Many articles have been published over the years documenting the colorful range of malapropisms uttered by patients, transcriptionists, and, even physicians. (1-7) Recently I discovered that children can dislocate medical language as well as the best of them.
I had just finished seeing a 4-year-old girl with dysuria who had a normal urinalysis and a mildly red introitus. When I told the child's mother that her daughter's urethra was irritated, the girl said, "It's not your rethra, it's my rethra."
After this encounter, I started asking children at routine visits to repeat medical phrases and was surprised at how many complicated words they pronounced well. On the other hand, a fair number of words and phrases were turned on their ears.
The table below contains malapropisms spoken by 3- to 5-year-old patients in my office. The column on the left shows what I said to the child. The center column indicates the child's response. In the third column, I added my own whimsical interpretation of the child's response.
(1.) Hale PN. Cheyanne strokes. N Engl J Med 1964; 271;161.
(2.) Palarea ER. Rare disease registry. N Engl J Med 1964; 271:476.
(3.) Rosenbloom AL. Serendipitous neologisms. Clin Pediatr 1972; 11:496-7.
(4.) Reid D. That's what you dictated, doctor! Med Econ 1973; 50(Oct 15):143.
(5.) Dirckx JH. Doctor, I'm (sic). Am J Dermatopathol 1992; 14:369-71.
(6.) Kenyon TM, Davis SW. Medical malapropisms: the sequin J Fam Pract 1995; 41:193-4.
(7.) Kartman A. More malapropisms. J Fam Pract 1995; 41:228.
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