Words

The unbearable inadequacy of language

BMJ 1996; 313 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.313.7072.1660 (Published 21 December 1996) Cite this as: BMJ 1996;313:1660
  1. Liam Farrell, general practitionera
  1. a Crossmaglen, County Armagh BT35 9HD

    James Thurber once lamented the existence of those things, actions, expressions, situations, etc, which exist but have not yet been named—for example, to try and avoid someone in the street by stepping to one side. Your adversary mirrors your movements and together you shuffle from side to side in a bizarre little dance, both desperately trying to get past the other. Eventually you extricate yourselves with an embarrassed smile and go on your way. Recognise the situation? There's no word for it.

    Medicine is particularly affected by this insufficiency of nomenclature, so we at the BMJ have decided to take urgent corrective action, and today we make a few suggestions of how these lost meanings could be usefully married to Irish place names, …

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