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Monday, September 10, 2007

"A connoisseur of medical argot"

The Wall Street Journal Health Blog recently featured Dr Adam Fox, a British pediatric allergist, as .

Dr Fox's crowning achievement -- the one that earned him the WSJ distinction -- is not is research into the increasing prevalence of child nut allergies, but rather his delightfully unusual glossary of doctor slang, published in Ethics and Behaviour in 2003 to accompany a paper he co-authored about the role of slang in a clinical setting.

The WSJ lists some of the highlights of the 200-plus terms Dr Fox identified:

GPO - Good for Parts Only
HAIRY PSALMS - Haven’t Any Idea Regarding Your Patient, Send a Lot More Serum
LOBNH - Lights on But Nobody Home
TEETH - Tried Everything Else, Try Homeopathy
UBI - Unexplained Beer Injury
The BBC enumerated some a few years ago:
NFN - Normal for Norfolk
GROLIES - Guardian Reader Of Low Intelligence in Ethnic Skirt
CTD - Circling the Drain
GLM - Good-Looking Mum
TTFO - An impolite way to say "Told To Go Away" (The doctor told the judge it meant "To take fluids orally," Dr Fox says.)
CNS-QNS - Central Nervous System-Quantity Not Sufficient
Pumpkin positive - "A penlight shone into the patient's mouth would encounter a brain so small that the whole head would light up"
DBI - Dirt Bag Index ("Multiply the number of tattoos with the number of missing teeth to give an estimate of the number of days since the patient last bathed")
Digging for Worms - varicose vein surgery
Departure lounge - geriatric ward
You can find hundreds of other, equally outrageous terms online (see , or , or .)

According to the WSJ, Dr Fox is concerned that these examples of inventive, colourful, descriptive language are disappearng:
Fox laments that slang is “a dying art.” Even as he acknowledges slang can be derogatory, he says it can be useful. Slang is easily remembered, descriptive and saves time. Also, as he wrote in his paper, the humor that make slang catchy “is a potential way of coping with some of the unpleasantness of dealing with human bodily functions, suffering and death on a daily basis.”
But insurance companies are also concerned. Apparently it doesn't reflect well on a doctor's character to have to explain such offensive, insensitive phrases to malpractice jurors.

NRM covered Dr Fox's important research into offensive slang .

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  1. this particular subject pricked my interest a few months back, and i had a lot of reading these slang lists and being shocked at how tame wmy colleagues and i are in comparison. it's hard for non-medical people to understand that we need this as an outlet for the stress of medical training... but then, i must say it's really not such a good idea to write this stuff in the chart. :)

    we have one acronym we like to use verbally when endorsing patients in the ICU, the ones who won't see tomorrow... MGH. actually stands for "may go home," but in certain cases, it means "may go (to) heaven."

  2. A good list of

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