I suspect that few pediatricians know the etymology or origin of the word pica; few words in medicine have a more fanciful background.

Pica was first used as a term for a perverted craving for substances unfit to be used as food by Ambrose Paré (1509-1590). Pica is the medieval Latin name for the bird called the magpie, who, it is claimed, has a penchant for eating almost anything. When we say a child is suffering from pica, we are really calling him a magpie.1 Furthermore the French form of pica is pie. The word piebald, which is often used in relation to Waardenburg's syndrome, is compounded from pie, a magpie, and bald, from the Welsh word meaning a white streak on the forehead.2 Since the magpie is also black and white, the word piebald to describe the forelock of white hair surrounded by the patient's normal darker colored hair is based on solid etymologic evidence.

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