Slang, idioms and terms used by pediatricians

In my opinion, the ‘slang’ or ‘idiom’ language is one that has evolved mainly as a result of different constraints and needs. These include time and situational constrains.

Time constraints – the need to explain a complex situation briefly.

Situational constraints – often physicians want to provide people with less information when discussing issues in certain forums and they prefer using certain terminology intended only for their colleagues to understand.

However, in my opinion, the major contributor to the creation of this language are emotional constraints – the use of slang aids with the confrontation of complex situations and allows for an “escape” elsewhere; a flee towards humor and cynicism. When I wrote this article, I was actually surprised to discover that there is less use of such slang language in the field of pediatrics.

On the one hand, a part of the slang language’s origins was directed towards the teaching of young physicians clinical thinking – for example the terms ‘red herring’ and ‘zebra’.

For non-medical bystanders, the use of such terms can sometimes sound like an expression of arrogance. But I don’t see it that way.

I truly believe that all pediatricians, at their essence, love children and love their profession. Their use of slang terms and phrases does serve a purpose, but it is definitely not arrogance.

I have listed some of the common slang terms and phrases used by pediatricians that I know down here. Bear in mind that these phrases may vary depending on cultural, ethnic and geographic factors and some of them are more commonly used in certain parts of the world than others. If you happen to be familiar with any additional medical idioms, feel free to contact me here. I would be happy to hear from you, learn about your phrases and add them to my list if you’d like.