It is recounted that at King’s College in the Strand around the time of the war, the Chief of Services would inevitably begin the year’s rounds by teaching “a singularly important principle of medicine.”
He asked a nurse to fetch him a sample of urine. He then talked at length about diabetes mellitus. “Diabetes,” he said, “is a Greek name; but the Romans noticed that the bees like the urine of diabetics, so they added the word mellitus which means sweet as honey. Well, as you know, you may find sugar in the urine of a diabetic ... “
By now the nurse had returned with a sample of urine which the registrar promptly held up like a trophy. We stared at that straw coloured fluid as if we had never seen such a thing before. The registrar then startled us. He dipped a finger boldly into the urine, then licked his finger with the tip of his tongue. As if tasting wine, he opened and closed his lips rapidly. Could he perhaps detect a faint taste of sugar?
The sample was passed on to us for an opinion. We all dipped a finger into the fluid, all of us foolishly licked that finger. “Now,” said the registrar grinning, “You have learned the first principle of diagnosis. I mean the power of observation.”
We were baffled. We stood near the sluice room outside the ward, and in the distance, some anonymous patient was explosively coughing. “You see,” the registrar said continuing triumphantly, “I dipped my MIDDLE finger into the urine, but licked my INDEX finger – not like all you chaps”.
Dr. Claudius was a great physician, and he had a lot of patients who came to him with excessive urination. One day, after testing a few too many patients’ urine for sugar, he went home to his lovely wife Cleopatra. Now Cleo was the light of his life, she was his reason for living and there was nothing (within his power) he would deny her. But as is often the case she had a brother, his name was Nocountious. And he was … Well he was not much: a petty thief – he spent about half his time in bars and the other half behind them (jail). Well, again as often happens, Cleo loved her brother, as only a sister can, and was once again asking her rich, successful husband Dr. Claudius to find him some honest work so he would not be behind bars so much. The next day, at the office, when a bunch more diabetic patients were queuing up for testing, he suddenly exclaimed EUREKA.
His nurse, Nurse Loveliness, said (in a voice guaranteed to raise a DM’s blood glucose levels at least 20 mg/dl) “Oh, what is it, doctor?”
He replied, “I’ve found a way to give that bum Nocountious a job!”
“Oh, that’s great, doctor. What is it?”, Nurse Loveliness then cooed.
“He will drink just about anything, and then comment loudly on what he’s drinking. So we set him up in an office, set the urine samples up on a bar in front of him and take notes as to his comments. I can see it now, doctors from all over Greece will be sending samples to him. There is just one problem. What do we call this facility?”
Nurse Loveliness then said, “Well, what can we call it. He’ll finally have a job so we could put LABOUR in it’s name.”
“Yes”, said the doctor, “And he’ll be using his mouth so we could add in ORATORY. I’ve got it again – LABOURATORY, LAB for short. Yes, and we can then send samples out to the Lab”.