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June 1966

Language and the Physician

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Surgery, Tulane University School of Medicine, New Orleans.

Arch Surg. 1966;92(6):964-972. doi:10.1001/archsurg.1966.01320240152034

STUDENTS of science often have a cavalier attitude toward instruction in use of the language, which they patronizingly and mistakenly label "English grammar." They seem to consider it beneath their professional dignity to study linguistics and composition. After all, they are going to be specialists. What do they need to know about the language that they have not already absorbed? They know the lingo, the cant, the jargon that marks them as an insider. But the average medical graduate fails to realize that for four years he has lived primarily among his own professional species and has had the sympathetic eyes and ears of his teachers, who already understand the ideas he wishes to convey. Once he emerges from the cloistered walls of the medical school and hospital, however, he will have to speak in the native tongue of those who do not understand medicine—in plain English. And he cannot

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