Monday, February 18, 2013

Anent the Stent

A stent is a tube, usually made of wire mesh, inserted into a natural passage that has been narrowed by disease, in order to enhance the flow of bodily fluids.  Most commonly we think of coronary stents, placed in clogged arteries to allow blood to flow to the heart.

The word has been around at least since 1380, but it has meant a variety of other things not connected with the present usage.  Among earlier definitions of stent  are a “tax evaluation,” a “hole to receive the end of a bar,” a “stake for stretching fishing nets,” and the “rubble of a tin mine.”  As a verb, stent has also been in use since the fourteenth century, and has meant to “stretch something out to its full length,” to “erect a tomb,” to “hang a curtain,” to “stretch out a person on an instrument of torture,” and to “distend the stomach.” 

According to the Merriam Webster’s Second New International Dictionary, stent evolved from the Middle English verb stenten, shortened from extenten, meaning to stretch, which in turn came from Latin extentus, past participle of extendere, to stretch out.

Most word gurus agree that the current medical meaning of stent, in use since about 1960, has nothing to do with all that. They think it can be traced to an English dentist, Charles Stent, who was born in 1807 and died in 1885.  He devised a framework structure to support the facial tissues during reconstructive surgery. It became known as a “Stent” and the name was picked up for subsequent devices similarly constructed.

In Texas and other areas that have difficulty distinguishing the sound of “pin” from “pen,” a stent may be confused with a stint, which since the 1590s has meant a brief period of time devoted to an occupation, adapted from the verb stint (“restrict”), and derived from Old English styntan (“dull” or “blunt”).

The Bard of Buffalo Bayou is urgently in need of a stent to his brain, to facilitate the flow of poetic inspiration from his sluggish Muse.  On second thought, a stent probably wouldn’t do the trick; what the Bard needs is a complete transplant.  Judge from the following:

            Old Doctor Stent, 
            The dental gent, 
            Had not a cent 
            To pay his rent, 
            So off he went,
            And did invent 
            An instrument 
            He called a stent. 

            The reverent 
            To compliment 
            The gentle Stent, 
            Was then content 
            To implement 
            To all the rent 
            That Stent had spent, 
            And to augment 
            This blandishment, 
            A monument 
            Was their intent, 
            To document 
            The doc’s ascent 
            To eminent 
            Another gent, 
            The decadent 
            And corpulent 
            Professor Trent, 
            With wonderment 
            Then gave consent 
            And underwent 
            A new event: 
            To place a stent 
            To circumvent 
            To some extent 
            The sediment 
            That, like cement, 
            Was evident, 
            And thus prevent 
            Trent’s subsequent 
            And quick descent 
            To vile torment. 

            Anent Trent’s stent: 
            The stent was bent, 
            It had a dent-- 
            Not worth a cent! 

            And as for Trent:
            He's vehement,
            And violent--
            He does lament 
            He did relent 
            To give consent 
            For negligent,
            And just to vent 
            His discontent,
            Trent rashly sent 
            A harsh comment
            To represent 
            Just what he meant: 

            “I now have spent 
            My last red cent 
            On this bent stent-- 
            I do resent 
            My pestilent 
            No monument 
            To Doctor Stent 
            Or supplement 
            To pay his rent 
            Wins my assent!” 

            And so it went.

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