Siblings named Tonsillitis, Meningitis, Appendicitis…

Gravestone of Tonsillitis Jackson (1932-2006)
Tonsillitis’ gravestone

About 80 years ago, Mr. and Mrs. Emsy Jackson of Oklahoma started naming their children after medical conditions:

  • Tonsillitis “Tonsy” Jackson (boy) – born Nov. 7, 1932
  • Meningitis “Mennie” Jackson (boy)
  • Appendicitis “Pendy” Jackson (girl) – born Dec. 25, 1936
  • Laryngitis Jackson (girl)
  • Peritonitis Jackson (girl)
  • Jakeitis Jackson (girl)

The family first made the news in early 1937, right after Appendicitis was born. Their story ran in Newsweek, Reader’s Digest, and TIME, not to mention a bunch of regional papers.

Tonsillitis made headlines twice more after that — when he enlisted in the Navy in 1951, and when he re-enlisted in 1955. (Before he re-enlisted, he had to be treated for tonsillitis, ironically.) In these articles, he explained that his mother had been suffering from a sore throat when he was born, hence the name Tonsillitis.

And what about Jakeitis — was her name made-up? No, actually. Though “Jakeitis” isn’t a recognized medical condition, the word was used in the 1930s to describe the paralysis that afflicted drinkers of Jake, a slang word for Jamaica Ginger.

What are your thoughts on these names?


  • “Aftermath.” West Australian 8 Nov. 1951: 1.
  • All in the Family – Futility Closet
  • “Miscellany.” TIME 25 Jan. 1937: 36.
  • “Navy Has Case of Tonsillitis.” Toledo Blade 26 Aug. 1955: 2.

Image Brian of Find a Grave

6 thoughts on “Siblings named Tonsillitis, Meningitis, Appendicitis…

  1. Bloody Nora, just horrible!

    I notice they gave the last three girls names that could only be shortened to male names – Larry, Perry, and Jake, just to add insult to injury.

  2. Wow, now this is something I never would have thought of! My husband and I have named all of our cats after various drugs (Morphine, Amoxicillin, etc.) because he works in the medical field, but this is taking it to a whole new level!

  3. I served in the Navy with Tonsilitis in the 1960s. I was an officer aboard an LST and he was in charge of the wardroom stewards. He told me the reason for his and his siblings names.
    When his mother was pregnant with him, she did have a sore throat and was treated by a white doctor in their Southern town for tonsilitis, without diagnosing her pregnancy. When her pregnancy became obvious, the doctor thought this so amusing that he told her if she would name the child Tonsilitis he would deliver it for free. He then offered to deliver and treat any other children she had if named after diseases.
    It was in the South during the depression. The Jacksons were a Black family. It was not easy to get a white doctor to treat such families so I guess it seemed like a reasonable deal at the time.

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