Lets make up a Latin word

OK ... "nomenquisqueuniversitasism". There! Now we've got a name for the need to have a name (or diagnosis?) for everthing. Satisfying in a circular kind of way don't you think? (Apologies to those who actually know something about Latin).

A great many so-called "medical diagnoses" are really nothing more than a description of symptoms which have been translated into Latin to make them sound more authoritative on the basis of quid quid latine dictum sit, profundum videtur (anything said in Latin seems profound).

Unfortunately there seems to be a general susceptibility in human nature to elitism and exclusivism (more good "-ism" words) which can lead to the unnecessary proliferation of jargon terms within any area of specialisation.

The business world is an easy target for those who seek to make fun of this tendency. There are also those whose derision and perhaps dismay is more general in scope.

An excellent example from the medical profession is the word "dysdiadochokinesia" (go on, try and say it quickly). It means "difficulty performing rapid alternating movements" (it's a test for neurological impairment). I wonder how many health care practitioners have cursed this word for the fact that every time a patient or concerned family member asks about it, they first have to teach them how to pronounce it, and then (with a straight face) explain to them what it means, knowing that the person is going to say "well why didn't you just say that in the first place?".

To be fair to those in the medical and allied health professions, it would introduce certain difficulties to their communications to always have to use descriptions instead of the correct Latin term. Consider medical notes about dyschezia for example (see below). Clearly some form of specialised shorthand is required in every specialised endeavour in order to avoid inefficiency (and unnecessary unpleasantness) in communication.

To "bring all this home", the word "dyscopia", if it were a real word would appear in a medical dictionary a little after:

and just before:

Another aspect of this proliferation of medical jargon is the common desire for people to have a name for whatever ails them. To be able to say "the doctor says I have dyscrasia" gives far more validity to a person's complaints than "I told the doctor I'm a bit off colour and he agreed with me... I don't really think he knows what he's talking about". Similarly it is far more positive to be able to say "the doctor says little Johnny has oppositional defiant disorder" (not all medical jargon is latin) than "the doctor says Johnny's a little turd because I've been an inadequate parent" (i.e. he's a 'chip off the old block'). Related to this, is the fact that if your group of related problems and complaints have a name - or a diagnosis - you can have a treatment prescribed which you can probably claim on health insurance, and if it doesn't work it's the Doctor's fault. Conversely, if all you have is a group of related problems and complaints, all you can have is some advice which doesn't cost anything but leaves only you to blame when you don't follow it well enough to make it work.

Modified: 2011-04-19 11:42:44