Most Commonly Misspelled Medical Terminologies
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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