Looking for more from Sean McLachlan? He also hangs out on the Midlist Writer blog, where he talks about writing, adventure travel, caving, and everything else he gets up to. He also reproduces all the posts from Civil War Horror, so drop on by!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

I is for Ichthyoelectroanalgesia

Here's an A to Z post I'm sure nobody else is going to do!

Ichthyoelectroanalgesia, if you parse the term, is the use of an electric fish as a pain reliever. I found the word when reading an archaeological journal article about Parthian batteries, made in the 1st century AD. These mysterious objects, which generated a weak electrical current, may have been used for pain reliever when you couldn't find an electric fish to do the same job. Yes, ancient medical books actually suggested doing this!

Ichthyoelectroanalgesia was also the name of a zine I did in the mid-Nineties. It was my first serious stab at writing, a collection of travel and archaeology with some old-school art clips. I had a great time trading zines with people all over the world and at its peak the zine had about 200 readers. I'm still in touch with a few of them, including the editor of the amazing bibliophile zine It Goes on the Shelf.

While I moved on to other things and eventually became a professional writer, Ichthyoelectroanalgesia is still a fond memory for me. It's also a good word to trot out at parties. I managed to stump an editor of the Oxford English Dictionary with it!


  1. I believe you are correct - no one else is going to use that word! I dig history - hell, I'm working on a history degree - so I see several books here that I need to read!

  2. You need a pretty big leash to trot that one out. LOL.

  3. It's always interesting to see what predated modern medicine. I wonder what the future will think of what we do.

  4. Hi Sean .. what a great word. I love the sound of your zine - I hadn't realised those sort of 'things' existed - pre blogs ..

    Also the ancients were so clever with all the things they used .. testing and trying things out - they must have worked somehow and partly perhaps!

    Cheers Hilary


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