Posted on May 27, 2008 by Priya Tuli

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My brother and I often have borderline crazy conversations. Nobody within earshot really gets us, and sometimes neither do we. Probably because he’s from the medical fraternity, like my father was. And like Dad, he also gets his jollies tossing obscure medical terms into the conversation, rather than speaking plain English.

So if someone is shaking their head, my brother would likely call it cranio-metronomy. Or if someone were to render you a sharp rap to the noggin, that would be trans-Calverian cortico-stimulation. Or a cortical reconfiguration, depending on how sharp the rap was.

I’ve always been fascinated with the Latin origins of medical terminology, and his medspeak cracks me up. He’s always been a closet-Seuss, so some of the stuff I say cracks him up. Between the two of us is always a crazy conversation waiting to happen. And we could keep it going through dinner over a couple of centuries at least.

The latinspeak medical gobbledygook invariably reminds me of Dad, and how he used to enjoy confounding us with the stuff. Flipping through his old Merck medical manual is almost like hearing him speak again. My brother and I both kept a copy each of Dad’s Merck manuals, a precious remembrance of a father sorely missed.

Here’s some wonderful terminology I found today, as I was going through my well-thumbed copy with the brown faux-leather cover: eosinophilic fasciitis, osteochondrodysplasia, torsion dystonia, progressive supranuclear palsy, Zenker’s diverticulum, and best of all, bullous pemphigoid!!

Whoaa, my spellchecker’s gone into seizures with that list, with every one of those terms heavily underscored in red! Doctors would probably have to get a medical spellchecker installed on their computers, I imagine. And look at that last one up there, the bullous pemphigoid. Doesn’t it sound like something abusive one would throw at a stubborn, pompous individual who refuses to agree with one’s point of view?! “You silly bullous pemphigoid!” I LIKE it!

While I do realize that all these are actually rather nasty medical conditions, they’re wonderful to toss into a conversation at random, just to see if anyone is really listening. Of course, I do try to ensure that I sort-of know what at least a few of them mean, so I can stun my by-now captive audience with a bit of medical erudition when someone asks, “What the *&^%$# is that?” And someone always does.

The good news is I found a wonderful little book the other day, a latin phrasebook-type thing. It even tells you how to say 'eff off' in Latin. So you know I’m going to be throwing a lot of stuff from the little book around here, starting soon. And if you'd like to know what any of it means, just ask; I'd be happy to let you know. Then again, you could always google it, I suppose, while I indulge in a bit of cranio-metronomy…