Monday 8 March 2021

Do you feel the way that I feel?

Words with changing meanings

It is amazing how reading the meaning of a word in the past can have such an impact on your perception of the word as culture and norms shift. The impression you have of the word and its use in language in contemporary times might leave you shocked.

I know how knowing the use of certain words like 'bastard' in Nigeria could almost be a word of endearment in English, not carrying the original meaning of shameful illegitimacy at birth or of not having any acknowledgement of forebears. Derogatory as it might be depending in tone, it can be a synonym for rascal and that is not so bad as it was on a school report half a century ago.

Whether or not

One such word I used today in conversation with my mother about someone else was hypochondriac. She thought it was quite strong a word to use in terms of this other person. “A hypochondriac is someone who lives with the fear that they have a serious, but undiagnosed medical condition, even though diagnostic tests show there is nothing wrong with them.” [The Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders: Hypochondriac]

Yet, the word did clearly describe the situation without equivocation. It is understandable that once having suffered a condition that has been effectively treated, there might be a fear of it recurring. Doubtless, it is important patients are listening to, respected, and treated with courtesy. Essentially, they need to be believed, given not just the benefit of the doubt along with the full complement of medical attention and tests to verifiably prove the presence or absence of ailment.

With a sympathetic view

However, once the absence is proven and the patient takes a second opinion, without new discoveries, the condition might well be an anxiety disorder, to be addressed rather than ignored. Maybe, I am a bit ambivalent about this and I have to suggest all conditions regardless of the medical opinion need some sort of treatment and indifference is not one of them.

I guess the danger in the meaning of words is hypochondriac can be dismissive when it should be immersive, concerning, involved, and engaged, for the sake of the person presumed to be suffering from it and those who have observed that it might be the case.

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