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Just Use Your Words

19 September 2012 #

It is becoming increasingly plausible that I have a partially torn miniscus in my left knee. The unusual, difficult to place pain, the occasional painful popping and "catching" in the joint, the frequent unprompted discomfort.. I run into people on a regular basis playing soccer - any number of recent collisions could damage a ligament.

But the ligament is not the issue.

The issue is the reluctance to call it what it is - the orthopedic sugeon dictated "possible meniscus irregularity" into his recorder. The physical therapist opted for the cautious "possibility of some miniscus involvement." Having already been primed, I pressed a bit: "A torn miniscus, you mean?" "Yes, a partial tear."

Come on guys, I'm not going to die of a torn miniscus. The upper bound on recovery from a miniscus repair is 4 months, and I'm 26 - it would likely take less than that. Surely they don't expect me to break down crying right there in the office when confronted with the news..

Why am I writing about this harmless, albeit frustrating, experience? I do have a reason: it reminded me of a great piece The Economist ran on the subject of "euphemisms" last December. It is particularly relevant in the current political climate, especially the very last section titled "Little white lies."

The piece ends with a call to abandon euphemisms for a day. I highly recommend this exercise, having lived it long before this article was published. You'll piss some people off, but at least they (and you) will know where you stand.