Mark Peters, the genius behind the blog Wordlustitude in addition to being a Contributing Editor for Verbatim: The Language Quarterly, and a language columnist for Babble, and the author of Yada, Yada, Doh!: 111 TV Words That Made the Leap from the Screen to Society is our guest blogger this week. Check out his past OUPblog posts here. In the post below Peters explores medical jargon.
The subject of disease is highly correlated with suffering, pain, hospitals, death, and humor.
Humor? Absolutely. And I don’t mean a Patch Adams-type barforama—or even restaurant-quality ha-has like Scrubs.
You don’t have to be an MD or a sick puppy to appreciate the enormous family of humorous medical terms, which include peanut butter balls (phenobarbitol), horrendoplasty (an operation, like the horriblectomy, without a sunny forecast that’s well-homed in the Historical Dictionary of American Slang), diabetes of the blow-hole (a term for diaehrea collected by the Dictionary of American Regional English), duck’s disease (AKA “being short” and so-named for the non-NBA-ready stature of quackers), connectile dysfunction (a condition your Internet connection should discuss with its doctor), and spontaneous dental hydroplosion (a disease invented on The Office, along with Count Choculitis and government-created killer nano-robot infection, which can be itchy).
A nifty addition to the list was made during “Remnants” (Dec. 7, 2003), an episode from Alias’ third season. Bewigged superspy Sydney Bristow and beleaguered man-damsel Will Tippen gabbed about a gorgeous artist Tippen knew, a gorgeous artist he wasn’t pursuing because of a nasty case of what he called post-traumatic dating syndrome. This hyperbole wasn’t very hyperbolic, since his last sig other turned out to be an evil clone who killed his actual girlfriend, took her place, brainwashed Will, and framed him for treason, all before her knife left Will in a bathtub of emotion and blood.
That’s when I realized two things: 1) My dating history isn’t as bad as I thought, all things considered, and 2) post-traumatic stress disorder has become a snowclone—one of those fill-in-the-blank cliches the Language Log mensches started talking about in 2004, such as there’s no crying in X, to X or not to X?, don’t hate me because I’m X, these aren’t the X you’re looking for, whatever Xs your Y, and I for one welcome our new X overlords. Ben Zimmer discussed snowclones in this space.
This is an especially elastic snowclone: disorder or syndrome can be used, and traumatic or stress (usually stress) can be replaced. The length of the term lends itself to snowcloning as well as other, non-wintry types of humor. The Onion had some fun with the concept of pre-traumatic stress disorder, and unintentional comedy can be found in the eggcorn post-dramatic stress disorder . The wonderful George Carlin—whose soul, according to his own best estimate, now resides in a garage in Buffalo—
had a routine about how the lengthy post-traumatic stress disorder was a pathetic, euphemistic, craptastic watering down of battle fatigue, which itself was a disgraceful evasion of shellshock; he thought all those syllables were soft pillows for empty heads that can’t handle the truth.
Speaking of soft heads, while I prefer to swing my hammock in a carefree land of puppies, rainbows, and chocolate-covered fairy dust, I should acknowledge that many variations of the formula are as serious as the original condition: post-traumatic Iraq disorder, post-traumatic cervical syndrome, post-traumatic respiratory insufficiency syndrome, and post-traumatic spinal cord disorder aren’t exactly comedy gold. But for every grim variation, there are dozens of goofball exaggerations, and that’s the soothing linguistic sand in which my head comfortably rests.
So far, this snowclone isn’t in the Snowclone Database, and I don’t think anyone’s beat me to the punch in documenting it. There are somewhere between a metric truckload and a kabillion variations; below are twenty of the niftiest I’ve spotted.
This collection of concocted conditions is all for you, the OUPBlogistonians—at least until my contributions are finally welcomed by the leading medical journals, the kind my mother always wanted to put on her refrigerator.
post-melodramatic stress disorder
“Psychiatrists in select cities nationwide have reported a surge in Post-Melodramatic Stress Disorder cases following the Dec. 22 release of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom Of The Opera.”
(Dec. 22, 2004, The Onion)
post-movie stress disorder
“Yet ‘The Dark Knight’ is hardly routine—it has a kicky sadism in scene after scene, which keeps you on edge and sends you out onto the street with post-movie stress disorder.”
(July 21, 2008, David Denby, The New Yorker,)
post-studio stress disorder
“Call it post-studio stress disorder. [p] It’s a familiar syndrome these days. Unless you’re among the top-tier of fortunate writers, directors and actors with studio deals, development funds and financing, times are tough.”
(April 11, 2008, Anne Thompsons, Variety,)
post-traumatic American Idol syndrome
“And I actually yelled at Simon through my TV screen last week when he told the kid who got the boot that he shouldn’t pursue a music career. Talk about kicking someone when they’re down and then make him sing through his devastation. I can imagine former contestants forming support groups for Post Traumatic American Idol Syndrome. (a new disorder is in the making)”
(Feb. 25, 2008. Debbie Mumm)
post-traumatic burger-eating syndrome
“This is a video about an invidual who undergoes post traumatic burger eating syndrome (PTBES) This was done for a burger eating test held at a youth church.”
(June 20, 2007, YouTube
post-traumatic dork disorder
“Our crushing low-self-esteem and awkwardness follow some of us out and way past high school unfortunately. It’s a form of PTSD, I guess. Let’s call it PTDD (post traumatic dork disorder)?”
(May 15, 2008, Comiculture Vulture)
post-traumatic duds-doffing disorder
“Thankfully, at least to the multitude of revelers who packed Pure nightclub in Las Vegas Saturday night to help celebrate her 27th birthday, the spotlight-addicted starlet proved she wasn’t suffering from a case of post-traumatic duds-doffing disorder. “
(Feb. 18, 2008, MSN Entertainment)
post-traumatic Favre retirement syndrome
“Still suffering from post traumatic Favre retirement syndrome, huh? It must suck to be from Wisconsin. “
(April 23, 2008, CBS Sports Community)
post-traumatic foreign policy syndrome
“The other night, while offering some light hearted Marx Brothers fare, I made some observations about what I’ll now call Post Traumatic Foriegn Policy Syndrome (PTFPS), and we are as afflicted by it as Israel is. Karl Rove has famously accused the American left of wanting to take the country into therapy after 9/11, and in so doing has cowed many from making the argument that a bit of self-reflection and sober strategic assessment are necessary given the changing face of modern war.”
(Aug. 2, 2006, Huffington Post)
post-traumatic fortunate event syndrome
“I sure will give it a try if this doesn’t help or a change in the dose of Paxil. Paxil just turned out to work wonders for me a couple years ago, so this is odd to have this happen. I’ve had several fortunate events this year too! So go figure! Maybe it’s post-traumatic fortunate event syndrome. ”
(Nov. 2, 2002, Friends International Support)
post-traumatic George Will column disorder
“This column triggered a dangerous blood pressure spike, indigestion, cloudy vision, and a strange feeling that my tongue had become furry. I am thinking of filing an official grievance to the department here that handles Post-Traumatic George Will Column Disorder. Though I hear they’re understaffed.”
(April 21, 2005, Joel Achenbach, “Achenblog,” Washington Post)
post-traumatic infatuation syndrome
“Mr. Giuliani, meanwhile, is being hailed as the city’s savior. But just because he performed magnificently during the city’s worst moments doesn’t mean that he’s essential for rebuilding the city. New Yorkers’ sudden affection for Mr. Giuliani is not entirely rational. [p] You could call it post-traumatic infatuation syndrome, a condition that Mr. Giuliani himself can recognize from his study of opera.”
(Sept. 21, 2001, John Tierney, The New York Times)
post-traumatic nose-nibbling disorder
“’I’m so confused.’ Could this be some some sort of strange, weasel induced hallucination? Post traumatic nose-nibbling disorder? She had known all along that John’s pervy weasel-fancying would lead to trouble, but she had never imagined this.”
post-traumatic overacting syndrome
“I’m not even going to bother going into the story. If you need to know details: World War 3 happens, The Rock plays a Republican action star with amnesia, Justin Timberlake is a soldier suffering from some Post Traumatic Overacting Syndrome, and Sarah Michelle Gellar is a porn star who comes nowhere near anything resembling nudity. It so wants to be Blade Runner meets Brazil, but it’s more like Pluto Nash meets Caddyshack 2.”
(July 2, 2008, Dylan Gaugh, Dylan and the Movies)
post-traumatic sea monkey syndrome
“Revenues from .SHEESH TLD registrations will be used to promote a 200-step recovery program for sufferers of Post Traumatic Sea Monkey Syndrome (PTSMS), also known in the non-medical community as SMAD (Sea Monkey Affective Disorder).”
(Jan. 19, 1998, Domain Name Handbook)
post-traumatic sexy caged-heat syndrome
“Oh, and the whole denying of the post-coital Sawyer snuggles? Rude! She really doesn’t love him, it was all post-traumatic sexy caged-heat syndrome.”
(May 3, 2007, greentara, “3-19: “The Brig” 2007.05.02,” Television Without Pity)
post-traumatic splurchase disorder
“new word for overspending and buyers regret as we are the AUTHORITY ON THIS. see also: post-traumatic splurchase disorder (PT$D).”
(March 25, 2005, dateXedge)
post-traumatic swirly disorder
“Thor encounters some flashbacks due to post-traumatic swirly disorder.”
(July 19, 2008, Brat-halla)
post-traumatic U.S. Open syndrome
“Mickelson hasn’t been in contention to win one of the four majors since last year’s U.S. Open, where he fell apart on the final hole and tied for second. He came to the 2006 British Open still suffering from post-traumatic U.S. Open syndrome and wasn’t a factor, then suffered a similar fate at the PGA Championship at Medinah, finishing tied for 16th after winning the year before.”
(July 17, 2007, Christine Brennan, USA Today)
post-traumatic vet-bill disorder
“Cost of emergency visit… $167.00
Cost of therapy for post-traumatic vet-bill disorder… $75.00
Look on Radar’s face when introduced to a thermometer… Absolutely priceless.”
(June 6, 2007, Arlena de Bruin, DogBoston’s Dog Blog)