Fillers When I use a word

A medical alphabet

BMJ 2000; 321 doi: (Published 23 December 2000) Cite this as: BMJ 2000;321:1598
  1. Jeff Aronson, clinical pharmacologist
  1. Oxford

In the 1720s Jonathan Swift was challenged to the game of combining all the letters of the Greek alphabet with the word “guinea.” He rose to the challenge, using excruciating puns, slang, and hidden words; for example:

α: half a guinea;

κ: I cap a guinea;

σ: I seek my guinea.

Thus was born the first comic phonetic alphabet. However, the idea didn't really catch on until the variety duo Clapham and Dwyer produced an English comic alphabet, which they popularised in the 1930s and later recorded as “The Surrealist Alphabet.” It is still quite well known: A for ‘orses, B for mutton, C for thighlanders, and so on. In Comic Alphabets (Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1961) Eric Partridge described in detail such alphabets and their development, writing that their “origin lies in the pleasure mankind takes in playing about with words. The manner … ranges from the naïvely and almost moronically humorous, through the ingenious, to the genuinely witty…. At its worst, the comic phonetic alphabet descends to the nadir of wit, the merely ingenious, the horribly tortured pun. Yet here, as elsewhere, the pun may be truly witty.” In that spirit, I have composed a comic phonetic medical alphabet.

  • A for a disiac

  • B for blockers; B for variant CJD?

  • C for lytic

  • D for Kate; D for ENT ducts

  • E for anaesthesia; E for ENT arterioles

  • F for fescent tablets; F for moterol

  • G for surgery (a US title)

  • H for scratching

  • I for thyroidism; I for mectin

  • J Forensic Sci

  • K for scoliosis; K for the community

  • L for interferon

  • M for zema; M for tericin B

  • N for a red; N for a mammary

  • O for ectomy; O for treatment

  • P for urinalysis

  • Q for cancer; Q for outpatients

  • R for tablet bd

  • S for gillus fumigatus

  • T for dentures

  • U for cough

  • V for voce examination

  • W for your merit award (a dangerous gamble)

  • X for in vitro fertilisation

  • Y for job? (the doctor's dilemma)

  • Z for de doctor (I'be got a code iddy doze)

Any other suggestions?

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