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Should eponyms be abandoned? No

BMJ 2007; 335 doi: (Published 30 August 2007) Cite this as: BMJ 2007;335:425

Re: Should eponyms be abandoned?


Blanket abandonment of eponyms cannot be successfully argued. Surely
the real question is whether medicalese (including e x c e s s i v e use
of eponyms) should be abandoned; or at least brought to heel.

The scholarly dandification of the English language by post-
renaissance travellers around the 16th and 17th centuries AD included the
absorbtion and reworking of a huge number of classical terms from greek
and latin. This represented an inversion of the hard-won earlier rejection
of latin as the exclusive language of knowledge and power, mediated at
that time through the clergy. As such, this new tendency (with flourishing
sciences such as medicine amongst the prime movers) was much criticized by
linguists of the day. However, it continued apace until English had once
again become a useful way of distinguishing educated from ignorant, and
rich from poor.

Language is a tool for communication. Corrupting its function for
reasons of smug scholarly vanity, professional protectionism or simple
laziness can hardly be of service to our patients, since it diminshes our
capacity to communicate with them and each other. If we believe in patient
-centred care, health empowerment or even just the resurgence of the
vernacular, then we must stop hiding behind our clever eponyms and
pseudoclassical tosh, and start saying what we mean.

Competing interests:
None declared

Competing interests: No competing interests

04 September 2007
David J Ogden
Consultant Psychiatrist
Fan Gorau Unit, Montgomery County Infirmary, Powys Local Health Board. Llanfair Road, Newtown SY16 2