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It seems that people use the word machalah to refer to cancer not only as a translation of the word (although there might be a more specific and correct translation) but because they do not want to say that someone has cancer. Why do people do this?

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Maybe you should say that in the question... – Double AA Apr 14 '13 at 19:59
@DoubleAA - In Chassidic / Yeshiva communities it is basically a universal convention to refer to cancer as "the machlah" (the disease) or "yenna machlah" (that disease). Even when writing in English, they will often call it "the dreaded disease" rather than use the c-word. – Dave Apr 14 '13 at 22:33
@Dave Like the Tropic of Machalah? – Double AA Apr 15 '13 at 3:59
@DoubleAA - you know what I mean... I think... – Dave Apr 15 '13 at 5:47
@msh210 - if they were following her example, they wouldn't talk about the illness at all, even using generic terms. – Dave Apr 15 '13 at 13:41

The Gemara refers to Tzaraas as "Davar Acher" - "lit. Something else".

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Satmar rov reb yoel said if you call it that then it will hopefully dissapear

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citing a source would greatly improve your answer – not-allowed to change my name Apr 16 '13 at 12:48
Why would calling it "the disease" make it disappear? Am I missing something? – Dave Apr 16 '13 at 13:35
Alzheimers and Parkinsons can't disappear – Zachariah Apr 16 '13 at 14:57
@NewAlexandria מי שם פה לאדם? If you are relying on God's help then I don't see the difference. – Double AA Apr 16 '13 at 15:16
I wonder that Satmar rov reb yoel is saying the choice of words here is not a minhag, but that to use the name of thing thus עֲשִׂיתֶֽם, but maybe if you don't use the name then it is like a prayer that Hashem may עָשָׂ֔הוּ otherwise. – Zachariah Apr 16 '13 at 16:19

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