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April 8, 1974

Thumbing Noses at Prognoses

JAMA. 1974;228(2):204. doi:10.1001/jama.1974.03230270048029

In an all-out attack on the despoilers of the American language, the 1970 Pulitzer Prize winner for literature Jeanne Stafford makes the following statement:1

The prognosis for the ailing language is not good... I fear that it will be assailed by countless cerebral accidents and massive strokes and gross insults to the brain and finally will no longer be able to sit up in bed and take nourishment by mouth.

Clearly, cerebral accidents, asthenia, and malnutrition are medical problems—indeed they call for the creation of a new specialty.

Can doctors help the ailing language? It may be comforting to know they have done so already in one instance. The familiar "Winston tastes good like a cigarette should" with its follow-up "What do you want, good grammar or good taste?"—a combination, that Miss Stafford finds singularly distasteful, even sadistic [sic!], because it equates taste as flavor with taste as discernment—have