacksalver,’ of Dutch origin, literally meaning ‘hawker of salve.’ In the Middle Ages the word ‘quack’ meant ‘shouting.’ The quacksalvers sold their wares on the market shouting in a loud voice.

‘Health fraud’ is often used as a synonym for quackery, but quackery’s salient characteristic is aggressive promotion (‘quacks quack!’) rather than fraud, greed or misinformation. ‘Pseudo-medicine’ is a term for treatments known to be ineffective, regardless of whether their advocates themselves believe in their effectiveness.

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