Zach Anner is on the cusp of becoming a huge celebrity. He’s been leading the contestants in Oprah Winfrey’s “Search for the Next TV Star” contest. His hilarious audition tape has received almost 3.5 million votes so far.
What makes Zach above-and-beyond incredible, in addition to being a talented comedian, is that he has cerebral palsy — which, Zach says, “is the sexiest of the palsies.”
This raises the question: What is a palsy? And are there multiple kinds?
Palsy, derived from the word “paralysis,” is a debilitating muscular condition often accompanied by uncontrollable body tremors. Because of the tremors, the condition is, at times, a misnomer, considering that paralysis can be the last thing experienced by people with a palsy.
Cerebral palsy is a catchall term for all palsies caused by brain damage occurring before, during, or shortly after birth. The most common kind of cerebral palsy is spastic diplegia. (For word nerds good at spotting similarities, you’ll notice some likeness to paraplegia and quadriplegia.) Historically, spastic diplegia was called Little’s Disease, named for scientist William John Little. Bell’s palsy is another common kind of palsy. It’s a form of facial paralysis that occurs when the main facial nerve is damaged. This condition is less debilitating than cerebral palsy. Sometimes it’s temporary. Katie Holmes, George Clooney, and Ralph Nader are some of the famous people who have had Bell’s palsy. Drooping of the mouth is evidence of Bell’s palsy. A third form is Erb’s palsy, which affects movement in the arms. Famous people with Erb’s include Joseph Stalin and Martin Sheen.
None of this should be confused, though, with the peculiar (and non-medical) adjective palsy-walsy, meaning “suspiciously friendly.”