A Straight Dope Classic from Cecil's Storehouse of Human Knowledge

If three of the bodily humors (temperaments) boil down to "sad," "glad," and "mad," what's the fourth?

May 19, 1989

Dear Cecil:

We were talking about the medieval theory of the four bodily humors and noticed that "sanguine," "choleric," and "melancholy" correspond roughly in meaning with the modern English "glad," "mad," and "sad." We were wishing we knew a rhyming word for "phlegmatic." Can you think of one?

Cecil replies:

The medieval theory of the four bodily humors, eh? Well, I guess it beats talking about what's on sale at K mart. Given that "phlegmatic" means calm, sluggish, and unemotional, I vote for glad, mad, sad, and moss-clad. What did you want, Shakespeare?

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