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Today's Word



Aug 20, 2020
This week’s theme
This pandemic in five words

This week’s words
Typhoid Mary

Typhoid Mary
Mary Mallon (left) quarantined in a hospital. Read more about her on PBS Nova.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

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with Anu Garg

Typhoid Mary

(TY-foid MAIR-ee)

noun: A person from whom a disease or something undesirable spreads.

After Mary Mallon (1869-1938), a cook in New York, who was a healthy carrier (contagious but showing no symptoms: asymptomatic) of typhoid. She died of pneumonia. Earliest documented use: 1909.

One Typhoid Mary is enough in the history of humankind. Don’t let yourself be the new Typhoid Mary. Wear your mask when out and about.

“I walked out of the ward wearing the surgical mask and kept it on for forty-eight hours to avoid becoming Typhoid Mary.”
Kenneth Schneyer; Life of the Author Plus Seventy; Analog Science Fiction & Fact (New York); Sep 2013.

“Insomnia is a global pandemic whose Typhoid Mary was Thomas Edison, forcing fake sunlight into hours when ancient biology demands shut-eye.”
Dreamland: Adventures in the Strange Science of Sleep; The Scientist (Midland, Canada); Sep 2012.

“One memorable time I’d actually shown up on my first day to find that the company had declared bankruptcy that morning. More than one person had suggested I was the Typhoid Mary of high tech.”
Margaret Dumas; The Balance Thing; HarperCollins; 2010.

“She wasn’t going to sit home on prom night the way she’d been doing so much lately. You’d think she was Typhoid Mary when it came to dates. So she wore her black strapless dress to the party and tried to pretend she was having a great time in the gymnasium.”
Ruth Jean Dale; Shane’s Last Stand; Harlequin; 2013.

See more usage examples of Typhoid Mary in Vocabulary.com’s dictionary.

If we were to wake up some morning and find that everyone was the same race, creed, and color, we would find some other cause for prejudice by noon. -George D. Aiken, US senator (20 Aug 1892-1984)

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