What’s in a name?
- By: Oliver Ellis
Darling, idiot, pal, sir, scum. What we call people is important. Names, titles, and nicknames come loaded with ideas about relationships and status, duties and expectations.
There has been a bit of a movement to scrap the word “patient.” Proponents usually start by getting entangled in etymology: patient comes from the Latin “pati,” to endure. They argue that describing a patient simply as someone who suffers isn’t quite right for the modern autonomous health service user. But the history of words can be misleading: “doctor” comes from the Latin word for teacher; and “nurse” derives from “nutrix,” meaning a woman who breast feeds someone else’s child, a duty I’m pretty sure isn’t in the standard NHS contract. Few patients or healthcare professionals know the derivation of patient and far fewer care; any objecting linguists who present in clinic can surely be dealt with on a case by case basis.