1. Powell, Suzanne K.

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Journals have funny (well[horizontal ellipsis]inconvenient) due dates. For example, I am writing this editorial for the first issue of 2009 in the beginning of September 2008. This puts me at a disadvantage: there will be a new president in office before you receive this issue, and the ramifications of the election and the "bail out" will certainly be visible by then. So to play it safe, I am going to choose a topic that is important to all healthcare workers-Communication-but with a "twist." I certainly do not know what the healthcare events will be in January 2009, and because one of our CE articles in this issue is about humor and case management, our discussion today is about humor during trying times-and may be tinged with a bit of irreverent humor about our native tongue.


Many healthcare workers use humor to dissipate some of the seriousness we deal with each day, and "Sheriff Craig" discusses that in this issue (Hitch Up Your Humor Suspenders, Case Managers, pp. 18-29). Like many people, I find that even the saddest happenstances can be softened with humor. When my favorite aunt died after a long battle with Alzheimer's disease, the family met in Chicago for the funeral. Many were from out of state, but the Chicago family and friends brought in enough food for the proverbial army. One favorite was the potato salad[horizontal ellipsis] and there was plenty of it. Family and visitors heaped it on with every meal. After the second day, someone noticed that the bowl seemed to be almost as full as when it arrived. A few comments were made and more potato salad was heaped onto plates throughout the day.


That evening I was caught. My niece saw me stuffing bagels at the bottom of the bowl and fluffing it up to make it look full. When my brother spooned out a thinning layer of "real" potato salad and hit a bagel, my rascal shenanigan was up. Without too much pressure, my niece gave me up. It was a wonderful scene of laughter, but it did not end there. For weeks after, bagels were mailed to me anonymously from all regions of the United States. I finally put out an APB (all-points bulletin) to "cease and desist" the bagel brigade, as the Arizona bunnies and birds were getting fat!!


Now for the irreverent jab at the English language. It is difficult and quirky, and therefore, fair game for humor-related fun. However, it is imperative that healthcare workers also exhibit "linguistic competence," and this editorial is not to diminish the importance of linguistic competence and communicating in a clear, education-appropriate manner. According to the U.S. Department of Health Services, the Office of Minority Health, "cultural and linguistic competence" in health is a set of congruent behaviors, attitudes, and policies that come together in a system or among professionals that enable effective work in cross-cultural situations (U.S. Department of Health Services, the Office of Minority Health, 2008).


That being said, sometimes humor occurs from natural (at least unintentional) causes. It is difficult to know whether the following were typographical errors or exhaustion- or stress-related or anatomically incorrect medical terminology, but they are fun. They are actual medical documentation gathered by an unknown source, but likely a professional who can laugh at himself or herself. The first few demonstrate how important word order is when documenting medical events, and it goes downhill from there!!


The baby was delivered, the cord clamped and cut and handed to the pediatrician, who breathed and cried immediately.


M.D. at bedside attempting to urinate. Unsuccessful.


Examination reveals a well-developed man lying in bed with his family in no distress.


She stated that she had been constipated most of her life until 1989, when she got a divorce.


When she fainted, her eyes rolled around the room.


Examination of genitalia reveals that he is circus-sized. (And, surely someone who is related) Examination of genitalia was completely negative except for the right foot.


Both breasts are equal and reactive to light and accommodation.


Rectal examination revealed a normal-sized thyroid.


Discharge status: alive, but without permission.


Enough of medical documentation bashing, and-after all-we do have noses that run and feet that smell. We know that in healthcare-and often in life-communication is the key to opening all doors-or closing them. However, I have come to the conclusion that it is a wonder that if English speakers since birth cannot understand our language, let alone layering medical terms on top, how can those who have English as a second language understand all the intricacies with all of the "exceptions" we have in our daily speech? Just to hammer the communication point home, this is part of a Dr. Seuss-style rhyme sent to me recently. I do not know who the author is; either someone with too much time on his or her hands, or a very clever person.


We'll begin with a box, and the plural is boxes,


but the plural of ox became oxen not oxes.


One fowl is a goose, but two are called geese,


yet the plural of moose should never be meese.


You may find a lone mouse or a nest full of mice,


yet the plural of house is houses, not hice.


If the plural of man is always called men,


why shouldn't the plural of pan be called pen?


If I spoke of my foot and show you my feet,


and I give you a boot, would a pair be called beet?


If one is a tooth and a whole set are teeth,


why shouldn't the plural of booth be called beeth?


Then one may be that, and three would be those,


yet hat in the plural would never be hose,


and the plural of cat is cats, not cose.


We speak of a brother and also of brethren,


but though we say mother, we never say methren.


Then the masculine pronouns are he, his and him,


but imagine the feminine, she, shis and shim.


Our language is difficult and probably flawed. Clear and concise communication with our clients and stakeholders is essential. But the golden truth is that the English language provides us with opportunities to laugh-at ourselves and with others. So, laugh at me!! Laugh at you!! Laugh loudly and as often as you can. It is my perception that the ability to evoke and enjoy humor, even in the toughest of times, is the hallmark of an advanced soul. So grab a cuppa of java or tea, B*R*E*A*T*H out the stresses of your "now," and enjoy reading about humor in this issue.




U.S. Department of Health Services, the Office of Minority Health. Retrieved September 6, 2008, from [Context Link]