Mangled medicalese

The language of medicine is highly evolved and complex and allows clear, detailed, specific and unambiguous descriptions. Except when it’s not.

Here is my newest collection of mangled medicalese, culled from charts I have read, patients I have treated, and colleagues and friends who have shared. I will continue to post a selection monthly until my supply runs out. If you have a contribution to make, you can add it in comments below (login required) or send it to me for a future installment. I will explain only those where explanation seems necessary to understand either the phrase or the humor. The rest will stand - or fall - on their own. If you have questions or alternative interpretations, please don’t hesitate to use the comments.


Patient contributions:

  • I think my daughter has the chicken pops. (chicken pox)
  • I needed surgery last year after they found a mast in my barium enemy. (mass on my barium enema, an x-ray of the large intestine)
  • Is there a doctor who can fix my hammered toe? (hammer toe)
  • When I was a teenager, I had bad sister acne. (cystic acne, a kind of serious acne with deep cysts and scarring)
  • From a dissatisfied family member of the patient: I want you to page the President and get him down here, right now.  (She meant the resident, a doctor in training who supervises interns.)


Clinician contributions (mostly from chart notes):

  • The patient got pregnant while on a trip to Chicago, which is impossible. (Presumably, meaning the timing of the trip, not Chicago.)
  • Order written in the chart: Feed patient only when awake.
  • The family wanted the procedure done even though we had explained it would be feudal. (futile)
  • By the time he was admitted, his rapid heart had stopped and he was feeling much better.
  • In a discharge summary: Patient was discharged alive without permission. He needs disposition, so Dr. Smith will dispose of him.
  • The patient refused an autopsy.


From nursing notes:

  • MD at bedside, attempting to urinate. (ICU)
  • Patient agistate, shows signs of increased worriation.
  • The patient is at risk becuase of a prolonged cutie interval. (The QT interval is part of the EKG tracing, and if it is longer than normal, it reflects an increased risk of serious rhythmn problems.)


Speakos from speech-to-text dictation software:

  • "Biceps tenosynovitis" transcribed as "Biceps, penis, synovitis"
  • "Oligospermia" (few sperm) transcribed as "Olympic sperm"
  • "Left labia minora" (the 'small lip' which is part of the external female genitalia) became "Left labia Menorah"



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