Took an Awful Physic

18-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Tuesday, March 10, 1914:  Horrors of horrors, I had to take an awful nasty physic this morning, and I’m not the least bit sick either. Simply because I have to undergo an operation tomorrow.


Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:


An operation? What’s wrong? You haven’t written much lately, but never mentioned not feeling well or going to the doctor.

A physic is another word for a laxative. Does anyone use that term anymore?

23 Responses

  1. My grandma always used to say that as well. I think that’s what she called mineral spirits. Which the nutritionists now say you should Never take.
    Were operations common in 1914?

  2. I haven’t heard that term since I was a kid. My neighbor would call a laxative that. I hope she is better soon.

  3. Sometimes the lack of facts are frustrating, but then again it is good to not get too personal. Hopefully the surgery is not too serious. She doesn’t seem too concerned except for the fact that the physic tasted awful.

  4. What! An operation! That came out of the blue. Must be quite serious if she needs a physic.

  5. Hope Grandma is all right.

  6. II use the word ‘physics’ a lot. But, not ‘physic’.

  7. Can you imagine any of us, in this era, being so unconcerned about having an operation?!

  8. My grandmother always used the word, “physic.” It’s fun to hear it again!!!

  9. Never heard the word “Physic” used as a laxative……hope Grandma gives us more detail on her surgery…..

  10. I so enjoy your posts and the tidbits of info.

  11. As long as I have been in health care, I can not believe I haven’t heard that term physic before. Wonder what the surgery is for … it used to be that laxatives were used for gyn, urinary, or gastro surgeries. Back then, they might have been used for any surgery.

  12. I’ve never heard of the term “physic” to mean a laxative. What an interesting entry in her diary. I wonder what kind of surgery she had (I hope she gives more details in subsequent entries!).

  13. No, I’ve never heard that term. I guess they didn’t want her pooping during the operation??? Maybe she was getting her tonsils out?

  14. Oh no! Now I’m quite curious about tomorrow’s entry.

  15. Yes, I’ve heard the term.

  16. I often wonder why your grandmother wrote a diary. I keep a gardening journal and it contains a ton of information. I have used it often to look back and reference information. My mother and grandmother always kept weather information and ranching notes. Your grandma doesn’t seem to write for any real reason. She really knows how to leave a person hanging.

    • I’m really not sure why she kept the diary–though I tend to think that it was for self-improvement or self-reflection (though she wasn’t very wordy and didn’t seem to analyze herself very deeply).

  17. This is such a different entry — almost as if she knows she is writing for some reader other than herself.

    She’s too young for a colonoscopy, if they even did those when she was young.

    How interesting there was no mention of it coming up to the time. Was she feeling no anxiety? Was she feeling so much she didn’t want to talk about it? It does become curiouser and curiouser.

    Fortunately we know she survived whatever it was and went on to have a family and grandchildren. Almost like watching a tense TV story, knowing the main character will survive in the end, because the next in the series will be coming.

    • You’re right–one nice thing about the diary is that I do know where things will eventually go and that she’ll live a nice long life.

  18. Its been years since I heard that term, from my grandmother and my mother in law. Could it have been something like tonsils (although she may too old) or wisdom teeth? Something serious but routine…Helena would cringe at my journal sometimes I think I put too much information in. lol

  19. […] wrong? Why do you need a physic (laxative)? This is the second time in less than a week that you’ve taken one. Did you take Cascarets? I read that it could cure a […]

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