When my first headache specialist said migraine (no S) instead of migraines, I was mighty confused. He’s a brilliant man and obviously knows what he’s saying, but I couldn’t wrap my mind around the distinction. I eventually did, but am now worried that my adoption of his language may confuse readers. Here’s the deal: I’ll explain the terms that I use and you’ll let me know if you ever get confused by them.
Migraine (without an S) refers to the disease of migraine, which I use just like I would use the word epilepsy. It refers to the physical mechanisms and all the related symptoms of the disease. It’s the gestalt.
Tacking an S onto the end of the word gives it an entirely different meaning. To me, migraines refers to episode of the disease. Someone with epilepsy has seizures; someone with migraine has migraines.
I do the same thing with headache and headaches. Headache is the disorder; headaches are the physical manifestations of the disorder.
It’s more clear to use migraine attack or migraine episode to indicate each event, but it doesn’t feel right to me. Maybe this is because the distinction is perfectly clear or, more likely, my nit-picky approach to language encourages me to zero in on slight word differences.
What do you think?