miércoles, 17 de diciembre de 2008

Un aporte de Gustavo Silva (Tremédica)



1. The bandage was wound around the wound.

2. The farm was used to produce produce.

3. The dump was so full that it had to refuse more refuse.

4. We must polish the Polish furniture.

5. He could lead if he would get the lead out.

6. The soldier decided to desert his dessert in the desert.

7. Since there is no time like the present, he thought it was time to
present the present.

8. A bass was painted on the head of the bass drum.

9. When shot at, the dove dove into the bushes.

10. I did not object to the object.

11. The insurance was invalid for the invalid.

12. There was a row among the oarsmen about how to row.

13. They were too close to the door to close it.

14. The buck does funny things when the does are present.

15. A seamstress and a sewer fell down into a sewer line.

16. To help with planting, the farmer taught his sow to sow.

17. The wind was too strong to wind the sail.

18. After a number of injections, my jaw got number.

19. Upon seeing the tear in the painting, I shed a tear.

20. I had to subject the subject to a series of tests.

21. How can I intimate this to my most intimate friend?

Let's face it--English is a crazy language. There is no egg in eggplant nor
ham in hamburger; and neither apple nor pine in pineapple.

English muffins weren't invented in England nor French-Fries in France.
Sweetmeats are candies while sweetbreads, which aren't sweet, are meat.

We take English for granted. But if we explore its paradoxes we find that
quicksand works slowly, boxing rings are square, and a guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig.

And why is it that writers write but fingers don't fing, grocers don't
groce and hammers don't ham?

If the plural of tooth is teeth, why isn't the plural of booth beeth? One
goose, 2 geese. So... one moose, 2 meese? One index, 2 indices?

Doesn't it seem crazy that you can make amends but not one amend, that you
can comb through the annals of history but not a single annal?

If you have a bunch of odds and ends and get rid of all but one of them,
what do you call it? If teachers taught, why didn't preachers praught? If a
vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat?

Sometimes I think that all the English speakers should be committed to an
asylum for the verbally insane. In what language do people recite at a play and
play ata recital?

Ship by truck and send cargo by ship? Let us drive on a parkway and park on
a driveway?

Have noses that run and feet that smell?

How can a slim chance and a fat chance be the same, while a wise man and a
wise guy are opposites?

You have to marvel at the unique lunacy of a language in which your house burns up as it burns down, in which you fill in a form by filling it out and in which an alarm goes off by going on.

English was invented by people, not computers, and it reflects the creativity of the human race (which, of course, isn't a race at all). That is why, when stars are out, they are visible, but when lights are out, they are invisible.

Pass this message on to everyone you know so that the gift of English can
be shared.

martes, 16 de diciembre de 2008

Artículo interesante

Excelente artículo publicado en EMOL de hoy.

A disfrutarlo:

Entrevista a Teun A. van Dijk:
"Chile no reconoce su racismo"

El destacado lingüista holandés y gran figura del análisis del discurso está de visita en Chile.


Teun van Dijk paseaba ayer por un mall viñamarino, y vio que en la publicidad sólo aparecían niños rubios. Luego se sorprendió al encontrar pocos de ellos en la calle. "Latinoamérica y Chile no reconocen su racismo, pero es igual que en Europa y EE.UU.", explica. El lingüista holandés, uno de los precursores del análisis crítico del discurso (que al estudiarlo se centra en las desigualdades sociales), publicó el año pasado el libro "Racismo y discurso en América Latina", en el que aborda cómo el lenguaje que usamos reproduce implícitamente estas ideas discriminatorias. Según él, el discurso está cargado de expresiones y estereotipos que, sin darnos cuenta, fomentan una actitud racista. Van Dijk está de visita en Chile para dar mañana una clase cerrada en la U. de Chile y luego en la U. Católica de Valparaíso.

-¿Por qué en Latinoamérica se reconoce menos el racismo?

"Como las diferencias acá no son tan grandes, éste se niega. Las elites simbólicas, las que manejan el discurso público, no se reconocen como racistas porque se tiene la idea de una historia mestiza. Pero los grupos indígenas y los venidos de África sí notan su marginación".

Van Dijk señala que las principales estrategias del lenguaje para reproducir y ejecutar el racismo son el realce de los aspectos negativos del segmento marginado y de los positivos del propio grupo, y la preferencia por ciertos temas. "De los mapuches, por ejemplo, se habla de su folclore, de su cocina y artesanía, pero como si fueran un otro extraño. Y si se habla de sus derechos y tierras, se los describe como criminales o terroristas", explica el lingüista.

-¿Por qué este análisis debe ser considerado científico, y no tan sólo político?

"Es un análisis científico propio de la lingüística moderna. Estudia las metáforas, palabras y otros aspectos del discurso, y demuestra que hay una relación sistemática entre cómo se habla de forma más positiva de nosotros como grupo de apariencia europea, que sobre los demás".

-¿En qué puede ayudar el análisis del discurso contra el racismo?

"Primero, para hacer a la gente más consciente de que está presente, y segundo, porque muestra los efectos que tiene el propio discurso y cómo controlando la selección de temas y palabras puedes dejar de fomentarlo".

Las últimas fotos

Más fotos

Más Fotos

Fotos Taller de Traducción en B. Aires

martes, 9 de diciembre de 2008

Taller de Traducción en Buenos Aires

Este 6 y 7 de diciembre participé en el Taller de Traducción Médica dictado por Fernando Navarro.

Fue una excelente experiencia conocer a nuestro máximo referente.

Todos quienes asistieron concordaron en el alto nivel de los temas y ejemplos tratados, lo ameno del taller y lo rápido que se pasaba el tiempo.

Felicitaciones a Aurora Humarán por la fabulosa organización del evento.

miércoles, 3 de diciembre de 2008

Un hilarante decálogo médico

Top Ten Reasons for Becoming an Anesthesiologist

10. You can intubate your friends at parties.

9. Have you ever met a happy internist?

8. You don't have enough ego hypertrophy to be a surgeon.

7. You can comfort anxious patients with, "I know just how you feel. It's my first anesthetic, too."

6. Any job where you can drive to work in green pajamas is a cool job.

5. You can park next to rich doctors like opthalmologists.

4. You can cover your mistakes with Versed.

3. After spending the night with surgeons, they still won't respect you in the morning.

2. If you get bored on the weekends, you can give yourself a spinal.

1. No office, no overhead, no rectal exams!!!

Frases graciosas

These are all GENUINE replies from patients asked why they needed an ambulance to and from hospital...

=> I am under the doctor and cannot breathe.
=> I can't walk to the bus stop and my wife is bent.
=> I can't breathe and haven't done so for many years.
=> I want transport as bus drivers do funny things to me and make me feel queer.
=> I am blind in one eye and my leg.
=> I live five miles from the hospital and the postman says I should have it.
=> I have got arthritis and heart failure in both feet and knees.
=> I must have a man as I cannot go out or do up my suspenders.
=> I cannot walk up a hill unless it is down and the hill to the hospital is up.
=> My husband is dead and will not bring me.
=> I cannot drive a car as I have not got one.
=> I hope you will send a man as my husband is quite useless.
=> I can come at any time to suit you, but not mornings as I don't feel too good. I can't come on Mondays or Wednesdays as the home help comes, and not on Fridays as the baker calls for his money. I can't come on Tuesdays as my sister calls.

Frases reales observadas en fichas médicas

Actual Notes on Medical Charts

1. She has no rigors or shaking chills , but her husband states she was very hot in bed last night.

2. Patient has chest pain if she lies on her left side for over a year.

3. On the second day the knee was better, and on the third day it disappeared.

4. The patient is tearful and crying constantly. She also appears to be depressed.

5. The patient has been depressed since she began seeing me in 1993.

6. Discharge status: Alive but without my permission.

7. Healthy appearing decrepit 69 year old male, mentally alert but forgetful.

8. The patient refused autopsy.

9. The patient has no previous history of suicides.

10. Patient has left white blood cells at another hospital.

11. Patient's medical history has been remarkably insignificant with only a 40 pound weight gain in the past three days.

12. Patient had waffles for breakfast and anorexia for lunch.

13. She is numb from her toes down.

14. While in ER, she was examined, x-rated and sent home.

15. The skin was moist and dry.

16. Occasional, constant infrequent headaches.

17. Patient was alert and unresponsive.

18. Rectal examination revealed a normal size thyroid.

19. She stated that she had been constipated for most of her life, until she got a divorce.

20. I saw your patient today, who is still under our car for physical therapy.

21. Both breasts are equal and reactive to light and accommodation.

22. Examination of genitalia reveals that he is circus sized.

23. The lab test indicated abnormal lover function.

24. The patient was to have a bowel resection. However, he took a job as a stock broker instead.

25. Skin: somewhat pale but present.

26. The pelvic exam will be done later on the floor.

27. Patient was seen in consultation by Dr. Blank, who felt we should sit on the abdomen and I agree.

28. Large brown stool ambulating in the hall.

29. Patient has two teenage children, but no other abnormalities.

sábado, 15 de noviembre de 2008

Nueva edición de excelente libro chileno

14 de Noviembre de 2008 (El Mostrador)

Glosario del amor Chileno estrena tercera edición ilustrada

Letras carnales

La única enciclopedia de garabatos y coprolalia chilena comenzó a escribirse en Europa entre los exiliados que deliraban con volver, allá por los años 70. Con un poco de antropología y humor en serio, este libro hecho por un grupo de viejos amigotes encabezados por Radomiro Spotorno profundiza en nuestra doble moral y en el mestizaje, que explica el tono y significado de las groserías locales. Ojo: las mujeres son las que más lo compran.

Por Felipe Saleh

En una casa enorme en la villa Les Glycines en Châtenay Malabry, una comuna de 30 mil habitantes en los alrededores de París "siempre había onda, era rico llegar ahí, ellos estaban con sus ‘palomas' como les decían", cuenta Radomiro Spotorno. Los dueños de casa eran los Jaivas y sus familias completas. Fue Claudio Parra, percusionista y teclados en el grupo y además poeta, el que empezó a escribir una lista de chuchadas. La nómina se fue llenando con aportes de todos los que pasaban por el departamento de Spotorno en Madrid. "Una vez estuvimos catorce personas durmiendo en mi casa", dice.

De esa época vienen expresiones en honor a fármacos setenteros como catrenal o cachiaspirina. Para la primera edición el autor tuvo a su disposición la abundante bibliografía disponible en la biblioteca de la Real Academia Española, donde trabajó a sus anchas. Además la influencia directa del Nobel Camilo José Cela, experto en malas palabras. Desde su puesto en el sillón Q de la academia Cela consiguió que la palabra "coño", del latín cûnnus, entrara en el diccionario oficial. "Con Cela nos carteamos un par de veces, le mandé un ejemplar y me pidió dos más", cuenta Spotorno. La conexión del chileno con el autor del "Diccionario Secreto" muestra el estilo serio del libro, que explica la etimología de los nombres nacionales del pene como el de el Bill Gates, afirmando que el órgano reproductor masculino se parece al dueño de Microsoft porque es "inmensamente rico".

Nacionalismo sexual

Precisamente las mujeres, según cifras aportadas por el autor, son las que más compran el Glosario. El miércoles Spotorno se pasó la tarde en el stand de la Sociedad de Escritores de Chile donde se vende el libro: "Sé que el día de la mujer es bueno para la venta" dice. Aunque no revela el nombre, asegura que una multinacional le ofreció imprimir la tercera edición. Seguro que el material por si solo se vende, en esta nueva versión que incluye sobre más de dos mil palabras entre groserías y metáforas para describir a "la dama, el varón y a los homosexuales", Spotorno siguió trabajando con sus amigos.

Todos los lunes durante varios meses Gustavo "Grillo" Mujica, el editor, y Andrés Gana pintor a cargo de las ilustraciones, se juntaron a trabajar en esta edición disponible desde septiembre. Mujica es el presidente de la "Academia Chilena de la Lenguita", una sociedad semisecreta que se formó entre los exiliados en Europa y que elaboró en conjunto la primera edición del libro.

Esta vez, cerca de un 20 por ciento de las nuevas expresiones las aporta el programa de radio de Roberto Artiagoitía, el Rumpy. Así se explican en detalle el significado de un champañazo, la conferencia de prensa, y la escala de "grados" que rodean al coito.

Otra fuente fresca para palabras nuevas fue Internet. Aquí Spotorno exploró hasta en sitios de otros países latinoamericanos. El autor es de otra época, le teme al Sida y no le gusta ver jóvenes preocupados de las marcas de ropa. Por eso su visión tiene un aire de pesimismo: "El intercambio de información es tan brutal, todo el mundo está interconectado, y se van a ir perdiendo las formas especificas chilenas. En un futuro no muy remoto, hablaremos todos más o menos parecido, como la pesadilla de la comida rápida donde una hamburguesa es igual a seis mil kilómetros de distancia", dice.


El resto de los países en Latinoamérica tiene su propio registro de garabatos "porque son parte de las cosas que nos definen en forma exclusiva y excluyente", señala el autor. Por eso algunos de los nuevos términos hablan del país más globalizado en que vivimos, pero también de nuestra naturaleza más profunda.

Entre las nuevas inclusiones hay palabras españolas como guarra, cachondo y follar, esta última cada vez más usada justamente porque no es nuestra, no tiene la misma carga que culear y por eso se puede decir con comodidad. También funciona pussy, anglicismo para hablar de la vagina. Además se incluyen expresiones relativas al sexo chistosas, pero no necesariamente groseras. El libro, estructurado como un diccionario, se detiene a profundizar en la doble moral que contiene la lexicografía chilena y en el mestizaje que ayuda a definirla.

El mestizo ama a su madre pero también odia la sexualidad femenina que se le niega, sobre todo la de las mujeres a las que no puede acceder. Según el prólogo "gran parte de las palabras que nominan el genital masculino evocan objetos hirientes, desde la más utilizada pico, hasta otras expresiones como el entierro o pasar por las armas para referirse a la relación sexual. Por su lado lo femenino para los hombres aparece como algo oculto o temible, la araña peluda es un ejemplo.

El doble estándar nacional, donde se constata una apariencia conservadora que a la vez alberga ciudades con la más alta concentración de moteles, Spotorno la explica apuntando al "conflicto histórico entre la moral sexual indígena, gozosa y desprovista de sanción moral, y la concepción judeo cristiana antigenital y culposa, que se ha resuelto no por un enfrentamiento abierto que diera lugar a una síntesis, sino por el equívoco camino de la doble moral. Y la doble moral acarrea fatalmente la aparición del doble lenguaje".

Algunos términos escogidos al azar del diccionario

Campeona de natación: Eufemismo para designar a una mujer sin nada de tetas y nada de culo

Ají en los ojos: Mujer muy ardiente, expresión que completa reza: "No te suelta el pico ni aunque le tires ají en los ojos".

Comunacha: Proclive al sexo. Es acrónimo defectuoso de una frase que completa rezaría "es como un hacha para el pico" en cruce con comunacha, manera despectiva de referirse a una mujer simpatizante del Partido Comunista

Zapato de finao: Dícese del varón que no pisa nunca, como los zapatos que calzan los muertos

Empotarse: Tener fijación con algo o alguien que proporciona gusto o placer, de poto, culo.

Te zapatea el chico:
gruesa expresión que alude a estar prendado de alguien que al verle se llega a sufrir leves contracciones reflejas en el anillo anal, causadas por la emoción.

Tirar: Caricias de intimidad, aunque sin llegar al acto sexual. De uso en ambientes juveniles. Pero como en ambientes adultos equivale a fornicar sin más, se pueden producir graves equívocos en el diálogo filial. Si la hija dice "pero papá si sólo estábamos tirando con el Pablo", el padre puede sumirse en angustiosas cavilaciones sobre lo que es capaz de hacer su niña.

Se cayó el sistema: Cuando en el momento preciso no resulta la relación sexual. Es aplicación extensiva de un término del universo computacional, que alude al bloqueo imprevisto de un computador o una red. Vocabulario del Rumpy.

Soltar el mono: Aceptar la mujer los requerimientos del hombre. El mono es el aparato sexual femenino al que se deja en alegre libertad para que cumpla su conocido objetivo.

El viejo del bote: Pene. Se llamaría así porque es el que se sube a la canoa, vagina.

El bigote de Hitler: Vello púbico afeitado con la forma del ridículo bigotillo del cabo vienés.

Tía comunista: La regla. Seguramente por ser el rojo color emblemático de los comunistas.

Nuca de fonda: El que es víctima no sólo de engaños reiterados de sus parejas sino simultáneos y múltiples, tanto como los asistentes a una fonda en dieciocho.

Kenazo: Dícese de la acción de dejar plantado a alguien con alevosía y solemnidad. Del nombre de la modelo María Eugenia Larraín que dejó plantado al célebre futbolista Iván Zamorano, pocos días antes de "La Boda del Año".

Techecas: Vésrrico de cachetes.

Coser a mano: Masturbarse el varón. Esta expresión destaca el aspecto artesanal de la práctica.

Entretener el delfín: Hacer el amor, donde el delfín sería el falo, es señalamiento óptimo por lo robusto y graciosos que son estos mamíferos.

Guardar la limosina: Cópula, en metáfora automotriz de optimo señalamiento.

Contar billetes: Meter los dedos pulgar e índice en el ano y la vagina respectivamente o también a la inversa, y moverlos como quien mima el gesto de contar billetes.

A pilas y a corriente: Bisexual.

Polola con bigotes: se dice de la pareja masculina no asumida de un hombre.

jueves, 13 de noviembre de 2008

Lenguaje de "fármacos"

Todos nos hemos encontrado con nombres de medicamentos difíciles de pronunciar que ponen en aprietos al momento de pedirlos en una farmacia.

Otros se prestan para equivocaciones que invitan a la risa.

Por ejemplo, aquella persona que le pidió al dependiente:

"Deme por favor un DORMILIN y un TRIBILIN"

cuando lo que quería era DORMONID y LIMBATRILIN.

Esto ocurre en todo el mundo.

Como muestra, les entrego a continuación un artículo de El Mercurio sobre el tema en España:

Labor de traducción:

Los remedios que traban la lengua

Libro español recoge las cómicas confusiones de los clientes al pedir medicamentos en la farmacia.


Pedir aspirinas fluorescentes, por efervescentes; calmantes contaminados, en lugar de vitaminados, o "Piterpán" por Primperan, son algunas de las "traducciones" que diariamente deben hacer los farmacéuticos ante las peticiones de sus clientes.

Carlos García Costoya, periodista español, se dedicó a recopilar los más variados ejemplos en su libro "Anécdotas de farmacéuticos. ¿Turno de guardia o en guardia?". Asegura que estas situaciones, casi inverosímiles, no son leyendas urbanas españolas.

Destacan peticiones como "supositorios de nitroglicerina" en vez de glicerina, o "agua exagerada" en vez de oxigenada, o incluso la de un hombre que pidió unos profiteroles en vez de profilácticos.

El libro también repasa la forma de presentación confusa de los medicamentos. Por ejemplo, una mujer se quejó con el farmacéutico de que su médico casi la echó de la consulta por pedir "sexooral" por una receta de Seroxat. O el suero fisiológico solicitado como suero morfológico o suero psicológico, o los "anillos de los Nibelungos" en vez de anillos vaginales Nuvaring.

Y no faltan los estrafalarios: "He oído en la tele lo del 'tikis mikis' -por el parásito anisakis- del pescado, y quiero algo para fumigarlo y podernos comer el pescado fresco".

Diferencias entre el Inglés y el Español

A continuación les entrego un excelente artículo de Beltrán Mena que hallé en El Mercurio.

Ojalá lo aprovechen, disfruten y comenten


On /off


Uno tiende a pensar que las diferencias entre el inglés y el castellano influyen sobre nuestra respectiva visión del mundo.

Los famosos verbos ser y estar, por ejemplo; el inglés no los distingue. No hace diferencia entre quien está alegre y quien es alegre. ¿Significa que los gringos son menos sensibles a la transitoriedad del mundo? ¿Ver el mundo como algo transitorio nos hace más melancólicos?

Tampoco distinguen un doctor de una doctora, ambos son doctors, ni un abogado de una abogada (ambos lawyers). En inglés debemos esperar a veces hasta el final de la frase para saber si el personaje es hombre o mujer. ¿Habrá contribuído esta ceguera a la diferencia de género a los primeros movimientos feministas en Inglaterra y Estados Unidos?

Qué decir del tú y el usted. Allá son todos tú. Donde los japoneses distinguen diez formas de trato y respeto (edad, sexo, jefatura...), los gringos usan un insolente you. ¿Contribuyó el igualitario you a la elección de un presidente negro?

Es tentador explicar mucho con poco, pero estos juegos de palabras pocas veces resisten análisis, son pura especulación. Excepto uno: las palabras ON y OFF.

¿Cómo traducir estos términos tan útiles? ¿Conectado-Desconectado? ¿Encendido-Apagado? ¿Activado-Desactivado? Esta práctica brevedad, esta flexibilidad de las palabras en inglés sí que hace una diferencia. En inglés todo se dice con menos letras. ON y OFF tienen el largo justo como para imprimirse en la superficie de un interruptor (nótese, interruptor: 11 letras, switch: 6 letras). Pero no es sólo cuestión de tamaño. ON lo echa todo a andar: pone en marcha la gigantesca industria americana, ON enciende el proyector con una película de Clint Eastwood. ON dispara un cohete a la Luna. Nosotros no necesitamos aún esa palabra. No tenemos nada que echar a andar.

Hay algo metafísico en el término. ¿Cómo poner en marcha el país sin un botón ON?

ON-OFF es la expresión de una visión práctica del mundo. Los gringos son prácticos y nosotros no. Pero usamos definiciones distintas. Para ellos, práctico es aquello que hace una diferencia, para nosotros, sólo es práctico lo que nos beneficia en el corto plazo.

Este equivocado sentido de lo práctico tiene consecuencias. En la educación superior, por ejemplo. Nuestras empresas esperan que las universidades les entreguen profesionales listos para usar. Se espera que el ingeniero comercial recién contratado redunde en utilidades desde el primer día, se trate de una salmonera, de una refinería de cobre o de una fábrica de mamaderas. El problema con los profesionales pret a porter es que son pan para hoy y hambre para mañana. Sin una sólida base científica inútil, un ingeniero sólo será útil por poco tiempo. El conocimiento útil es sólo la parte visible del conocimiento inútil.

Es alarmante escuchar opiniones influyentes criticar la investigación universitaria, tildándola de poco práctica: "¿Porqué no descubren una vacuna contra el cáncer, mejor, en vez de andar investigando esotéricos receptores de membrana?". Como si se pudiese descubrir lo uno sin lo otro. Asusta este desprecio por el conocimiento profundo.

Por eso es tan interesante el college que este año inaugura la UC. Así en inglés, college (7 letras), no bachillerato (12 letras). Ojalá esté a la altura de su promesa: transversal, flexible, profundo, motivante. Un cambio en nuestra estructura linguística y cultural. Un experimento crucial para Chile, al que debemos estar atentos.



El conocimiento útil es sólo la parte visible del conocimiento inútil

sábado, 8 de noviembre de 2008

Política y Lenguaje

Con el triunfo de Obama en los estados Unidos, candidato considerado un gran orador, me vino a la mente un antiguo ensayo de George Orwell que trata el tema del lenguaje en la política, y que bien harían los políticos chilenos en leerlo.
Tal vez pueda hacer algo por ellos, o mejor dicho, por nosotros.

A continuación: el ensayo de Orwell. Disfrútenlo.


George Orwell

Politics and the English Language

Most people who bother with the matter at all would admit that the English language is in a bad way, but it is generally assumed that we cannot by conscious action do anything about it. Our civilization is decadent and our language — so the argument runs — must inevitably share in the general collapse. It follows that any struggle against the abuse of language is a sentimental archaism, like preferring candles to electric light or hansom cabs to aeroplanes. Underneath this lies the half-conscious belief that language is a natural growth and not an instrument which we shape for our own purposes.

Now, it is clear that the decline of a language must ultimately have political and economic causes: it is not due simply to the bad influence of this or that individual writer. But an effect can become a cause, reinforcing the original cause and producing the same effect in an intensified form, and so on indefinitely. A man may take to drink because he feels himself to be a failure, and then fail all the more completely because he drinks. It is rather the same thing that is happening to the English language. It becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts. The point is that the process is reversible. Modern English, especially written English, is full of bad habits which spread by imitation and which can be avoided if one is willing to take the necessary trouble. If one gets rid of these habits one can think more clearly, and to think clearly is a necessary first step toward political regeneration: so that the fight against bad English is not frivolous and is not the exclusive concern of professional writers. I will come back to this presently, and I hope that by that time the meaning of what I have said here will have become clearer. Meanwhile, here are five specimens of the English language as it is now habitually written.

These five passages have not been picked out because they are especially bad — I could have quoted far worse if I had chosen — but because they illustrate various of the mental vices from which we now suffer. They are a little below the average, but are fairly representative examples. I number them so that I can refer back to them when necessary:

1. I am not, indeed, sure whether it is not true to say that the Milton who once seemed not unlike a seventeenth-century Shelley had not become, out of an experience ever more bitter in each year, more alien [sic] to the founder of that Jesuit sect which nothing could induce him to tolerate.

Professor Harold Laski (Essay in Freedom of Expression)

2. Above all, we cannot play ducks and drakes with a native battery of idioms which prescribes egregious collocations of vocables as the Basic put up with for tolerate, or put at a loss for bewilder.

Professor Lancelot Hogben (Interglossia)

3. On the one side we have the free personality: by definition it is not neurotic, for it has neither conflict nor dream. Its desires, such as they are, are transparent, for they are just what institutional approval keeps in the forefront of consciousness; another institutional pattern would alter their number and intensity; there is little in them that is natural, irreducible, or culturally dangerous. But on the other side, the social bond itself is nothing but the mutual reflection of these self-secure integrities. Recall the definition of love. Is not this the very picture of a small academic? Where is there a place in this hall of mirrors for either personality or fraternity?

Essay on psychology in Politics (New York)

4. All the ‘best people’ from the gentlemen's clubs, and all the frantic fascist captains, united in common hatred of Socialism and bestial horror at the rising tide of the mass revolutionary movement, have turned to acts of provocation, to foul incendiarism, to medieval legends of poisoned wells, to legalize their own destruction of proletarian organizations, and rouse the agitated petty-bourgeoise to chauvinistic fervor on behalf of the fight against the revolutionary way out of the crisis.

Communist pamphlet

5. If a new spirit is to be infused into this old country, there is one thorny and contentious reform which must be tackled, and that is the humanization and galvanization of the B.B.C. Timidity here will bespeak canker and atrophy of the soul. The heart of Britain may be sound and of strong beat, for instance, but the British lion's roar at present is like that of Bottom in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream — as gentle as any sucking dove. A virile new Britain cannot continue indefinitely to be traduced in the eyes or rather ears, of the world by the effete languors of Langham Place, brazenly masquerading as ‘standard English’. When the Voice of Britain is heard at nine o'clock, better far and infinitely less ludicrous to hear aitches honestly dropped than the present priggish, inflated, inhibited, school-ma'amish arch braying of blameless bashful mewing maidens!

Letter in Tribune

Each of these passages has faults of its own, but, quite apart from avoidable ugliness, two qualities are common to all of them. The first is staleness of imagery; the other is lack of precision. The writer either has a meaning and cannot express it, or he inadvertently says something else, or he is almost indifferent as to whether his words mean anything or not. This mixture of vagueness and sheer incompetence is the most marked characteristic of modern English prose, and especially of any kind of political writing. As soon as certain topics are raised, the concrete melts into the abstract and no one seems able to think of turns of speech that are not hackneyed: prose consists less and less of words chosen for the sake of their meaning, and more and more of phrases tacked together like the sections of a prefabricated hen-house. I list below, with notes and examples, various of the tricks by means of which the work of prose-construction is habitually dodged.

DYING METAPHORS. A newly invented metaphor assists thought by evoking a visual image, while on the other hand a metaphor which is technically ‘dead’ (e. g. iron resolution) has in effect reverted to being an ordinary word and can generally be used without loss of vividness. But in between these two classes there is a huge dump of worn-out metaphors which have lost all evocative power and are merely used because they save people the trouble of inventing phrases for themselves. Examples are: Ring the changes on, take up the cudgel for, toe the line, ride roughshod over, stand shoulder to shoulder with, play into the hands of, no axe to grind, grist to the mill, fishing in troubled waters, on the order of the day, Achilles’ heel, swan song, hotbed. Many of these are used without knowledge of their meaning (what is a ‘rift’, for instance?), and incompatible metaphors are frequently mixed, a sure sign that the writer is not interested in what he is saying. Some metaphors now current have been twisted out of their original meaning without those who use them even being aware of the fact. For example, toe the line is sometimes written as tow the line. Another example is the hammer and the anvil, now always used with the implication that the anvil gets the worst of it. In real life it is always the anvil that breaks the hammer, never the other way about: a writer who stopped to think what he was saying would avoid perverting the original phrase.

OPERATORS OR VERBAL FALSE LIMBS. These save the trouble of picking out appropriate verbs and nouns, and at the same time pad each sentence with extra syllables which give it an appearance of symmetry. Characteristic phrases are render inoperative, militate against, make contact with, be subjected to, give rise to, give grounds for, have the effect of, play a leading part (role) in, make itself felt, take effect, exhibit a tendency to, serve the purpose of, etc., etc. The keynote is the elimination of simple verbs. Instead of being a single word, such as break, stop, spoil, mend, kill, a verb becomes a phrase, made up of a noun or adjective tacked on to some general-purpose verb such as prove, serve, form, play, render. In addition, the passive voice is wherever possible used in preference to the active, and noun constructions are used instead of gerunds (by examination of instead of by examining). The range of verbs is further cut down by means of the -ize and de- formations, and the banal statements are given an appearance of profundity by means of the not un- formation. Simple conjunctions and prepositions are replaced by such phrases as with respect to, having regard to, the fact that, by dint of, in view of, in the interests of, on the hypothesis that; and the ends of sentences are saved by anticlimax by such resounding commonplaces as greatly to be desired, cannot be left out of account, a development to be expected in the near future, deserving of serious consideration, brought to a satisfactory conclusion, and so on and so forth.

PRETENTIOUS DICTION. Words like phenomenon, element, individual (as noun), objective, categorical, effective, virtual, basic, primary, promote, constitute, exhibit, exploit, utilize, eliminate, liquidate, are used to dress up a simple statement and give an air of scientific impartiality to biased judgements. Adjectives like epoch-making, epic, historic, unforgettable, triumphant, age-old, inevitable, inexorable, veritable, are used to dignify the sordid process of international politics, while writing that aims at glorifying war usually takes on an archaic colour, its characteristic words being: realm, throne, chariot, mailed fist, trident, sword, shield, buckler, banner, jackboot, clarion. Foreign words and expressions such as cul de sac, ancien regime, deus ex machina, mutatis mutandis, status quo, gleichschaltung, weltanschauung, are used to give an air of culture and elegance. Except for the useful abbreviations i. e., e. g. and etc., there is no real need for any of the hundreds of foreign phrases now current in the English language. Bad writers, and especially scientific, political, and sociological writers, are nearly always haunted by the notion that Latin or Greek words are grander than Saxon ones, and unnecessary words like expedite, ameliorate, predict, extraneous, deracinated, clandestine, subaqueous, and hundreds of others constantly gain ground from their Anglo-Saxon numbers(1). The jargon peculiar to Marxist writing (hyena, hangman, cannibal, petty bourgeois, these gentry, lackey, flunkey, mad dog, White Guard, etc.) consists largely of words translated from Russian, German, or French; but the normal way of coining a new word is to use Latin or Greek root with the appropriate affix and, where necessary, the size formation. It is often easier to make up words of this kind (deregionalize, impermissible, extramarital, non-fragmentary and so forth) than to think up the English words that will cover one's meaning. The result, in general, is an increase in slovenliness and vagueness.

MEANINGLESS WORDS. In certain kinds of writing, particularly in art criticism and literary criticism, it is normal to come across long passages which are almost completely lacking in meaning(2). Words like romantic, plastic, values, human, dead, sentimental, natural, vitality, as used in art criticism, are strictly meaningless, in the sense that they not only do not point to any discoverable object, but are hardly ever expected to do so by the reader. When one critic writes, ‘The outstanding feature of Mr. X's work is its living quality’, while another writes, ‘The immediately striking thing about Mr. X's work is its peculiar deadness’, the reader accepts this as a simple difference opinion. If words like black and white were involved, instead of the jargon words dead and living, he would see at once that language was being used in an improper way. Many political words are similarly abused. The word Fascism has now no meaning except in so far as it signifies ‘something not desirable’. The words democracy, socialism, freedom, patriotic, realistic, justice have each of them several different meanings which cannot be reconciled with one another. In the case of a word like democracy, not only is there no agreed definition, but the attempt to make one is resisted from all sides. It is almost universally felt that when we call a country democratic we are praising it: consequently the defenders of every kind of regime claim that it is a democracy, and fear that they might have to stop using that word if it were tied down to any one meaning. Words of this kind are often used in a consciously dishonest way. That is, the person who uses them has his own private definition, but allows his hearer to think he means something quite different. Statements like Marshal Petain was a true patriot, The Soviet press is the freest in the world, The Catholic Church is opposed to persecution, are almost always made with intent to deceive. Other words used in variable meanings, in most cases more or less dishonestly, are: class, totalitarian, science, progressive, reactionary, bourgeois, equality.

Now that I have made this catalogue of swindles and perversions, let me give another example of the kind of writing that they lead to. This time it must of its nature be an imaginary one. I am going to translate a passage of good English into modern English of the worst sort. Here is a well-known verse from Ecclesiastes:

I returned and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.

Here it is in modern English:

Objective considerations of contemporary phenomena compel the conclusion that success or failure in competitive activities exhibits no tendency to be commensurate with innate capacity, but that a considerable element of the unpredictable must invariably be taken into account.

This is a parody, but not a very gross one. Exhibit (3) above, for instance, contains several patches of the same kind of English. It will be seen that I have not made a full translation. The beginning and ending of the sentence follow the original meaning fairly closely, but in the middle the concrete illustrations — race, battle, bread — dissolve into the vague phrases ‘success or failure in competitive activities’. This had to be so, because no modern writer of the kind I am discussing — no one capable of using phrases like ‘objective considerations of contemporary phenomena’ — would ever tabulate his thoughts in that precise and detailed way. The whole tendency of modern prose is away from concreteness. Now analyze these two sentences a little more closely. The first contains forty-nine words but only sixty syllables, and all its words are those of everyday life. The second contains thirty-eight words of ninety syllables: eighteen of those words are from Latin roots, and one from Greek. The first sentence contains six vivid images, and only one phrase (‘time and chance’) that could be called vague. The second contains not a single fresh, arresting phrase, and in spite of its ninety syllables it gives only a shortened version of the meaning contained in the first. Yet without a doubt it is the second kind of sentence that is gaining ground in modern English. I do not want to exaggerate. This kind of writing is not yet universal, and outcrops of simplicity will occur here and there in the worst-written page. Still, if you or I were told to write a few lines on the uncertainty of human fortunes, we should probably come much nearer to my imaginary sentence than to the one from Ecclesiastes.

As I have tried to show, modern writing at its worst does not consist in picking out words for the sake of their meaning and inventing images in order to make the meaning clearer. It consists in gumming together long strips of words which have already been set in order by someone else, and making the results presentable by sheer humbug. The attraction of this way of writing is that it is easy. It is easier — even quicker, once you have the habit — to say In my opinion it is not an unjustifiable assumption that than to say I think. If you use ready-made phrases, you not only don't have to hunt about for the words; you also don't have to bother with the rhythms of your sentences since these phrases are generally so arranged as to be more or less euphonious. When you are composing in a hurry — when you are dictating to a stenographer, for instance, or making a public speech — it is natural to fall into a pretentious, Latinized style. Tags like a consideration which we should do well to bear in mind or a conclusion to which all of us would readily assent will save many a sentence from coming down with a bump. By using stale metaphors, similes, and idioms, you save much mental effort, at the cost of leaving your meaning vague, not only for your reader but for yourself. This is the significance of mixed metaphors. The sole aim of a metaphor is to call up a visual image. When these images clash — as in The Fascist octopus has sung its swan song, the jackboot is thrown into the melting pot — it can be taken as certain that the writer is not seeing a mental image of the objects he is naming; in other words he is not really thinking. Look again at the examples I gave at the beginning of this essay. Professor Laski (1) uses five negatives in fifty three words. One of these is superfluous, making nonsense of the whole passage, and in addition there is the slip — alien for akin — making further nonsense, and several avoidable pieces of clumsiness which increase the general vagueness. Professor Hogben (2) plays ducks and drakes with a battery which is able to write prescriptions, and, while disapproving of the everyday phrase put up with, is unwilling to look egregious up in the dictionary and see what it means; (3), if one takes an uncharitable attitude towards it, is simply meaningless: probably one could work out its intended meaning by reading the whole of the article in which it occurs. In (4), the writer knows more or less what he wants to say, but an accumulation of stale phrases chokes him like tea leaves blocking a sink. In (5), words and meaning have almost parted company. People who write in this manner usually have a general emotional meaning — they dislike one thing and want to express solidarity with another — but they are not interested in the detail of what they are saying. A scrupulous writer, in every sentence that he writes, will ask himself at least four questions, thus: What am I trying to say? What words will express it? What image or idiom will make it clearer? Is this image fresh enough to have an effect? And he will probably ask himself two more: Could I put it more shortly? Have I said anything that is avoidably ugly? But you are not obliged to go to all this trouble. You can shirk it by simply throwing your mind open and letting the ready-made phrases come crowding in. The will construct your sentences for you — even think your thoughts for you, to a certain extent — and at need they will perform the important service of partially concealing your meaning even from yourself. It is at this point that the special connection between politics and the debasement of language becomes clear.

In our time it is broadly true that political writing is bad writing. Where it is not true, it will generally be found that the writer is some kind of rebel, expressing his private opinions and not a ‘party line’. Orthodoxy, of whatever colour, seems to demand a lifeless, imitative style. The political dialects to be found in pamphlets, leading articles, manifestos, White papers and the speeches of undersecretaries do, of course, vary from party to party, but they are all alike in that one almost never finds in them a fresh, vivid, homemade turn of speech. When one watches some tired hack on the platform mechanically repeating the familiar phrases — bestial, atrocities, iron heel, bloodstained tyranny, free peoples of the world, stand shoulder to shoulder — one often has a curious feeling that one is not watching a live human being but some kind of dummy: a feeling which suddenly becomes stronger at moments when the light catches the speaker's spectacles and turns them into blank discs which seem to have no eyes behind them. And this is not altogether fanciful. A speaker who uses that kind of phraseology has gone some distance toward turning himself into a machine. The appropriate noises are coming out of his larynx, but his brain is not involved, as it would be if he were choosing his words for himself. If the speech he is making is one that he is accustomed to make over and over again, he may be almost unconscious of what he is saying, as one is when one utters the responses in church. And this reduced state of consciousness, if not indispensable, is at any rate favourable to political conformity.

In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defence of the indefensible. Things like the continuance of British rule in India, the Russian purges and deportations, the dropping of the atom bombs on Japan, can indeed be defended, but only by arguments which are too brutal for most people to face, and which do not square with the professed aims of the political parties. Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness. Defenceless villages are bombarded from the air, the inhabitants driven out into the countryside, the cattle machine-gunned, the huts set on fire with incendiary bullets: this is called pacification. Millions of peasants are robbed of their farms and sent trudging along the roads with no more than they can carry: this is called transfer of population or rectification of frontiers. People are imprisoned for years without trial, or shot in the back of the neck or sent to die of scurvy in Arctic lumber camps: this is called elimination of unreliable elements. Such phraseology is needed if one wants to name things without calling up mental pictures of them. Consider for instance some comfortable English professor defending Russian totalitarianism. He cannot say outright, ‘I believe in killing off your opponents when you can get good results by doing so’. Probably, therefore, he will say something like this:

‘While freely conceding that the Soviet regime exhibits certain features which the humanitarian may be inclined to deplore, we must, I think, agree that a certain curtailment of the right to political opposition is an unavoidable concomitant of transitional periods, and that the rigors which the Russian people have been called upon to undergo have been amply justified in the sphere of concrete achievement.’

The inflated style itself is a kind of euphemism. A mass of Latin words falls upon the facts like soft snow, blurring the outline and covering up all the details. The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one's real and one's declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish spurting out ink. In our age there is no such thing as ‘keeping out of politics’. All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred, and schizophrenia. When the general atmosphere is bad, language must suffer. I should expect to find — this is a guess which I have not sufficient knowledge to verify — that the German, Russian and Italian languages have all deteriorated in the last ten or fifteen years, as a result of dictatorship.

But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought. A bad usage can spread by tradition and imitation even among people who should and do know better. The debased language that I have been discussing is in some ways very convenient. Phrases like a not unjustifiable assumption, leaves much to be desired, would serve no good purpose, a consideration which we should do well to bear in mind, are a continuous temptation, a packet of aspirins always at one's elbow. Look back through this essay, and for certain you will find that I have again and again committed the very faults I am protesting against. By this morning's post I have received a pamphlet dealing with conditions in Germany. The author tells me that he ‘felt impelled’ to write it. I open it at random, and here is almost the first sentence I see: ‘[The Allies] have an opportunity not only of achieving a radical transformation of Germany's social and political structure in such a way as to avoid a nationalistic reaction in Germany itself, but at the same time of laying the foundations of a co-operative and unified Europe.’ You see, he ‘feels impelled’ to write — feels, presumably, that he has something new to say — and yet his words, like cavalry horses answering the bugle, group themselves automatically into the familiar dreary pattern. This invasion of one's mind by ready-made phrases (lay the foundations, achieve a radical transformation) can only be prevented if one is constantly on guard against them, and every such phrase anaesthetizes a portion of one's brain.

I said earlier that the decadence of our language is probably curable. Those who deny this would argue, if they produced an argument at all, that language merely reflects existing social conditions, and that we cannot influence its development by any direct tinkering with words and constructions. So far as the general tone or spirit of a language goes, this may be true, but it is not true in detail. Silly words and expressions have often disappeared, not through any evolutionary process but owing to the conscious action of a minority. Two recent examples were explore every avenue and leave no stone unturned, which were killed by the jeers of a few journalists. There is a long list of flyblown metaphors which could similarly be got rid of if enough people would interest themselves in the job; and it should also be possible to laugh the not un- formation out of existence(3), to reduce the amount of Latin and Greek in the average sentence, to drive out foreign phrases and strayed scientific words, and, in general, to make pretentiousness unfashionable. But all these are minor points. The defence of the English language implies more than this, and perhaps it is best to start by saying what it does not imply.

To begin with it has nothing to do with archaism, with the salvaging of obsolete words and turns of speech, or with the setting up of a ‘standard English’ which must never be departed from. On the contrary, it is especially concerned with the scrapping of every word or idiom which has outworn its usefulness. It has nothing to do with correct grammar and syntax, which are of no importance so long as one makes one's meaning clear, or with the avoidance of Americanisms, or with having what is called a ‘good prose style’. On the other hand, it is not concerned with fake simplicity and the attempt to make written English colloquial. Nor does it even imply in every case preferring the Saxon word to the Latin one, though it does imply using the fewest and shortest words that will cover one's meaning. What is above all needed is to let the meaning choose the word, and not the other way around. In prose, the worst thing one can do with words is surrender to them. When you think of a concrete object, you think wordlessly, and then, if you want to describe the thing you have been visualising you probably hunt about until you find the exact words that seem to fit it. When you think of something abstract you are more inclined to use words from the start, and unless you make a conscious effort to prevent it, the existing dialect will come rushing in and do the job for you, at the expense of blurring or even changing your meaning. Probably it is better to put off using words as long as possible and get one's meaning as clear as one can through pictures and sensations. Afterward one can choose — not simply accept — the phrases that will best cover the meaning, and then switch round and decide what impressions one's words are likely to make on another person. This last effort of the mind cuts out all stale or mixed images, all prefabricated phrases, needless repetitions, and humbug and vagueness generally. But one can often be in doubt about the effect of a word or a phrase, and one needs rules that one can rely on when instinct fails. I think the following rules will cover most cases:

  1. Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
  2. Never use a long word where a short one will do.
  3. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
  4. Never use the passive where you can use the active.
  5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
  6. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

These rules sound elementary, and so they are, but they demand a deep change of attitude in anyone who has grown used to writing in the style now fashionable. One could keep all of them and still write bad English, but one could not write the kind of stuff that I quoted in those five specimens at the beginning of this article.

I have not here been considering the literary use of language, but merely language as an instrument for expressing and not for concealing or preventing thought. Stuart Chase and others have come near to claiming that all abstract words are meaningless, and have used this as a pretext for advocating a kind of political quietism. Since you don't know what Fascism is, how can you struggle against Fascism? One need not swallow such absurdities as this, but one ought to recognise that the present political chaos is connected with the decay of language, and that one can probably bring about some improvement by starting at the verbal end. If you simplify your English, you are freed from the worst follies of orthodoxy. You cannot speak any of the necessary dialects, and when you make a stupid remark its stupidity will be obvious, even to yourself. Political language — and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists — is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind. One cannot change this all in a moment, but one can at least change one's own habits, and from time to time one can even, if one jeers loudly enough, send some worn-out and useless phrase — some jackboot, Achilles’ heel, hotbed, melting pot, acid test, veritable inferno, or other lump of verbal refuse — into the dustbin where it belongs.



1) An interesting illustration of this is the way in which the English flower names which were in use till very recently are being ousted by Greek ones, snapdragon becoming antirrhinum, forget-me-not becoming myosotis, etc. It is hard to see any practical reason for this change of fashion: it is probably due to an instinctive turning-awayfrom the more homely word and a vague feeling that the Greek word is scientific. [back]

2) Example: ‘Comfort's catholicity of perception and image, strangely Whitmanesque in range, almost the exact opposite in aesthetic compulsion, continues to evoke that trembling atmospheric accumulative ginting at a cruel, an inexorably selene timelessness... Wrey Gardiner scores by aiming at simple bull's-eyes with precision. Only they are not so simple, and through this contented sadness runs more than the surface bitter-sweet of resignation’. (Poetry Quarterly.) [back]

3) One can cure oneself of the not un- formation by memorizing this sentence: A not unblack dog was chasing a not unsmall rabbit across a not ungreen field. [back]


martes, 4 de noviembre de 2008

Artículo interesante


A continuación les entrego un interesante artículo publicado el domingo pasado en El Mercurio de Santiago.

Ojalá lo comenten.



Estudios de lingüística en salud:
Analizan diálogos entre médico y paciente para mejorar la atención

Para obtener mejores resultados en los tratamientos y el bienestar de los pacientes, expertos están prestando cada vez más atención a la forma en que se comunican los doctores en la consulta.


-"Cuénteme, ¿cómo se ha sentido? ¿Cómo ha estado?".

-"Algunos días bien y otros más o menos".

-"¿Se ha seguido tomando la presión usted, en su casa?".

-"No, no me la he seguido tomando, doctora", dice Berta.

Ante la insatisfactoria respuesta, la doctora guarda silencio. Luego cambia de tema:

-"¿Y cómo va lo del cigarro?".

-"Sigo igual".

-"¿Igual? ¿Y no ha bajado NADA?", subraya.

-"No he bajado nada, he tratado, pero no puedo. No, no hay caso...", se disculpa la paciente.

La doctora vuelve a guardar silencio.

-"Veamos cómo está la presión ahora...", dice enseguida.

Este diálogo es real, sucedió en un hospital chileno, y es uno de los varios ejemplos de conversaciones que ha grabado y analizado la lingüista doctora Marisa Cordella, previa autorización de los comités de ética de los centros de salud donde ha hecho sus estudios.

Mayor adherencia

La experta chilena es autora del libro "The dynamic consultation: A discourse analytical study of doctor-patient communication" y profesora de la Escuela de Idiomas, Culturas y Lingüística de la Universidad de Monash, en Australia.

Hace poco vino a Chile a dar charlas sobre comunicación médica a docentes y alumnos de la Escuela de Medicina de la U. Católica, invitada por la Unidad de Comunicación y Relación de Ayuda en Salud (Creas), de la UC.

Como ella, cada vez más psicólogos, sociólogos y médicos están analizando la comunicación que se da entre doctores y pacientes. Es que un buen diálogo entre ambos no sólo hace que el paciente deje la consulta más satisfecho, sino que aumenta las posibilidades de que cumpla con las indicaciones del médico.

Es lo que podría haber ocurrido en el caso que inicia este artículo. En lugar de recurrir a un silencio absoluto para reprender a Berta por no seguir sus indicaciones, "la doctora podría haber ofrecido tomarle la presión o haber preguntado por qué no se la había estado controlando, y al hacerlo, podría haber reunido información importante para entender la conducta de su paciente", plantea Cordella en un estudio sobre el tema.

Un buen diagnóstico

En su análisis de estas conversaciones, Cordella ha identificado tres "voces" o formas en que el médico se comunica con el paciente, y cuya combinación durante la sesión es clave para comprender integralmente su salud.

En la "voz médica", que es la que prevalece, "el médico tiende a dar a conocer sus conocimientos y hace preguntas que le puedan dar pistas para entregar un diagnóstico", explica la investigadora.

La "voz educadora" tiene como propósito entregar al paciente información sobre su condición médica y herramientas para monitorear y dar seguimiento a su enfermedad.

Finalmente está la "voz solidaria", que surge cuando el médico atiende a aspectos que van más allá de los síntomas: felicita al paciente o escucha lo que le cuenta, sus emociones y cómo se siente. Mientras más capacitados estén los médicos para usar esta voz, dice Cordella, más satisfactorio va a ser el encuentro para el paciente. De hecho, afirma que esta competencia "debería estar dentro de los roles que cumplen los profesionales de la salud".

Algo que no siempre ocurre. La doctora Philippa Moore, médico familiar y directora de Creas, señala que un error habitual de los médicos es justamente escuchar los síntomas físicos pero no preguntar al paciente cómo vive su enfermedad, cómo le afecta a su vida o qué cree que la causó.

"Es importante entender la perspectiva del paciente, porque así el médico puede adaptar la información que tiene que entregarle y explicarle mejor su diagnóstico", dice Moore. Por ejemplo, agrega, si una persona teme que su dolor de cabeza se deba a un tumor cerebral y el médico, sin oír sus temores previos, sólo le diagnostica una cefalea, es probable que el paciente se vaya pensando que su diagnóstico es incorrecto o que no le pidieron suficientes exámenes.

Durante la interacción, el paciente recurre también a una serie de voces. Las más usadas por los chilenos, según Cordella, son el "relato de su salud" y la "voz competente", que refleja el dominio de datos que el paciente ha ido adquiriendo en sus visitas al especialista.

Cuando esto es estimulado y bien recibido por los médicos los resultados terapéuticos mejoran, afirma Cordella (ver recuadro).


Prestar atención a las dificultades comunicativas de los médicos permite diseñar materiales de estudio que puedan asistirlos en sus funciones.

Una comunicación pobre en la consulta deja al paciente insatisfecho incluso si el tratamiento médico se administró de forma eficiente".




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