Daily Archives: February 3, 2009


There’s warfare in this word. The sound of it, of course, brings it to mind right away – along, perhaps, with wafer, waif, wharf, wayfaring, and just maybe Aspirin. The w at the beginning might bring to mind WWI or WWII, and perhaps the f is a fence (or a flare) and the ar and ar the beginnings of artillery – or soldiers hunkered down pointing guns (the r‘s). But there’s also warfare in the use of its object – and between those uses. Warfarin is a chemical substance that wages war against blood coagulation. For this, it is used to help prevent heart attacks, strokes, and rodents. Wait, what was that last one again? Yes, it’s a very common drug (Coumadin is a well-known brand name for it), but it’s also a very common rat poison. The rats bleed to death (internally) from an overdose of it: too much of an otherwise possibly good thing, as it were. So its name came from war? No, it came from WARF, the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation; the arin was modelled on another drug name, coumarin. Drug common names come from all sorts of places and are a whole area of tasting all their own, with varied patterns and caprices; most are opaque, such as sildenafil (the common name of Viagra – not mycoxafloppin, as is often joked), but some give a hint of the namer’s thought process or tastes; for instance, there is a drug to help people whose stomachs don’t move food on quickly enough called domperidone. A little wine for thy stomach’s sake, Dom Pérignon?