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July 20, 1984

The Language of Medicine: Its Evolution, Structure, and Dynamics

Author Affiliations

American Medical Association Chicago

JAMA. 1984;252(3):422. doi:10.1001/jama.1984.03350030080029

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As its subtitle implies, The Language of Medicine deals with the linguistic history of medical language; its principles, forms, and constituent parts; and the way it works, or, frequently, does not work. Dr Dirckx considers his book not exhaustive, but rather a "sampling." Most of us, who take our language for granted, will find this work an eye-opening education and acquaintanceship with "the language of medical English."

Every physician who reads or writes on subjects medical will want to read, and probably own, this work. It is eminently entertaining and well written, full of fascinating derivations (most accessible through the almost 600-entry "words and phrases" index), and is a first step toward the lost art of good writing, which begins with understanding.

The work commences with a brief history of English, before zeroing in on medical language. One begins to appreciate what an amalgam medical language is, of original, adopted,