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The phenomenon of Lhermitte
  1. Timothy L Williams1,2,
  2. David Bates1,2,
  3. Mark R Baker1,2,3
  1. 1 Department of Neurology, Royal Victoria Infirmary, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK
  2. 2 Translational and Clinical Research Institute, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, Tyne and Wear, UK
  3. 3 Department of Clinical Neurophysiology, Royal Victoria Infirmary, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Mark R Baker, Translational and Clinical Research Institute, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne NE2 4HH, Tyne and Wear, UK; m.r.baker{at}

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Life in pedants’ corner is (and was BC—before the COVID-19 pandemic) always more rewarding when clinical and scientific morsels from our recent reading can be shared over coffee (black and strong of course!). For the pedant, malapropisms, particularly those penned by eminent neurologists in certain highly regarded journals, are a particularly rich seam; the deeper one has to mine, the greater the pleasure. Recently, at least one of our number all but aspirated their coffee after reading a reference to ‘Lhermitte’s sign’ in an article on dorsal root ganglionopathy!

Jean Lhermitte (figure 1) described only one clinical sign, or more correctly a collection of inseparable signs. Known as ‘Lhermitte’s syndrome’, it describes the clinical manifestations of a lesion to the medial longitudinal fasciculus, for which Lhermitte coined the term ‘internuclear ophthalmoplegia’.1 Internuclear ophthalmoplegia is not a recognised feature of dorsal root ganglionopathy and thus, whether malapropism or editorial error, the article should correctly have referred to ‘Lhermitte’s symptom (or phenomenon)’.

Figure 1

Jean Lhermitte (1877–1959) as (A) an intern at La Salpêtrière hospital in 1901, and photographic portraits from around 1920 (B) and the late 1950s (C). (D) François Lhermitte …

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  • Contributors MRB conceived the article. MRB and TLW performed the literature search. MRB wrote the first draft of the article. TLW and DB reviewed, critiqued and edited the article. MRB as guarantor accepts full responsibility for the work and was responsible for the decision to publish.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned. Externally peer reviewed by Martin Turner, Oxford, UK, and Colin Mumford, Edinburgh, UK.

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