House is a catchy, tidy little title for a show. It's a television tradition to give a one-word name to a series about an quirky case-solver. Take Columbo, Mannix, Kojak, Ironside, Cannon, Kaz, McCloud, MacGyver, Hunter, Hawthorne, Backstrom, Baretta, Banacek… blah blah blah, for example. Monosyllabic is even better, like Monk. Fits nicely on a billboard or a keychain.
So, like we said, House is a nice and succinct name for a TV show. (Even if you call it House, M.D.) It certainly is less of a mouthful than Chasing Zebras, Circling the Drain. Believe it or not, that was the working title of the series, according to creator David Shore.
What the heck do striped equids and plumbing have to do with hard-to-crack hospital cases? Well, "zebra" is medical slang for an exotic diagnosis. A famous medical professor once said, "When you hear hoofbeats, think of horses not zebras." Dr. Gregory House challenged that assertation, certainly. Which is how the cranky genius ended up with offbeat answers like subacute sclerosing panencephalitis and erythropoietic protoporphyria. Zebras.
As for the "circling the drain" part, well, that had to do with the patients running out of time for survival. It's a bit obtuse and morose, you know? Instead, they wisely went with a simple House.
But the House title is not so simple. Those five letters contain two interesting little references that reveal everything you need to know about Hugh Laurie's character.
For starters, "House" is another way to say "Home," a homonym for "Holmes," as in Sherlock Holmes, the inspiration for Dr. Gregory House. Both characters are churlish, blunt, brilliant eclectics. They also both happened to have drug addictions, which leads us to the second hidden message in House.
HOUSE is also medical shorthand for History of Drug Use. A large arc of the show centers around House's addiction to pills.
So, if you knew nothing else about the show, but somehow got those two references, House would neatly sum up everything you need to know about the show — without spelling it out.
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