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April 4, 1977

A Civil Tongue

Author Affiliations

American Medical Association Chicago


by Edwin Newman, 207 pp, $8.95, Indianapolis, Bobbs-Merrill, 1976.

JAMA. 1977;237(14):1496. doi:10.1001/jama.1977.03270410096042

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Edwin Newman admires the English language and deplores the way in which it is becoming transformed into "gelatinous verbiage." He hates the pompous jargon and meaningless verbal jumble that conceals the lack of thought. The same diseases of language have infected different professions and activities. Newman, with a sharp eye and sharper tongue, culls for us the inanities that pass for "communication" in government and university circles, learned professions, advertising pronouncements, news reporting, and everyday speech. He does not specifically pillory medicine, but the following is an example from the health professions. He notes that a rehabilitation hospital is "fostering interfamilial meaningful relationships with counselees recovering from cardial-vascular-pulmonary malfunctions." Is the style familiar?

Newman interweaves his examples with biting commentary and witty asides to produce a narrative both delightful and disturbing. Every physician should be compelled to read this book before he starts to write an article for publication. But