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Mind your language

02 October 2017
3 min read
Volume 25 · Issue 10

Abstract

Using accepted professional and technical terminology on a day-to-day basis, it can be easy to forget what others may understand by them. But, as Louise Silverton writes, words have power

Certain words raise my hackles almost automatically. One example is people referring to ‘nurses’ providing maternity care. As I have shouted at the television and radio many times, no they don't! After all, you wouldn't say that a doctor replaced your filling, so why do the public get confused?

Words have power and we should never forget the influence our language has (Furber and Thomson, 2010). When I began as a midwife many years ago, we cared for ‘patients’, despite all the connotations of passivity and compliance that that word encompasses. Now, almost universally, midwives speak of ‘women’ and ‘mothers’. Our medical colleagues have not always followed suit and some use the term ‘ladies’ which, for some reason, feels patronising. Similarly, let us consign to the history books the word ‘confinement’ with all its connotations of restriction: women giving birth at home are the opposite of confined.

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