DOCTORS’ SLANG.

As an astringent palate-cleanser after the overindulgence of holiday dinners, may I present (courtesy of Marc Adler) a page of Doctors’ Slang, Medical Slang and Medical Acronyms, Veterinary Acronyms & Vet Slang. People with delicate sensibilities should probably not click, but if you have a dark and robust sense of humor, you should find much to enjoy. A few mild examples: Acute Pneumoencephalopathy – airhead; AHF – Acute Hissy Fit; Albatross – chronically ill patient who will remain with a doctor until one or other of them expire; ALC – a la casa (send the patient home). Thanks, Marc!

Comments

  1. rootlesscosmo says:

    A doctor told me a medical school maxim: “All bleeding stops eventually.” When I quoted it to another doctor she was seriously disapproving of her colleague, telling me quite firmly that patients are not supposed to know things like that.

  2. Quite so; sometimes it stops when when the patient exsanguinates.

  3. Funny! I wonder how many of these are actually in use. FLK, for sure — my pediatrician grandfather uses that one.

  4. Israeli medical staff has GMG – “gurnicht mit gurnicht”, which is Yiddish for “nothing with nothing” – a jargon placebo to calm nervous patients.

  5. >> When I quoted it to another doctor she was seriously disapproving of her colleague
    I tried quite a few times but could not parse this sentence…

  6. It’s a snafu sentence.

  7. David Eddyshaw says:

    Most of these are just jokes, I reckon – the vast majority I’ve never heard actually used (in the UK anyway.)
    “Orthopod” is real. “Obs and gobs” too. “Supratentorial” is actually used, to a degree where it’s almost not slang at all.
    “Q sign” is real. And diagnosis is indeed much easier with a retrospectoscope.
    “FLK” is certainly real (and useful, alas. It goes with some of the many horrible heriditary syndromes that paediatricians have to deal with, which often do make the poor kid look odd in some unpindownable way.)
    The joke with “NAD” is that it is actually a very commonly used abbreviation, but it’s supposed to stand for “no abnormality detected.”
    GOMER is real, but it actually comes from the excellent book “House of God”, by Samuel Shem, desevedly a favourite among junior doctors, for its vivid depiction of just what it’s like to be out there and out of your depth. Same origin for “Wall.” I suppose he may have been reporting US slang rather than inventing, but in the UK at any rate I’m certain he’s the source.
    “The bleeding will eventually stop” is real (and it’s *supposed* to be ironic, JC.)
    Talking of the medical subculture, in the days when UK medical students actually learnt anatomy, there were dozens of anatomy mnemonics, which by convention had to be obscene (I think they dated from the days when the best way to get into medical school was to be a good rugby player.) Don’t know if this was just a UK thing.
    The lingual nerve
    Took a swerve
    Around the hyoglossus
    “Well, I’m fucked”
    Said Wharton’s Duct
    “The bugger’s double-crossed us!”

  8. the vast majority I’ve never heard actually used (in the UK anyway.)
    While I’m certainly not discounting the possibility that many of them are purely jokes, it’s also quite possible many of the ones you don’t recognize are used in the US. Divided by a common language, you know.

  9. rootlesscosmo says:

    I tried quite a few times but could not parse this sentence…
    Oh, please. “She was seriously disapproving of X” = “She expressed serious disapproval of X.” Graceless maybe, but surely not so difficult?

  10. I sorta understood… I should have mentally inserted a comma in the sentence, making “When I quoted it to another doctor, she was seriously disapproving of her colleague, telling me quite firmly that patients are not supposed to know things like that”, as I kept attaching “she was seriously disapproving of” to “another doctor”, making “When I quoted it to another doctor (who is disapproved of by the first) of her colleague” — leaving the sentence unfinished.

  11. The problem I had with the sentence was the sudden appearance of “she”. Who she ? To my embarassment, after several scannings it occurred to me that a slight modification makes the sentence eminently clear:

    A doctor told me a medical school maxim: “All bleeding stops eventually.” When I quoted it to another doctor he was seriously disapproving of his colleague, telling me quite firmly that patients are not supposed to know things like that.

  12. I don’t think the obscene mnemonics had anything to do with rugby players. Obscenity is simply one of the tricks commonly used to make a mnemonic more colorful and therefore easier to memorize.

  13. Look, there’s nothing wrong with rootless’s sentence. Besides, he is the only person a Language Hat who can drive a train.

  14. One could just as well say: “Mnemonics are simply one of the tricks commonly used to make obscenity more colorful, and therefore easier to condone”. It is amusing to see that the list of “anti-PC” expressions did not prompt the scolding recently directly at single “anti-PC” items at this site. I suppose lists are more scientific, and doctors more to be pitied than bespittled.

  15. … recently directed …

  16. There’s a difference between a list of jokey slang terms and LH comment threads. I leave the elaboration of this difference as an exercise for the reader.

  17. “On old Olympus’s towering top, a Finn and German chased a hop.” Nothing obscene there.
    Then there’s the young man and his father who are in a nasty car accident. The father is DOA [not on the list: too standard?], but the son is rushed to trauma surgery. The surgeon takes one look at him and recoils: “I can’t operate on this man: he’s my son!”

  18. Funny, I was thinking of that riddle today. This morning I finally went to see a podiatrist about my bunions. I was expecting a man. Why? I know that doctors can be women. For example, my primary-care doctor. For another example, my wife. Or my dentist. Or that nice pulmonologist who tried to figure out why I kept getting pneumonia three years ago. So why was I surprised?

  19. I doubt that the surgeon would be so squeamish in the circumstances. I think she’d be more likely to have been upset because her husband had just died. Why doesn’t anyone ever feel sorry for the poor husband, hmm? He was probably an arts graduate who couldn’t afford a surgeon’s Ferrari 458 Italia; he drove a pickup, the wheels dropped off and he was killed.

  20. The jokes are just as good as the acronyms. My father, a radiologist, once told us this at the dinner table:
    Radiologist: There was a bad mistake today at the hospital. A man’s leg was amputated although there was nothing wrong with it.
    Everybody else: Oh that’s terrible ! How did that happen ?
    R: The nurse misread the chart. She disinfected and prepared the wrong leg. The surgeon only noticed when it was too late.
    EE: What happened then ?
    R: Well, the surgeon had to amputate the other leg too of course, the one that should have been removed in the first place.
    EE: <shock and dismay> What is the guy going to do ? Is he going to sue the nurse, or the hospital ?
    R: There’s nothing he can do, or any lawyer can do.
    EE: But how can that be ? You said yourself that it was a mistake !
    R: <long pause> The court would throw the case out. The man doesn’t have a leg to stand on.

  21. The surgeon takes one look at him and recoils: “I can’t operate on this man: he’s my son!”
    Is that a riddle ? I though it was an obscure joke about adultery, the surgeon being the biologic father.

  22. I think you were surprised because most podiatrists are males. I once went to one in New York, and I was interested to see he didn’t have a medical qualification, he had a Ph.D. Something about researching Jane Austen’s juvenilia*.
    Is bunion etymologically connected to onion or union?
    *Catherine or the Bower, among other works

  23. I don’t think you are allowed to call yourself a podiatrist unless you have an M.D. (and have also done specialized training in podiatry). Maybe there is another word,easily confused with this one, for some other kind of foot doctor who is not a medical doctor? (Chiropodist? No, that seems to be another word for podiatrist.)
    Just as juvenilia can be confused with juvenalia.
    Apparently onion and union are related to each other, but not to bunion.

  24. No, podiatrists don’t have M.D. degrees; they are not, strictly speaking, doctors at all. They do, at least in the U.S., attend four-year colleges that award D.P.M. (Doctor of Podiatric Medicine) degrees, and then undergo two- or three-year residencies which qualify them for both medical and surgical practice. Additional fellowships are possible.
    Unlike ordinary specialist M.D.s, the limitations on podiatrists’ practice are statutory rather than customary: they are not allowed to diagnose, operate, or treat anything north of a certain point on the lower extremities. As with M.D.s, there are specialties within podiatry such as diabetic care, reconstructive surgery of the ankle, and even forensic podiatry. (My podiatrist is a general one thatI see every few weeks for diabetic care, which is why I have all this stuff at my fingers’ ends. If you are in NYC and need a podiatrist, I recommend him.)
    There are also orthopedic surgeons who limit their practice to the feet and ankles: these are M.D.s, but there isn’t anything (that I know of) that they can do that podiatrists cannot do, or vice versa, within the relevant sphere of action.
    The downside of podiatrists not being doctors is that if you are in the hospital, even a teaching hospital, problems with your feet are likely to go undiagnosed and untreated, for the odds are against there being any podiatric residents available. A few years back, I spent six weeks in the hospital and a month in home care on IV vancomycin after I broke my toe (no joke for a diabetic). Though I was being seen frequently by orthopedists and endocrinologists, it was only when I finally came off the IV that I saw my podiatrist — who immediately spotted the massive diabetic ulcer on my sole fairly close to the toe. Oooops!
    All’s well now, except that the toe is permanently swollen, but neither my gait nor my footwear are seriously affected.

  25. I stand corrected.

  26. Crown: I think you were surprised because most podiatrists are males.
    According to a report by the Tasmanian Department of Health and Human Services: “The gender ratio of the DHHS podiatry workforce of 75 per cent female to 25 per cent male was similar to the gender ratios in the Tasmanian and Australian podiatry workforces.”

  27. In this comment thread at a podiatry forum, a contributor from New South Wales reports on an apparent “gender imbalance” in his kind of employment, with more males than females, and says this:

    I’m sure if we looked closely, we would find a greater percentage of male podiatrists in private practice, with a greater percentage of female Podiatrists in public health. The reason for this is simple, the money is better in private practice … Females often pursue careers that can supplement family life, while males pursue primary earning careers. I’m sure we will find more males pursuing a career in Podiatry with a particular emphasis on private practice, now it has been shown you can earn a decent dollar. It’s unfortunate, but many many male high school students look at degrees that place them in a career with good earning potential. Podiatry is moving into that arena rapidly and the boys will follow.

    In some areas of podiatry, at least, women have gained an equal footing with men, which is no small feat. Leaving the puns aside, I think the crux of the matter is contained in that one sentence: “Females often pursue careers that can supplement family life, while males pursue primary earning careers.” Money is of course a primary raw material from which all kinds of other things can be manufactured. But who runs the mines, and who sees to it that those other things are actually produced ?

  28. they are not allowed to diagnose, operate, or treat anything north of a certain point on the lower extremities.
    Ne ultra crepidam!

  29. Thank you, thank you, I’ll be here all week!

  30. Yes, but Stu you’re getting your information from Australia, where everything is upside down. I just learned, for example, that they say “hooroo” for “goodbye” there.

  31. I think she’d be more likely to have been upset because her husband had just died.
    There’s no reason to think the man was her husband. He may have become an ex-husband some decades before, or merely been a fling in the first place.

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