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“Frasier Syndrome,” Real and Imaginary

Years ago, my wife and I would enjoy watching “Frasier,” the sitcom starring Kelsey Grammer, David Hyde Pierce, Jane Leeves, Peri Gilpin, John Mahoney, Moose and Enzo that won a then-record 37 Emmy Awards in 11 seasons including Best Comedy five times.

I say “would enjoy” because after so many seasons, my wife noticed a pattern that drove her nuts, and I could see her point: These two characters, these psychiatrists, really should know how to behave and not get themselves in the stupid situations in which they found themselves.

We called this “Frasier Syndrome” and defined it as “the curious inability to use common sense to resolve a situation.” Many other sitcoms suffer from such a syndrome, including “Modern Family.” But even dramatic shows such as “NCIS” have characters occasionally suffer from it.

Then I found out there really is a Frasier syndrome. It’s a urogenital anomaly associated with a particular gene. If I understand it correctly, boys with Frasier syndrome present at birth with male pseudohermaphroditism, meaning the external (male) genitalia look female. By adolescence, the person is likely infertile and will suffer from kidney disease. Girls with Frasier syndrome have only the kidney problems.

That doesn’t sound very appealing, so I think I’ll have to find another name for the malady that strikes characters. Perhaps “Sitcom Syndrome?”

Until next time! Use the right words!


March 9, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Did Ducky Get it Right?

Last night, thanks to Netflix, I watched a season 4 episode of “NCIS” in which Dr. Mallard (David McCallum) is asked to describe, in his own words, the difference between ethics and morals.

His response: “The ethical man knows he shouldn’t cheat on his wife, whereas the moral man actually wouldn’t.”

First of all, I doubt those were his words. Rather, they were the words of the episode’s writers, Steven D. Binder (teleplay and story) and Christopher Silber (story).

But what I really wondered was whether ol’ Ducky was using the words right.

Ethic has four definitions, including “a set of moral principles or values” (don’t you just love when definitions show words to be synonymous?). But another definition is “the principles of conduct governing and individual or a group.”

Moral has six definitions (not including the four definitions relating to a story’s lesson), including “of or relating to principles of right and wrong in behavior; ethical” (another synonym?). But another similar definition is: “conforming to a standard of right behavior.”

The dictionary also has a usage note that says moral implies conformity to established sanctioned codes or accepted notions of right and wrong, such as not committing adultery. Ethic, meanwhile, suggests there is a more difficult or subtle question of right or wrong: You know you’re not supposed to commit adultery, but what if you’re tempted?

I would say the usage is correct. Score one for the vast wasteland of TV!

Until next time! Use the right words!

May 14, 2015 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments


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