Mon Apr 24 22:16:19 UTC 2006

        And I was equally surprised when I read this (at, as you
note) that Roger Shuy seemed to characterize this as an example of
different words for working class patients.  I'm perfectly well aware
that physicians use "abortion" to refer to both spontaneous abortions
(miscarriages) and induced abortions, but I think I would have given the
same answer the patient gave, unless it was clear that both kinds of
abortions were intended.  In its ordinary lay meaning, "abortion" refers
only to an induced abortion.

John Baker

-----Original Message-----
From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On Behalf
Of Arnold M. Zwicky
Sent: Monday, April 24, 2006 3:59 PM
Subject: source?

i recently read about a doctor who was interviewing a patient and asked
her if she had ever had an abortion.  she said no, but then the doctor
looked at the records he had and saw clear indications that she had had
two terminated pregnancies.  it turned out that the patient used
"abortion" to mean a deliberate termination of pregnancy; she had had
two miscarriages, which she would not have described as "abortions".
surprisingly to me, the doctor was surprised at this patient's usage.

as you know, i have some interest in technical vs. everyday uses of
language.  but, stupidly, i failed to make a note about this story and
now can't recall where i read it.  anyone have any idea of the source?


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