Breaker breaker, let’s have some autophagy here

fd9e7314fa63ee24088878488a692166After a lot of traveling to hospitals, dodging plenty of truckers on the highway, and trying to decipher new medical words on a daily basis, I have decided that trucking and the medical industry have some similarities. They both use unnecessary words for things they could just as easily say.

Why do they do this?

It’s my determination (a fancy word for ‘think’) that perhaps truckers and doctors gravitate to their industries because they want to learn unnecessary words for things. Words like “breaker-breaker” and “autophagy”. It’s kind of like learning French so you can use it only when you’re in the kitchen.

These exclusive clubs also have their own way of pronouncing words, so they have nothing to do with the English language, and make you looks stupid when you try to say them. Go ahead, try to read your medicine bottles to your doc next time. Be careful not to choke. Prescription names are designed to make doctors chuckle after you leave, “aw that’s so cute. They tried to say ipilimumab.”


Is it a shoulder blade or a scapula? Personally, I like my common body parts to sound like I can get them at the grocery store. I don’t need new words – I have enough on my mind. I can’t even find my car when I park it now. My brain’s hard drive is full, but unlike my Mac I have to keep this one until senescence (the medical word for dying from natural aging).

Autophagy, my latest new word, means “self-eating”. It pertains to how cells (like cancer cells) can doggedly survive by essentially ingesting themselves, thanks to certain enzymes within the same cell. But self-eating would have been just fine. Thank you, but I don’t need a new Latin combination to describe something gross.

This has inspired me to start using my own language. “Oh – you mean this? Well, I don’t call THIS a  fingernail. I call it a BananaChuckMonkey.” In which case, the docs might mention a couple of new words, such as “risperidone” or “aripiprazole” (anti-hallucinogenic drugs), and whisk me down to see some new specialists down the hall due to confabulation (an illness where you make stuff up due to brain problems). I’d like to point out that using made up words is sane only if there are a bunch of other people use them with you. That’s the defining difference. That and the absence of an aneurism, but I digress.

Perhaps it pays to learn an unnecessary new language?

My favorite sci-fi podcast once said that using Pig Latin can confuse hostile grey aliens should you encounter them. However practical that may be, my first actual experience with unnecessary language-twisting (before Pig Latin) was with my grandmother as she held the golden ancestor of the smartphone: the Citizen Band radio, or “CB”.

Cooler than the Bay City Rollers or calculators, everyone wanted a CB. If you didn’t have one, you tried to pretend your walkie-talkie could communicate to big CB users – maybe even truckers.

I remember driving with my G-ma in her super-clean, olive-colored Dodge Dart – a frightening experience at times when traffic was heavy. During one particular jaunt on a crowded Manchester Road in St. Louis, she hastily grabbed her CB to apologize to the guy in front of us for cutting in front of his van to avoid hitting another car. He, like her, had an enormous antenna on his vehicle – an invitation for speaking on the CB, which was the rage in the mid 1970s.

“Breaker-breaker there Mr. Van!” she said loudly. “I’m sorry to cut so close to your back door, but I have a bunch of anklebiters here in the car and I’m trying to avoid a fender bender.”

Aside from making me thirsty for a Hamms beer, this memory tells me now that she could have been a surgeon. Why? Because she so eloquently spoke with unnecessary words.

Ain’t ‘Merican Tuff Enough to Learn?

Screen Shot 2014-02-25 at 12.44.22 PM

‘Merican isn’t that bad of a language. Why complicate it? Why have complete words (often with more syllables) for normal stuff? Are truckers and doctors on the run from something like a Smokey?

Perhaps they are.

I decided renaming things and creating volumes of pages to describe what these specific words mean are perhaps due to the effort to objectify and harness medical conditions and their treatments. Maybe it helps to rename the enemy and gain some power over it. To dissect it, fight against its little inherent details and quirks.

Maybe we need new words without the emotions attached to them for the things that plague us most, to objectify them and describe them. The mess in my basement is a pretty singular, frightening experience. Perhaps I will start there.

Trucker’s Glossary:

Back Door: driving behind the car / truck in question
Anklebiters: children (not meant to be a derogatory term, just a noun)
Fender bender: accident, and probably where this phrase originated 

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