Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Crisp and Clear

"No, you haven't got a chest infection," said the doctor. "Your airways are crisp and clear."

"Errrrr - - WHAT?" I thought. "Crisp and clear"? What on earth did he mean?

I've been working all over the place recently, in many different parts of the country, working with medical students and doctors to help with their training.

Today I was a very long way from Leeds, working with qualified doctors, playing someone who wanted antibiotics because she thought she had a chest infection, but didn't have one. There was more to it than that but I can't go into too much detail.

I was struggling rather with the meaning of "crisp and clear" and I reckoned that the woman I was playing would have been struggling with it too, so I asked the doctor what he meant. He was from overseas, but his English was very good. He looked a bit bewildered.

"It means you haven't got a chest infection. Clear. Crisp. You know. Your airways are crisp and clear."

Very poetic, I thought - - it makes my lungs sound like a December afternoon. But I still wasn't sure what the "crisp" bit was.

I moved on to the next doctor, again from overseas, and again with very good English and a very clear voice. On we went with the roleplay.

"So I'd like some antibiotics to clear up the chest infection, please."

"Well, actually, I'm pleased to tell you that you haven't got a chest infection. Your airways are crisp and clear."

AGAIN? At this point I was beginning to feel that I was living in a parallel universe where people spoke in riddles.

"Sorry? What do you mean by crisp and clear?"

"It means they aren't blocked at all. You don't have a chest infection."

Yes, yes, well I KNEW that - - but I just didn't understand the "crisp and clear" bit.

I moved on to the next doctor, who had a British regional accent, and, again, a very clear voice.

On we went.

"So, could I have some antibiotics for the chest infection then, please?"

"Well, in fact, although you have a cough, you don't have a chest infection. Your airways are crystal clear."


All I can think is that the overseas doctors must have, at some point, heard a British doctor using the phrase "crystal clear" and misheard it. I do hope someone else as well as me noticed their Chinese-whispers version of this phrase, and explained it to them. Otherwise they may be telling patients about their crisp and clear airways for a very long time.


Blogger Bee said...

That did make me smile!

12:01 am  
Blogger Silverback said...

I'm a bit worried that "crystal clear" makes any more medical sense than "crisp and clear."

Personally I like the idea of my lungs being crisp. Maybe it's because I've never smoked !

12:54 am  
Blogger JeannetteLS said...

I don't know why, but this one got me giggling a little spasmotically. Spasmatically? Spasmish? In bursts. Crisp and clear. Your enunciation was crisp and clear. Every breath was articulated without any o' that there fuzzy, breathy, asthmatic rasp.

Oh, dear. I am afraid I LONGED to have that comment about my breathing for about ten years, before we found a way to control my asthma.

They would say, "Oh, your breathing is very junky."

Well, thanks. Or, "Sloppy." Once I was told my breathing was sloppy. I asked whether or not there was a class I could take. How to clean up your breath.

I'll shut up and go away now. I loved this post.

2:03 am  
Anonymous Christine said...

Made me think of Good King Wenceslas, with his deep and crisp and even snow!!

8:13 am  
Anonymous Shooting Parrots said...

'Crisp and Clear' sounds like a jolly good marketing name for a brand of cough medicine. Or an antibiotic!

11:54 am  
Blogger Ailbhe said...

It wouldn't help that they'd read "crisp and clear" often in descriptions of weather, I imagine. Clich├ęs destroy language one whisper at a time.

1:16 pm  
Blogger Jan Blawat said...

I imagine you have the same problem in England that we have here in the U.S., and that is there are lots of very qualified native-born people who are trying to get into medical school or nurses training, but are unsuccessful because the schools are not accepting enough of them. And yet when I go to a hospital at least half the doctors and nurses are fairly recent immigrants. Some are very hard to understand. Some are from countries where girl babies are routinely gotten rid of, which gives me no confidence. I would rather that immigrants were in jobs that weren't quite so vital to whether I live or die, but also it's frustrating trying to adjust my ear to 6 different accents. What does "I habto fine a bane" mean? (I have to find a vein.) It's all very annoying and seems like such a waste when our own kids are having to flip burgers because they can't get into a school.

10:34 pm  
Blogger rhymeswithplague said...

The mis-hearing (is that a word) that gets me is "spitting image" versus "spit and image" -- also, in a similar bane, a woman's hair: is it her "crowning glory" or her "crown and glory"? There was once a beauty salon not far from here that was named the latter and I always wondered why.

12:13 am  
Blogger Daphne said...

Bee - thank you, I'm glad it did!
Silverback - yes, doctors often speak in a kind of Doctor Language and are surprised when we lesser mortals don't understand it. "Crystal clear" doesn't make a lot of sense when applied to lungs, I agree.
JeannetteLS - yes, another thing that doctors do is make it sound as if it's somehow all your fault that your body is not working properly. And I speak as one who suffered from Incompetent Cervix whilst pregnant. Pah!
Christine - yes, "crisp and clear" is definite "winter day" to me.
Parrots - yes, I agree - a good brand name for SOMETHING, certainly.
Ailbhe - yes, I suppose we all do it but I get particularly cross when doctors speak in cliches without thinking.
Jan - of course some overseas doctors are fantastic, but I think that when people are ill they should not be struggling either to understand or to make themselves understood. A high level of English is therefore required!
Bob - I have never heard "crown and glory" but I can quite see that someone might mishear it - and thus it was, of course, that "a norange" became "an orange".
Thank you all for your great comments!

3:45 pm  

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