aefenglommung (aefenglommung) wrote,

Medice, medice, dona mihi nuntium

(Tr: Doctor, doctor, give me the news)

I was visiting a patient in the hospital today. His nurse and one of his doctors were there at the same time. They were talking about something, and the nurse referred to a body part she pronounced something like "quadiaquina," where "quadia-" rhymes with Claudia and "-quina" has a long I, as in Quinine. I was mystified. It didn't sound like any kind of term in any kind of language I had ever encountered.

In explaining it to the patient and family, she drew a picture of a bundle of nerves at the end of the spinal column. She labeled it and pronounced it carefully as two words, "quadia uh-quina." But I had already translated it as "horse's tail" as soon as I saw it written. It was in Latin, cauda equina. Now, I would have pronounced that "COW-da EH-quin-a," with a short I as in Quint. But then, I actually took Latin in high school. I'm sure the nurse has only encountered Latin terms in anatomy class, where things probably get pronounced any which way.

The doctor, by the way, pronounced the term more or less the same way. But then, he was of some South Asian ethnicity, and his accent, though not pronounced, was obviously not formed by speaking English, let alone Latin. His grasp of idiom could use some work, too; twice, he said that we had to take a particular datum "with a salt of grain." So, he's not going to correct some Hoosier's pronunciation of Latin.

I'm not trying to be a snob, here. I'm just amazed that anybody manages to communicate the right thing, particularly in such critical care venues, when they mangle the words so. Or is there some special "medical Latin" pronunciation that goes along with the illegible-to-outsiders prescription handwriting code?

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