By Anupum Pant
Halitosis is a medical term today for a symptom in which extremely bad breath comes out of someone’s mouth. It is usually a sign of tooth decay or gum disease. Usually the origin of bad breath is in the mouth when there’s bad bacteria below the gumline or at the back of the tongue. But can also come from the nasal cavity, sinuses, throat, lungs, esophagus, stomach or elsewhere.
Initially when the word was coined, it was done only for the bad breath coming from the mouth and it wasn’t even a medical symptom then. In fact, where the word came from is a funny story.
Halitosis was invented by the Lambert company to sell one of their products that was invented in the 1880s. Back then, Listerine wasn’t very popular. It was only an antiseptic that was a prescription medicine used for, well, killing bacteria everywhere. Since this is something which didn’t attract a lot of attention, the company knew they weren’t marketing their product well.
Gerard, son of Jordan Wheat Lambert, owner of the company came up with a word by twisting latin to sound like a medical condition. Halitus meant breath and osis made it sound like a medical condition that would get people’s attention. Now, about 20% of the people had a medical condition that they had been concerned about for a long time (without a name before) and had access to a cure for it. Who would have not bought this!
At that time listerine wasn’t even a normal bottle of mouthwash you could pick up from the grocery store. You needed to have a prescription for it. But as their medical symptom caught people’s attention, its popularity exploded and it started selling without prescription.