Education: A Pox on Medicant

To many doctors, a headache is "cephalalgia." Itching is "pruritus." Swallowing is "deglutition." Professionals tend to view such words as tools of the trade and an aid to precise speech. But Lois DeBakey, a professor of scientific communication at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, thinks that technical jargon not only alienates patients but masks fuzzy thinking.

In seminars and with a traveling lecture entitled "Please, Doctor, Watch Your Language," DeBakey (sister of Heart Surgeon Michael DeBakey) campaigns against "medicant," her term for the linguistic disease that afflicts physicians. Lois and her sister Selma, who is also on the Baylor faculty, spoof...

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