Laughter is the best medicine


BECAUSE of the seriousness we attach to illness we like to think of hospitals as temples of professional solemnity. Not so; they are places where one is certain to leave one’s dignity outside. Most of us have suffered the humiliation of what my mum, a trained nurse, used to call bum freezers. These were hospital gowns one was instructed to wear; the rear opening being precisely that.

Times have changed and jaunty jargon in hospitals no longer appears on records accessible to patients. I recall a doctor friend telling me theirs was the one profession that could bury its mistakes.


The world of medicine has a language all of its own. Most of us are familiar with the doomsday acronym DNR (do not resuscitate). A hospital is not the place you wish to hear the term bury the hatchet. It means a surgical instrument has been left inside the patient.

Another expression is ‘doc in a box’ which describes health care centres. The departure lounge has little to do with airports; it is the name given to the geriatric ward. Before youngsters snigger they might be interested to learn that disco biscuits are medical slang for ecstasy pills.

The Freud Squad are medicos responsible for psychiatric wards. The gasser refers to the anaesthetist, a proctologist is a rear admiral and surgeons are known as slashers. Phlebotomists are termed vampires or leeches. An obstetrician is of course known as the baby catcher.

In this department you might come across FLK for funny looking kid. The child looks alright but there is need for genetic or abnormality investigation. Those we describe as hippies types are known as Grolies (Guardian readers of low intelligence in ethnic skirts). We laymen may be puzzled by the medical short form NFN. It means Normal for Norfolk, a rural country associated with inbreeding.

Handbag positive denotes a confused patient, often an elderly lady waiting to be seen whilst clutching her handbag. If you’re a GLM be flattered; it means a good looking mum. Not so flattering LOBNH (lights on but nobody home). It is applied to gormless hypochondriacs. If you are a GPO make out a will; it means good for body parts only. To such unfortunates might also be applied the acronym CTD. This means either circling the drain or certain to die.

Most of us know what a brainstorming session is. In a hospital a blame-storming session is when the wrong kidney or leg has been removed and they’re looking for a scapegoat.

There is what is known as the Dirt Bag Index (DBI). By counting up the number of tattoos or missing teeth one arrives at the number of days the patient has gone without bathing. Pumpkin Positive? This works on the principle that if a light is shone in the patient’s mouth the absence of a brain causes the skull to light up.

A peculiarity of the British health service is the financial incentive junior doctors get for signing cremation forms. This is known as ‘ash cash’. Another UK oddity is bash cash; a fee received by registrars for providing medical reports on patients who have been assaulted. No doubt about it; medicine is a dying art.



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