In school we were taught to use certain words instead of certain other words. Avoid language used by the commoners, the unwashed masses. How else would clients know to respect us as doctors? And yet every day I see proof that our clients are just that stupid. They hear me say "cat" and "dog" left and right, and they still think I'm a doctor with advanced knowledge. I even go as far as to use words like "poop" instead of "feces," and still they are fooled, they ask my opinion, they listen to it. I come from a background in linguistics. There is more than one way to say many things and I try to remember to do this. Sometimes I catch myself talking in stereotypes and cliches, and feel disgusted. Often when I come home at night I have no energy or desire to use words, to write or to say anything. Then I wonder if my job is making me stupid and robbing me of the little imagination I have. On these nights I rent some movie and become a consumer of other people's language and ideas. It is so much easier to consume something ready-made than to create anything.
There are languages that contain tens, dozens of words for a seal: a seal moving in this or that direction, submerged in the water to this or that degree, in such-and-such position relative to the ice floes, with its nose pointing here or there, lit by a bright or dim or setting sun, and so on and so forth. This gets pretty elaborate. But I wonder if it leaves room for disagreement between two or more people as to which seal this one is. For the past three day I have been following a very frustrating case, one of those where most available in-house tests have been run or sent off, and still there is no answer. Throughout these three days I have been getting reports from the two owners. Comparing these reports gives the impression that two entirely different dogs are being observed; they just happen to look the same and bear the same name. Admittedly, this reflects on my own questioning ability or lack thereof. Tomorrow the dog is coming for a test that I hope will finally yield an answer. He is staying for a few hours for me to observe. Thus a third dog will be added to the first two. And maybe a fourth, if my boss has time to give me a second opinion :-) In the end I just want one dog and one working diagnosis and one course of treatment to follow.