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Entry from May 29, 2005
Autism (summary)
My sister has a son with "autism."

On October 12, 2002, I first posted this to the American Dialect Society list, then re-posted it to alt.support.autism.

The Oxford English Dictionary has the first citation from "1912," but the correct date is "1913." I found the word "autism" in 1912 in another publication, the New York State Hospitals Bulletin.

(Oxford English Dictionary)
A condition in which a person is morbidly self-absorbed and out of contact with reality. So autistic a., of, pertaining to, or characterized by this; n., a person thus affected; also autistically adv.

1912 BLEULER in Amer. Jrnl. Insanity LXIX. 874 When we look more closely we find amongst all normal people many and important instances where thought is divorced both from logic and from reality. I have called these forms of thinking autistic, corresponding to the idea of schizophrenic autismus. Ibid. 884 The unconscious can think logically or autistically. 1912 A. HOCH Ibid. 888 The chief traits which had existed before the mental breakdown were those which I at that time called the shut-in tendenciestendencies to which Professor Bleuler has recently applied the term autism. 1916 C. E. LONG tr. Jung's Coll. Papers Analyt. Psychol. vi. 203 Autism (Bleuler) = Auto-eroticism (Freud). For some time I have employed the concept of introversion for this condition. 1922 WOODWORTH Psychol. xix. 508 Daydreaming..is an example of what is called 'autistic thinking', which means thinking that is sufficient unto itself, and not subjected to any criticism. Autistic thinking gratifies some desire and that is enough for it. 1962 Guardian 15 Nov. 6/6 London County Council has opened an experimental unit at the health centre in Guildford Street for the treatment and diagnosis of autistic children. 1963 New Scientist 25 Apr. 184/1 Childhood autism sometimes inaccurately called childhood schizophrenia. 1968 Woman 27 Jan. 24/2 There are over 4,000 diagnosed autistics in this country. Ibid. 56/4 Our hospital..is by no means the only one with an autistic unit.

Subj: First English citation of "autism" (August 1912)
Date: 12/14/2002 3:31:56 PM Eastern Standard Time
Reply-To: American Dialect Society
Sent from the Internet (Details)

This is important to me. I have an autistic nephew.

OED's first English citation of "autism" is the AMERICAN JOURNAL of INSANITY, Vol. LXIX, pg. 879. A date of 1912 is given.
I re-checked this:

Number 5
April 1913

Pg. 873:
Director Psychiatric Cinic, University of Zurich
*Address delivered at the opening exercises of the Henry Phipps
Psychiatric Clinic, The Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore, Md., April
16-18, 1913.


There is no doubt that Bleuler coined "autism," but we have a wrong date here.

I looked in the NEW YORK STATE HOSPITALS BULLETIN, February 1912, pg. 481, "AFFECTIVITY, SUGGESTIBILITY, PARANOIA" by E. Bleuler and Charles Ricksher, but "autism" wasn't found in his very long article.


Vol. V, No. 2
August 1912

Pg. 238:
*"Handbuch der Psychiatrie." Herausgegeben von Professor Dr. G.
Aschaffenburg. Spezieller Teil, 4 Abteilung, 1 Halfte. "Dementia
Praecox oder Gruppe der Schizophrenien." Leipzig und Wien: Franz
Deuticke, 1911.

Pg. 240:
He also mentions abnormalities of the affective life, particularly a
more or less extensive loss of interest, and that which he calls by a very good term "autism," that is, the tendency to turn away from the outside world, or that which we have called shut-in tendencies. He also mentions other features, but these are the most important.

Pg. 253:
A difficult subject is autism. By autism Bleuler means that which we have called the shut-in tendency, the more or less complete shutting out of the environment, or, at any rate, all that which does not correspond to the wishes. It may be so marked that the patients even shut all sensory impressions, close their eyes and ears, make their body as small as possible by crouching. Bleuler regards this autism as a secondary phenomenon, and looks upon it as one of the results of his association disorder, whereas the autistic thinking is the day dreaming, the thinking without reference to reality. This autistic thinking flourishes in schizophrenia. The normal person includes in his logical operations more or less everything of his experience, past and present, which has a bearing, irrespective of it emotional value. Bleuler thinks that the schizophrenic defect in logic makes the exclusion of a great many external and internal facts possible, and thus gives sway to a tendency which we all have, namely, to live in fancies which suit us, (Pg. 254) something which we indulge in but do not allow to influence our conduct, but which in the schizophrenic assumes the value of reality.

Pg. 256:
Automatisms are put on the same level as hallucinations, that is to say, are looked upon as intrusions into consciousness of split-off complexes, whereas mannerisms are essentially the same as Freud's Symptomhandlungen.

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Other ExpressionsOrigin of the word "Autism" • (0) Comments • Sunday, May 29, 2005 • Permalink