Playing Doctor

Initial Visit?

Tuesday, July 19

Um, Thanks for Coming to the Rescue, Dictionary Man.

Dictionary Man’s little run-in with Dan made me think a little about the multiple meanings of words and how sometimes, when a less common (less popular?) use of a word is used, they can throw people for a bit of a loop. It reminded me of a story from quite a few years ago...

[Cue Flashback Sequence]

When I was doing my premed coursework I was interviewed by the ‘premed committee.’ It was their job to write a single letter of recommendation for my medical school applications. They tried to ask broad questions that included my hobbies and interests so they could pretend they actually knew me.

The interview was going really well, up until they asked what magazines I read. I mentioned some of them and then one of them said, ‘Those are impressive magazines,’ which I politely ignored. (Impressively large? Colorful? Impressively not science related?)

Then he added ‘Do you read the New Yorker?’

‘No,’ I said—and I’ll admit I should have stopped there since he was clearly hinting at his own prowess for reading ‘impressive’ magazines, but the whole thing is about showing an inkling of a personality—so I admitted, ‘I’ve tried, but find it kind of provincial.’

‘I think,’ the chemistry professor said, ‘you’re misusing that word.’

Now, I am typically deferential with people I don’t know very well, especially in situations like this. But this smug chemistry professor—chemistry for Christ’s sake—had recently been involved in a row because he wrote a letter to the school newspaper using the word ‘gypped.’ Apparently, some gypsy had taken time out of his busy, thieving, nomadic schedule to go to college and had complained about the use of this pejorative word.

The chemistry professor wrote an angry letter of defense, arguing—essentially—that no one thought of gypsies when they used the word and he didn’t even know that was the etiology. A ridiculous defense, really. I would have accused the gypsy of trying to steal a legitimate word, just like his cousins tried to steal my grandfather’s wallet.

(Just kidding, Gypsies. Please do not steal my blog)

Anyway, so maybe he was being defensive about his vocabulary after what had turned into a four or five letter-to-the-editor exchange, but accusing me of misusing a word was a mistake. Not that I don’t do it, but in most situations I stick with words I know, and this was one of them.

This was one of those awful situations where, push came to shove, and I shoved the guy who was writing my letter of recommendation for medical school.

‘You might want to check your dictionary. You’re thinking of provincial meaning rural and unsophisticated,’ I said, pausing and staring at the chemistry professor as I said those last three words. ‘That would not make sense if aimed at The New Yorker. But provincial can also mean narrow and self-centered; believing that your province is better than any other province. I think that applies to The New Yorker.’

It’s also very boring.


Blogger dan writes:

Well, I still think Earnest Pretention is an oxymoron.

In all earnestness, the New Yorker is pretentious.


Blogger Colin writes:

I like the cartoons.


Post a Comment


Medical Records

Season Three

Season Two

Season One