December 5, 2009

Hospital slang

Medical slang appears to be slowly dying out due to the discovery process in lawsuits, but it offered a rich lexicon when I first learned of it in the 1980s from a friend who worked in an emergency room. Here are some selections from Wikipedia's rather British-oriented list:
  • Agnostication - A substitute for prognostication. Term used to describe the usually vain attempt to answer the question: "How long have I got, doc?" [2]
  • ART - Assuming Room Temperature (dying)
  • ATS - Acute Thespian Syndrome (the patient is faking illness)
  • Bury the Hatchet - accidentally leaving a surgical instrument inside a patient [3]
  • CNS-QNS - Central Nervous System - Quantity Not Sufficient. [1]
  • DBI - Dirt Bag Index - multiply the number of tattoos by the number of missing teeth to give an estimate of the number of days since the patient last bathed. [1]
  • Dermaholiday - dermatology, considered to be a less-busy department. See rheumaholiday
  • Donorcycle - nursing slang for a motorcycle, so named due to the amount of head trauma associated with motorcycle accidents, but less so with the body, making the perfect candidate for organ donation[6]
  • GOMER - "get out of my emergency room" - a patient, usually poor or elderly, in the emergency room with a chronic, non-emergency condition. The name was popularized by Samuel Shem in his novel The House of God.[8]
  • GROLIES - Guardian Reader Of Low Intelligence in Ethnic Skirt. [1]
  • Hasselhoff - a term for any patient who shows up in the emergency room with an injury for which there is a bizarre explanation. Original Source: Baywatch actor David Hasselhoff, who hit his head on a chandelier while shaving. The broken glass severed four tendons and an artery in his right arm. [2]
  • Oligoneuronal meaning someone who is thick (not smart). [2]
  • Polybabydadic - The state of having illegitimate children by several fathers, known or unknown.[9]
  • Pumpkin positive refers to the idea that a person's brain is so tiny that a penlight shone into their mouth will make their empty head gleam like a Halloween pumpkin. [1][2]
  • Rear Admiral - a proctologist [3]
  • Status Hispanicus - An overly agitated Hispanic patient (often Caribbean, seldom Mexican) who cannot stop screaming about their condition without providing useful information. [10]
  • TEETH - tried everything else, try homeopathy.[1][5]
  • UBI - "Unexplained Beer Injury" [1][2][3][5]
  • Vitamin H - A Haldol injection, used in the ER setting to rapidly sedate patients (often already drunk or high) who display dangerous or destructive behavior that threatens the safety of hospital staff and other patients[11].

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer


Des Moines said...

There's a bunch of others that were missed:

Cleveland Steamer
Angry Dragon
Tony Danza
Jelly Donut
Chili Dog
Donkey Punch
Hot Karl
Rusty Trombone
Cincinnati Bowtie
Alabama Hot Pocket

And many, many more other ones.

Shining Wit said...

CTD == circling the drain, used of patients who are to die soon.

Stopped Clock said...

Code brown: Fecal incontinence emergency

Anonymous said...

Very funny list Steve. I really enjoyed the DBI (dirt bag index).

It snowed in Hunstville, Alabama today,,0,3231767.photogallery

I wonder if the people in Houston, Texas, a few miles off the Gulf of Mexico, enjoyed their snow as much as the folks way down in Bama' enjoyed theirs?

Damn that global warming, its freezing us to death!

BTW----I apologize, but I cannot resist. Roll Tide!! We are probably about the fifth best team in America, but I'd rather be lucky than good anyday. You can't coach against luck.

Anonymous said...

Why are the English so much more clever and witty than Americans and actually everybody else?

Have you ever written about this topic?

The English newspapers are so much more fun to read than American ones too.

Middletown Girl said...

Obamedics: Faith Healing by government.

agnostic said...

"Polybabydadic" -- omg best jargon ever!

Pam Maltzman said...

LOL. I've been doing medical transcription for over 20 years now, and I've never heard of most of those. But then again, I don't have anything to do with direct patient care. Most of the slang terms I encounter are like "appy" for either "appendicitis" or "appendectomy." The reports are supposed to be relatively impersonal and professional sounding.

Dennis Mangan said...

Frequent Flier: ER regular, esp. one seeking drugs.

kudzu bob said...

One of my favorites: Gork.

TGGP said...

I don't see many of those at maybe because us regular folk aren't supposed to hear them, even if we can hear the same attitude.

Anonymous said...

1. Non-Organic Failure to Thrive.

This is where some guys wife of 53 years dies and then he kicks the bucket a week later for no apparent reason.

2. Pill seekers

3. Note seekers

Anonymous said...

TMB = Too Many Birthdays (old)

Bill said...

CTD == circling the drain, used of patients who are to die soon.

Perhaps that one should be used in reference to all the money that gets dumped into the swollen health care industry here in the US.

I'd find a lot of this stuff a lot funnier if it weren't for the fact that doctors and health care workers swallow so much of our GNP.

nooffensebut said...

Axis II – patient with a personality disorder (a frequently cavalier label)
FC – f**ckin' crazy
ROAD to a comfortable lifestyle – radiology, ophthalmology, anesthesiology, & dermatology
The Cave – the dark abode of radiologists

Pathology terms based on food:
Currant jelly: postmortem blood clot
Chicken fat: postmortem blood clot
Sago spleen: miliary nodules
Sugar-coated spleen: perisplenitis
Bread and butter pericarditis: uremia
Chocolate cyst: endometriosis ovary
Swiss-cheese endometrium: cystic hyperplasia
Swiss-cheese liver: gas gangrene
Cream cheese: TB necrosis
Pumpkin orange: keratin, squamous cell carcinoma
Cherry-red macula: Tay-Sachs disease
Fried egg: oligondendroglioma cell
Pea-soup diarrhea: typhoid
Rice-water diarrhea: cholera
Anchovy-sauce pus: amoebic liver abscess
Jelly belly: pseudomyxoma peritonei
Coffee-bean nuclei: Brenner tumor
Jelly-bean inclusion: herpesvirus
Popcorn cell: R-S Hodgkin's disease
Sugar tumor lung: clear cell tumor
Salt and pepper nuclei: small-cell carcinoma lung
Unripe pear, breast cancer: gross consistency
Orange-peel skin: cancer of breast, skin metastasis
Oat-cell carcinoma: small-cell carcinoma lung
Grape vesicle: hydatidiform mole
Bread-loaf heart: gross dissection
Strawberry gall bladder: cholesterolosis
Strawberry tongue: scarlet fever
Strawberry hemangioma
Kidney-bean nucleus: histiocytes
Drumstick bodies: in neutrophils (Barr bodies)
Raisin-like nucleus: human papillomavirus
Onion-skin periosteal reaction: Ewing's sarcoma
Onion-skin periosteal reaction: syphilis
Nutmeg liver: chronic congestion
Apple-core lesion: radiograph of constrictive gastrointestinal (GI) lesion
Rice bodies: loose bodies, joint
Eggshell lesion (radiograph): calcific cavity
Lardaceous spleen
Cauliflower ear: cartilage degeneration
Cauliflower tumor: polypoid
Coffee-grounds vomitus: upper GI bleed
Fish-mouth stenosis: rheumatic heart valve
Chicken-broth fluid: pancreatitis
Port-wine stain: hemangioma
Milky effusion: chylous
Maple-syrup urine disease: aminoaciduria
Potato nodes: sarcoidosis
Apple-jelly lesions: lupus vulgaris
Blueberry muffin baby
Branny desquamation: scarlatina
Café-au-lait spots: neurofibromatosis
Coca-Cola urine: acute glomerulonephritis
Milk leg: phlegmasia alba dolens
Mulberry molars: congenital syphilis
Prune-belly syndrome
Sausage fingers: mixed connective tissue disease

CJ said...

Don't know much about professional medical slang, but I did some support work once for a medical school. There I learned two amusing if somewhat disturbing terms. First-year students were tutored by more senior students who assured them that "P=MD", meaning that all you really had to do was pass exams, not knock yourself out to approach 100%. As students progressed, those who were the clumsiest/klutziest at lab activities, dissections, et cetera were referred to as "007s", meaning that once graduated, they would be licensed to kill.

CJ said...

Don't know much about professional medical slang, but I did some support work once for a medical school. There I learned two amusing if somewhat disturbing terms. First-year students were tutored by more senior students who assured them that "P=MD", meaning that all you really had to do was pass exams, not knock yourself out to approach 100%. As students progressed, those who were the clumsiest/klutziest at lab activities, dissections, et cetera were referred to as "007s", meaning that once graduated, they would be licensed to kill.

Anonymous said...

UBI is a common cause of death among red necks; especially those who have been observed telling friends "hold my beer and watch this!"

Anonymous said...

This list appears to be inspired by that wonderful compendiun of modern British slang 'Roger's Thesaurus' published by the Viz* people, and available from Amazon.I highly recommend it for laugh out loud hmour, wit and biting sarcasm.
Is their an American equivalent?
On a more scholarly note Eric Partridge's very excellent 'Historical Slang' is also highly recommended - and is very educational in explaining Chaucer, Shakespeare, Sheridan etc.

*semi-pornographic,scatological, puerile British 'comic' aimed at adults.

Gilbert Ratchet said...

It's Roger's _Profanisaurus_, a list of "gutter filth," perhaps best seen as a British urban dictionary. You can see some entries (and offer your own) here:

(Some of them are indeed clever; most are just low)

SKT said...

I'm a doctor and I've never heard of most of those.

SKT said...

Going back over it, I've heard of "Vitamin H", but I actually read that in quotes in a textbook. I've never heard any doctor say "give so and so Vitamin H".

I haven't heard of "Dermaholiday", but I've heard of "Radiholiday". If as a medical student or resident you do a rotation in Radiology, there's literally nothing for you to do. You can go to the reading room and sit there from 8 to 5 each day, but no Radiologist is going to talk about cases for more than an hour or so. And it's pretty boring looking over someone's shoulder all day at black and white pictures of body parts. So most folks go in a few times during the month, and just stay at home the rest of the time. The Radiologists don't care if you come to the rotation or not.

This is totally different from how it works in clinical medicine, especially inpatient, and especially surgery. On Surgery, if you're not there from 6 a.m. until 6 p.m. each day, they will destroy you with savage evaluations (which are a big deal in medicine, you can't progress until you please whoever's rotation you were on). There's no calling in sick. There's no leaving a half hour early to get your car fixed, etc. Sometimes, they even pressure you not to use any of your holiday time.

Dutch Boy said...

I've worked in a hospital for 27 years and have only heard a few of these. Must be ER type humor (they deal with the dirtbags and bizarros more than the rest of us).The fun ones are the bloopers in the History & Physical section, stuff like: "Mr. SoandSo is a 76 yr old male who lives alone with his wife." The era of electronic medical records, pre-programmed phrases and copying and pasting of information promises much unintentional hilarity (and some danger to patients!).

Anonymous said...

Golf slang:

A Princess Grace: should have taken a driver.

A Princess Di: shouldn't have take a driver.

A Rodney King: overclubbed it.

DCS said...

When asked what syndrome could explain the patient's complaints, a desperate but creative intern came up with SIDK. (Shit, I don't know)
A doctor on trial for malpractice was asked to explain the meaning of his brief notation in the chart of a terminally ill patient: PBBB, which stands for Pine Box By Bedside.

dearieme said...

NFN = "Normal for Norfolk", a bearer of intellectual deficits associated with inbreeding. (A modernised version might suggest itself.)

Vain Saints said...

More from the Ambulance corps.


f***in' dead guy

josh said...

Note to self:re-think upcoming proctological exam. Possibly just increase fiber intake and hope for the best...

spacehabitats said...

"SQ" -- Squirrely Quotient.
That almost indefinable quality that some patients have of making the doctor feel vaguely uncomfortable. A patient with a high "SQ" will immediately and inexplicably give non-verbal signals (facial expressions, tone of voice, etc.)that everything the physician is doing or saying is inappropriate or suspicious.

Doctor (entering exam room): Nice weather we're having today isn't it?
Patient: I suppose you WOULD think that (said with rolled eyes and an edge of sarcasm).

As one of my mentors in family practice residency once told me, "If 15 seconds after you walk into the room you're feeling uncomfortable, ONE of you is crazy."

Anonymous said...

These are hilarious, but such slang is indeed disappearing. Ward humor generally is on the decline - although it will always be around in some form or another - because of two things:

1. As Steve suggests, the fear of lawsuits means that no physician with two neurons to rub together would write anything like this down. It's all discoverable, and the public just doesn't get why genuinely decent, caring, skilled people would talk this way. (If cops had to document everything they did to the same degree as physicians and nurses, cop jargon would die a quick death, too. People are idiots.)

2. The touchy-feely culture is in full bloom in medicine and related fields. This stops people from even making verbal comments because you never know who might be an Oprah wannabe who'll file a complaint. Part of it comes from the rise of women in medicine; women are generally less amused by this type of humor than men. Some women don't seem to understand that you can make jokes about something and yet still take it very seriously or that you can make fun of someone and still care about them and treat them with skill and compassion.

However, it's not just a male/female thing: Nurses used to be about the saltiest, bluntest and often funniest women you'd ever want to meet. But now, everyone is too worried about offending someone's sensibilities or seeming not to care about the patient that they're afraid to make as many morbid jokes

It's too bad, but there's no going back. Not even malpractice reform would reverse the trend because the underlying reason is not only legal but also related to the general trend toward a "softer" society.

Anonymous said...

FLK = funny looking kid

Anonymous said...

I just checked Viz where I find this definition:

sledge n. A bloke who is constantly pulled by dogs.

Now if thats not Tiger Woods...

Felix said...

1. Can someone please expand on “GROLIES - Guardian Reader Of Low Intelligence in Ethnic Skirt”. I’m unsure what sort of person this refers to.

2. Dennis Mangan said “Frequent Flier” is used to refer to ER regular, esp. one seeking drugs.

Various government agencies also use it in referring to people who regularly lodge predictable (and unfounded) claims or complaints.

3. As Anonymous said, fear of lawsuits means that no sensible physician will write anything like this any more.

True but unfortunate. Black humor helps keep your balance in a high stress situation, whether in hospitals or in the police force.

Just another way that liberal thinking is remaking the world in every more stoopid ways.

Anonymous said...

FLK with FLP

Funny looking kid with funny looking parents.

FITH syndrome: F..ked in the head syndrome.

Dropped his bundle. Became haemodynamically unstable.

Acopia. Can't cope.


Anonymous said...

'The Guardian' is an 'intellectual' British national daily newspaper, which rather like the NY Times has a strident aggressive, sanctimonious PC tone - and is very left-wing to boot.
Basically it's the in-house journal of the Labour Party.
In Britain it's readers are often satirized as being bearded, ex-hippy, yoghurt eating, tweed and sanadl wearing sanctimonious 'leftier than vow' schoolteacher types.
Rather like Obama's mom in fact.

Anonymous said...

"1. Can someone please expand on “GROLIES - Guardian Reader Of Low Intelligence in Ethnic Skirt”. I’m unsure what sort of person this refers to. "

The Guardian is the left wing broadsheet in England. A GROLIES is a stereotypical 'new age' homeopathic medicine using chattering class ex-hippy/communist.

Paul Mendez said...

I had a girlfriend who was a real estate appraiser. They had a bunch of acronyms they'd use to downgrade a house that the banks understood but were not readily understandable by the owner, who got to read the appraisal after all.

The only one I remember was "FPS" -- "Foreign People Smell."

Jim O said...

a few I like:
AGA - Acute Gravity Attack (pt. fell and will sue).
The House Red - blood.
Walmart Greeters - old pts.
WWI - Walking while intoxicated (breaking facial bones in the inevitable fall).
TSS - Toxic Sock Syndrome (homeless pt.)
Bunny Boiler - (hostile, wacky female pt. as in Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction)

Peter A said...

Why are the English so much more clever and witty than Americans and actually everybody else?

White Americans are dragged down by the high proportion of German, Scandivanian and Dutch genes in the US population. Smart, efficient - but also earnest and humorless. Compared to Brits that's a fair description of Americans. Notably Kiwis, Canadians and Australians - with much higher proportions of English ancestry than the US - are also more witty on a per capita basis than Americans.

Dutch Boy said...

Yo! Peter A: I resemble that remark. A tasteful combination of Dutch, German and Scandinavian, I have been cracking up my relatively humorless WASP spouse for years (no joking was done in her family).

pT said...

All you want right here: