I'm always glad to hear from a colleague, and such was the case last week when a classmate of mine from veterinary school called me up. I hadn't seen him since graduation. This isn't unusual, because my attendance at class reunions and homecomings would have to improve greatly just to be bad.
"Mike," he said. "It's that silly column you write. There's a subject that you ought to address, but I just never seem to have time to get in touch. Even today, we're having a campout, but I decided to call anyway."
"Hold it, Vern. You lost me already. What do you mean you're having a campout?"
"Oh, that's a term we use in my office, Mike. Rough days are called campouts because they're in tents."
"They're intense? I get it, Vern. You always did have a way with words. What is it that you want me to write about?"
"Like I was saying, Mike, right in the middle of the campout, my receptionist informed me that my next patient would be hard to handle—a real circus dog."
"Stop the music again, Vern. You keep going too fast for me. What do you mean by circus dog?"
"That's another one of our hospital code words. It means that the dog is vicious."
"I don't get it."
"The pooch will go right for the juggler."
"OK, Vern, I'm with you so far. Now, what would be important enough to tear you away from a circus dog at a campout and compel you to call me? If you had a morsel of free time, I'd have thought that you'd use it to make up silly new hospital terms."
"That's just the point, Mike. Every hospital creates their own in-house jargon. We should be sharing it. Don't you have examples from your hospital?"
I had to admit that we often speak our own private language in my office. For example, a technician might come to me and say, "The Smith Kool-Aid cat is at high tide, but there are no whales on the beach."
This simply means that the Smiths' cat, who happens to be suffering from anemia, is urinating OK, but there are no stools in the litter pan. (We call anemic patients Kool-Aids because I tell clients that their pet's blood is supposed to look like tomato juice, but instead it more closely resembles Kool-Aid.)
"That's exactly the type of thing I'm talking about," said Vern. "We veterinarians have a language all our own. We should ask our colleagues to send in examples, and see what sort of clever responses we get."
I told him to consider it done and now I invite you to send your veterinary clinic's made-up terms and phrases to firstname.lastname@example.org
. Vern's call reminded me that it's been a year since I told you that my friend, Arnie, was already working on a new veterinary medical dictionary. Here are some recent additions:
Mr. Clean: This is a Q-Tip with no cotton on the end. These are not commonly encountered unless you have a nasty cat in one hand and your last available Q-Tip in the other. It becomes problematic when you put a normal applicator into some orifice of the cat and a Mr. Clean comes out.
Can'ticillin: This is the small amount of antibiotic that's too little to shake up and draw from the bottle but too much to throw away. As your practice becomes more successful, a larger amount of can'ticillin disposal becomes acceptable.
Kilimanjaro: This is the large pucker of skin that occurs at the ends of large irregular incisions. If you cut the extra skin away, the incision length quadruples.
Hemastuff: This is the blackish grunge that forms in the little grooves of a hemostat. Just as the steam sterilization indicator tells you that proper autoclaving has been accomplished, the presence of hemastuff indicates that someone on your staff is getting lazy. In my practice, it means that the technician was off the previous day, and the doctor was supposed to clean the instruments.
Yesterday, I called Arnie to ask if he had any more veterinary terms for me.
"I'm just too busy and tired to even think about that now, Mike," he said. "I'm exhaustipated."
This is, of course, the term to use when you're too tired to give a poop.
Dr. Michael Obenski owns Allentown Clinic for Cats in Allentown, Pa.