Intended for healthcare professionals


“The Q word”

BMJ 2009; 338 doi: (Published 03 June 2009) Cite this as: BMJ 2009;338:b1286
  1. David Warriner, core medical trainee year 1 in diabetes, Northern General Hospital, Sheffield
  1. orange_cyclist{at}

    Hell hath no fury like a nurse having heard “My, isn’t it quiet today,” usually by a doctor. According to healthcare folklore, its incantation will provoke the “shift from hell.” Being a man of science, not superstition, I can see no reason why the phrase should have a malign influence over the workload of staff. I have had the audacity (read misfortune) to use the word on a variety of occasions, and it has never caused the sky to fall in, the earth to open up, or any reversal of fortune.

    However, this Freudian slip will instantly single you out as an amateur, turn all your professional relationships sour, and lead to a volley of verbal reprimands from all within earshot. May I suggest fans of “the Q word” should instead use “somnambulistic”—it means the same thing, you will undoubtedly be congratulated on your verbosity, and, because no one will understand what it means, you can say it with much aplomb and without fear of retribution.


    Cite this as: BMJ 2009;338:b1286

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