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Most Commonly Misspelled Medical Terminologies

Submitted by on September 13, 2012 – 4:52 AM 8 Comments

During my undergraduate student days in 1960s, we were taught about the “appendicular” mass, the “appendicular” abscess and the “appendicular artery”. The available text books referred to them as such. These days some books use the terms such as “appendiceal” mass and “appendix” abscess. “Appendicular” is also use quite commonly in India. However, I do not know about the situation elsewhere.

 

Let us see what some of the text books have to say about this. I have shown the results for some internationally well known text books as well as some books by the Indian authors.

 

Hardy’s Textbook of Surgery, refers to ‘appendiceal mass’ and ‘appendiceal abscess’.
Surgery, Scientific Principles and Practice (2nd edition) uses the term ‘appendiceal’.
Essentials of Surgery (Sanjay Azad) 2002 refers to ‘appendix mass’ and ‘appendix abscess’’.
Schwartz’s Principles of Surgery uses the term ‘appendiceal’.
Oxford text Book of Surgery, 2nd edition (2000) refers to ‘appendiceal mass’.
Sabiston Text Book of Surgery uses the terms ‘appendiceal artery’ and ‘appendiceal mass’.
The New Aird’s Companion in Surgical Studies, 3rd Edition uses the terms ‘appendiceal abscess’ and ‘appendiceal mass’
Farquharson’s Textbook of General Surgery, 9th edition (2005) uses the terms ‘appendix mass’ and ‘appendix abscess’.
Bailey & Love’s Short Practice of Surgery, 24th Edition refers to ‘appendix mass’ and ‘appendix abscess’.
S. Das’s “A Concise Text Book of Surgery”, 4th Edition uses the terms ‘appendicular mass’ and ‘appendicular abscess’. Its worth mentioning that Dr. S. Das’s text book is one of the most commonly read text books in India apart from Bailey & Love’s Short Practice of Surgery.

 

The Vermiform Appendix

 

In the case of the Vermiform Appendix, which among the terms “appendicular” mass, “appendiceal” mass and “appendix mass” is likely to be the most correct? How the term “appendicular” might have originated? In the following discussion, I have tried to find some ‘explanation’.

 
Let us first examine how some terms that end with an ‘X’ transform into. Fornix to Forniceal, Meninx to Meningeal, Calyx to Calyceal, Pharynx to pharyngeal, Larynx to Laryngeal. Therefore, Appendix to Appendiceal is very logical indeed!
Now let us see how some terms ending with ‘le’ transform into. Clavicle becomes Clavicular, Vesicle becomes Vesicular, Papule becomes Papular, Nodule becomes Nodular, Macule becomes Macular, Pustule becomes Pustular, Vacuole becomes Vacuolar, Follicle becomes Follicular, Pedicle becomes Pedicular, Cuticle becomes Cuticular. Therefore, what becomes Appendicular?. If it is ‘Appendicle’, then “Appendicular” makes sense.

 

But, we don’t call a vermiform appendix as ‘appendicle’! Therefore, I looked up the meaning of appendicle in the online dictionaries. ‘Appendicle’ means a small appendage. Armed with this fact, let us now see how the equation works.

 

Appendicle is an appendage. Appendix is an appendage of the caecum. Thus, Appendicle to Appendicular becomes possible!! This is the only way I could explain the use of the term “appendicular”. I have not been able to find any other explanation for this.

 
The Tricky Obstetrics


All of us know that Obstetrics and Gynecology is a separate specialty and anyone who practices it, is known as an Obstetrician & Gynecologist. I have always wondered why in India, a country where I come from, the doctors and students very commonly refer to an Obstetrician & Gynecologist simply as a ‘Gynecologist’.

 

Hardly anyone says “Refer to the Obstetrician” or “Call the Obstetrician”. It is almost always “Refer to the Gynecologist” or “Call the Gynecologist”! Even an Obstetrician & Gynecologist may be seen to introduce herself/himself as a “Gynecologist” and not as an “Obstetrician”!

 

Is this because it is a tongue-twister? Even the specialty of Obstetrics and Gynecology is conveniently called by many as “Obs and Gyn” to overcome this difficulty! Just as some foods are known to suit some palates but not others, the term Obstetrics appears to be playing tricks with some of our tongues!


The Grand Old Mercury Sphygmomanometer


This instrument which most would swear by, is considered to be the gold standard for measuring blood pressure. The word is derived from the Greek “sphygmos” (meaning ‘pulse’), plus the scientific term manometer. “sphygmos” derived from the verb “sphyzein” (meaning ‘to beat or throb’).

 

In my personal experience, in India, I cannot recollect even one doctor/nurse calling this as a “Sphygmomanometer” routinely in the course of day-to-day clinical work! The most preferred word for this is “BP apparatus”. The possible reason-A tongue-twister, without much doubt! Perhaps, a shortened term “sphyg” might be a more usable (and attractive) alternative!

 
The Question of Intussusception


In a story published by Telegraph newspaper, the tongue-twisting ‘phenomenon’, a word with nine letters and four syllables, has been named as the most commonly mispronounced word in the English. Interestingly, the word ‘Anaesthetist’, is the second one! ‘Separate’ is the most commonly misspelled word in the English language according to another study from Telegraph newspaper.

 
I have often wondered why someone did not find an easier alternative terminology for “intussusception” (and of course, intussuscipiens and intussusceptum). These may be some of the most mispronounced and wrongly spelt terms in medicine! These terms perhaps are difficult for anyone (irrespective of which country they belong to) to pronounce. These terms have tormented students and teachers alike. Is it necessary to persist with such terminologies?

 

About the Author: Dr. Aroon Kamath is a retired general surgeon from Father Muller Medical College, Mangalore, India as an Assistant Professor. He loves to teach, write for medical blogs and conduct medical quizzes.  He can be reached at: [email protected]

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  • Aroon Kamath

    Dear readers, One typographical error has crept in (due
    entirely to my fault). Under the heading “The tricky Obstetrics”,
    please read the section ” in the part of the world where I come from
    (India), the doctors and students very commonly refer to an Obstetrician &
    Gynecologist simply as an ‘Obstetrician’ ” as – “in the part of the world where I come
    from (India), the doctors and students very commonly refer to an Obstetrician
    & Gynecologist simply as an ‘Obstetrician’. a ‘Gynecologist’.
    I am truly sorry for the error.

  • Aroon Kamath

    Dear readers, One (another!) typographical error has crept in (due
    entirely to my fault). Under the heading “The tricky Obstetrics”,
    please read the section ” in the part of the world where I come from
    (India), the doctors and students very commonly refer to an Obstetrician &
    Gynecologist simply as an ‘Obstetrician’ ” as- “in the part of the world where I come
    from (India), the doctors and students very commonly refer to an Obstetrician
    & Gynecologist simply as a ‘Gynecologist’.

  • dr ashok

    Dear Sir , dr ashok here, i have gone thru this article, these spelling changes are they related in any way to american and british english spellings , like anaesthetist in our days has become anaesthisiologist now
    i hope u are able to read the sms messages which ur children must be sending half the time we dont understand the abbreviations, in about 25 – 50 years from now oxford dictionary might be writing you as u for all you know,
    i find it easier to write are as r, bye
    keep in touch
    ashok

  • dr ashok

    obstetrician may be dealing with only deliveries and gynaecologist may be seeing other diseases like tumors etc i think they are becoming separate branches now, i hope i am right….ashok

    • Aroon kamath

      Dear Dr. Ashok, Firstly let me thank you for your response. In India, basic medical degree is MBBS (bachelor of medicine and bachelor of surgery). Nothing can change this whether in the future one chooses medicine, surgery or any other branch of medicine. Similarly, despite what an Obstetrician & Gynecologist prefers to practice, it does not in any way change the basic fact. I based my observations on my limited experience (in teaching institutions) in which I had come across doctors of the speciality of Obstetrics & Gynecology in whose departments, they practice both these subdivisions of the speciality. What you may be refering to may be the case in private practice.

  • Jason_Dowell

    Terminology isn’t a problem for us in our medical practice. We started using dictation software and it’s helped all of us professionals transcribe documentation with precision. It’s saved us so much time and money. I recommend it to anyone in medical practice.

    • Aroon Kamath

      Thank you sir for your views. I am not very familiar with dictation software. Will the dictation software help with

      pronunciation? If so, it should be certainly recommended.

      • Dr.Jagesh

        But there remains a wide gap between professionals and medical students.Students need to know the origin, and use of proper nomenclature and pronunciations.