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What is the proper spelling: Alzheimer or Alzheimer's Disease?

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    "Alzheimer's disease" (using the possessive) appears to be the most common spelling, and is the form used by the Alzheimer's Association. You do see the other form, however.
    – Hot Licks
    Nov 10, 2015 at 1:43

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EL&U member 'Hot Lick's' commented,

"Alzheimer's disease" (using the possessive) appears to be the most common spelling...

This is correct, for the reasons 'Hot Lick's' cited, and as evidenced in this Google Ngram (case insensitive):

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The possessive sense seems to be true of other eponymous diseases:

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However, Wikipedia reports that there are arguments against using the possessive punctuation:

In 1975, the Canadian National Institutes of Health held a conference that discussed the naming of diseases and conditions. This was reported in The Lancet where the conclusion was summarized as: "The possessive use of an eponym should be discontinued, since the author neither had nor owned the disorder."2 Medical journals, dictionaries and style guides remain divided on this issue. European journals tend towards continued use the possessive, while US journals are largely discontinuing its use.[3]

From: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_eponymously_named_diseases. The Lancet article that the Wikipedia entry drew upon is behind a paywall here: http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736%2875%2992847-0/abstract

It appears, however, from the Ngrams that the possessive punctuation form has considerable impetus.

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  • I note that "Down Syndrome" seems far ahead of "Down's Syndrome".
    – GEdgar
    Nov 10, 2015 at 4:17
  • @GEdgar Just as 'Tourette Syndrome' eclipses 'Tourette's Syndrome'. What is very interesting to note is that 'Down's Syndrome' appeared to be the for more common early usage, and was only overtaken by 'Down Syndrome' in approximately 1990 (preview.tinyurl.com/qaal93a). One might speculate whether there was a concerted 'push' by interested parties to have the title changed around about that time.
    – John Mack
    Nov 10, 2015 at 5:11
  • @John Mack Don't you think the fact that syndrome starts with an 's' and disease doesn't might have some influence on the difference in usage? I've always thought that people were just concatenating the two 's' sounds.
    – BoldBen
    Jan 23, 2017 at 8:41
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The latter is correct. The former is colloquial. Even though it should be the other way around. The disease derives its name from Alois Alzheimer, a Bavarian psychiatrist:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alois_Alzheimer

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    Just out of curiosity, why do you think it should be the other way around?
    – deadrat
    Nov 10, 2015 at 2:18
  • Because I don't think Alzheimer himself had it.
    – Ricky
    Nov 10, 2015 at 2:19
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    Ricky's point mirrors the argument put at the Canadian National Institutes of Health for dropping the possessive. But as Ricky also notes, the colloquial usage has gone the other way and might never be turned around.
    – John Mack
    Nov 10, 2015 at 2:23
  • @JohnMack: I'm happy to learn that the Canadian National Institutes of Health has finally got something right. Let's go Rangers!
    – Ricky
    Nov 10, 2015 at 2:27
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    I find absurd the CNIH's reasoning -- no possessive because the namer neither had nor owned the disease. (How does one "own" a disease?) The possessive often simply means the discoverer, a person memorialized, or someone associated. ALS is called "Lou Gehrig's disease" because he was someone famous who suffered from it. No one is sure who the Martha of Martha's Vineyard is, but none of the candidates ever owned the island or indeed, ever set foot on it.
    – deadrat
    Nov 10, 2015 at 5:17
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An good example of perhaps overzealous pedantry.

The possessive is very common for attributing discovery.

I think you'll find very few references to Newton Second Law of Motion, or Halley Comet.

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Alois Alzheimer and James Parkinson did not have the diseases they discovered, but the diseases were named after the discoverers because they discovered them. By contrast, Lou Gehrig did have ALS and thus the disease is called Lou Gehrig's disease.

Wikipedia states,

In 1975, the Canadian National Institutes of Health held a conference that discussed the naming of diseases and conditions.  This was reported in The Lancet where the conclusion was summarized as: "The possessive use of an eponym should be discontinued, since the author neither had nor owned the disorder."[2]  Medical journals, dictionaries and style guides remain divided on this issue.  European journals tend towards continued use the possessive, while US journals are largely discontinuing its use.[3]

The Lancet article that the Wikipedia entry drew upon is behind a paywall here: http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736%2875%2992847-0/abstract

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