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BMJ. 2007 September 15; 335(7619): 528.
PMCID: PMC1976514
Time to Drop Eponyms?

Curbing Medicalese is the issue

David J Ogden, consultant psychiatrist

Blanket abandonment of eponyms cannot be argued successfully.1 2 Surely the real question is whether Medicalese (including excessive use of eponyms) should be abandoned; or at least brought to heel.

The scholarly dandification of the English language by post-renaissance travellers around the 16th and 17th centuries AD included the absorption and reworking of classical terms from Greek and Latin. This represented an inversion of the hard won earlier rejection of Latin as the exclusive language of knowledge and power, mediated at that time through the clergy. As such, this new tendency (with flourishing sciences such as medicine among the prime movers) was much criticised by linguists of the day. However, it continued apace until English had once again become a useful way of distinguishing educated from ignorant, and rich from poor.

Language is a tool for communication. Corrupting its function for reasons of smug scholarly vanity, professional protectionism, or simple laziness can hardly be of service to our patients, since it diminishes our capacity to communicate with them and each other. If we believe in patient centred care, health empowerment, or even just the resurgence of the vernacular, then we must stop hiding behind our clever eponyms and pseudoclassical tosh, and start saying what we mean.

Notes

Competing interests: None declared.

References

1. Woywodt A, Matteson E. Should eponyms be abandoned? Yes. BMJ 2007;335:424 (1 September.) [PMC free article] [PubMed]
2. Whitworth JA. Should eponyms be abandoned? No. BMJ 2007;335:425 (1 September.) [PMC free article] [PubMed]

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