Intended for healthcare professionals

Fillers When I use a word

Balancing benefits and harms in health care

BMJ 2004; 329 doi: (Published 01 July 2004) Cite this as: BMJ 2004;329:30
  1. Jeff Aronson, clinical pharmacologist
  1. Oxford

    Some drugs yield more than one benefit. For instance, β blockers have antihypertensive, antianginal, and antiarrhythmic effects. They also have more than one adverse effect. So we can talk about their benefits and harms. It's all to do with how you count.

    The Danish philologist Otto Jespersen expounded the concept of count and non-count nouns in an unpublished lecture to the Copenhagen Academy of Sciences in 1911. As he explained in The Philosophy of Grammar (1924), you can form plurals if you can collect two things alike. For example, two bananas (two of the same thing). Or two fruits, an apple and an orange (two of the same kind). But we have no plural word for a journal plus a stethoscope, except to call them …

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