Word of the Day: Quacksalver \KWAK-sal-ver\ (noun)

quacksalver \KWAK-sal-ver\, noun:
1. a charlatan.
2. a quack doctor.

And there was that quacksalver Mellowes again, with his pernicious theory that consumption was caused by an excess of oxygen.
— Patrick O’Brian, Desolation Island, 1978

Anon, we grow persuaded that he traded both eyes for hooks and beneath the roof of his friend, Prince of Hesse Cassel, this Quacksalver expired to the winding from a strange horn one overcast night at Sleswig — and doubt not that at the bar he lifted up both hands to please innocent!
— Evan S. Connell, The Alchymist’s Journal, 1991

Even more outlandish than she is, he thought. “We shall not have her degraded as some quacksalver’s drab.
— Ariana Franklin, Mistress of the Art of Death, 2007


Quacksalver comes from an early Dutch word of the same spelling referring to someone who prescribes home remedies. It is the root of the more common word quack.



The Aurist and the American

From the Pall Mall Gazette, Friday 22 February 1889:

A distinguished “aurist” was once rather amusingly “done” by an enterprising American, who bounced into his room one morning, exclaiming, in stentorian through nasal tones, “Say, before we do bus’ness, guess I should like to know the price of fixing me up.” “Two guineas for the first visit,” from the surprised specialist. “See here, thar’s two pounds and a florin,” said the American, planking down the money with a resounding smack on the table. the necessary examination was proceeded with. The prescription written and pocketed. The Yankee discoursed in an airy manner on all the topics of the day, and finally, after grasping the physician warmly by the hand, and saying in tones pregnant with feeling, “Waal, doc’, I’m real proud to ha’ met you; guess you must look me up if you ever run on Chicago, thar’s my card. Good-bye, sir, good-bye,” he slowly walked to the table, firmly took hold of the before-mentioned fee, calmly placed it in the innermost recesses of a deep waistcoat, and made a deliberate but determined exit. the dumbfounded doctor sank helplessly into his chair. Never again did he cast eyes on his genial patient, and subsequent reference to the “Chicago Directory” disclosed no satisfactory information about the guileless invalid.