ENGLISH CORNER : Crazy Doc (Testez votre anglais médical)

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The English corner is happy to introduce a new series called “Crazy Doc”. This issue deals with history taking. Unfortunately, Crazy Doc has messed it up. Do you think you'll be able to correct the anomalies and language mistakes highlighted and numbered in this extract from a consultation? The correction and explanations can be found in the box that follows the text. We would like to remind you that our aim is not to teach medicine but to familiarise readers with medical English as used by professionals and patients.


ENGLISH CORNER : Crazy Doc (Testez votre anglais médical)

Nurse: Hi, mate1!

Patient: Good morning!

Nurse: Could you please state your name and your birthday2?

Patient: Why are you asking me this?

Nurse: Well, I just want to make sure you are who I think you are.

Patient: That’s a good idea! Jones Ron3, 15 of Decembre4, 1955. 

Nurse: OK, and this is really just a safety check just to make sure I’ve got the correct patient, and I do. My name’s Sue and I’m one of the male nurses5 here.

Patient: Meat to please you6.

Nurse: Thank you! Er… I’m just gonna be asking you a few questions, a bit of a history, and I may be taking notes, it’s just about that. So, who brings you7 to our clinic today?

Patient: I’ve got a cof8, well I had9 a cof8 for a while now, but this past week, it seems to be getting worst10. And I’m coffing staff up11.

Nurse: Some staff11, can you tell me about the staff11 you’re coffing up11 or the septum12 you’re bringing up? 

Patient: It seems like a yellow fish13, but maybe sometimes greenish-looking. 

Nurse: And how are you feeding14 generally overall?

Patient: Well I feed14 a bit tired all the time.

Nurse: OK. Are you having any fivers15 or chilblains16?

Patient: No.

Nurse: No. Are you on any medications?

Patient: Yes, I had been taking some antibiotics. They didn’t seem to do much so I stopped taking them.

Nurse: OK! Well I’m just gonna give you some information: antibiotics work best when you take the whole dosage. If you start and stop them, the bacteria might not be killed and then it can come back and be a little bit strongest17. It’s one of the medications when you should take the whole dose. And it’s usually only seven or ten days at a time but you should take all of it. 

Patient: Oh, I didn’t know that. Thanks for the information.

Nurse: Oh, no problemo18! Back to your cof8; are you a smoker?

Patient: Yes, I smoke19 for a long time. 

Nurse: Can you tell me how many years of smoking that is?

Patient: Er… two packs by day20, just about.

Nurse: And since how many times21?

Patient: Thirty-five years now.

Nurse: Have you ever thought about quitting your wife22?

Patient: Yes, but that’s really hard now.

Nurse: Yes, I’m hearing23 that it is! I haven’t experienced that but… I have some information on a smoker’s landline24, would you like to see that?

Patient: Sure! What have I got to loose25?

Nurse: OK! Well I’ll give that to you before you live26. I know you told me you don’t have a fiver15, but I would like to take your blood pression27, pulse, your constants28, just before the doctor comes to see you, so is that OK with you?

Patient: Sure!

Nurse: And I’d like to listen to your breast29 as well. Ok? Well, I’ll get that ready.


1. Good morning: Hi mate! (= salut mon pote !) is inappropriate in this context. You are supposed to use appropriate level of language to talk with patients.

2. Birth date: birthday (= anniversaire). Here, the nurse wants to know the patient’s date of birth. 

3. Ron Jones: Jones Ron. In English, people state their first name then their last name. 

4. December 15th: 15 of Decembre. In American English, months come before days. Months ending in /-bre/ in French, end in /-ber/ in English. 

5. Nurses: male nurses (= infirmiers). Female nurse for women, male nurse for men and nurse when no gender is specified.

6. Pleased to meet you: Meat to please you (= de la viande pour vous faire plaisir). Of course, the scene does not take place at the butcher’s! 

7. What brings you? (= qu’est-ce qui vous amène ?): who brings you (qui vous a conduit ici ?).  Common expression used by doctors to elicit the main symptoms. 

8. Cough (= toux): cof corresponds to the pronunciation of cough, but does not exist as a word.

9. I’ve had: I had. Wrong tense: due to the presence of “for a while now”(indicating a link between the present and the past), the present perfect must be used and not the preterite, which focuses on a past event.

10. Worse (= pire): worst (= le pire). Here, “getting worse” means “empirer”, while “getting worst” would mean nothing. 

11. Coughing stuff up (= cracher des glaires): coffing staff up. Stuff can also be translated by trucs, machins, while the word staff refers for instance to hospital staff (= le personnel hospitalier). 

12. Sputum (= expectorations): septum. Medically speaking, septum doesn't make sense here. 

13. Yellowish (= jaunâtre): like a yellow fish (= comme un poisson jaune). Crazy Doc has misunderstood what the patient said!! In the same way, greenish means verdâtre, reddish rougeâtre…

14. Feeling (= ressentir): feeding (= s’alimenter). Spelling mistake. 

15. Fever (= fièvre): fivers (= billets de 5 livres sterling).  Spelling mistake.

16. Chills (= frissons): chilblains (= engelures). Vocabulary problem.

17. Stronger (= plus fort): strongest (= le plus fort).  

18. No problem: no problemo (= pas de blème). Communication strategy: use the appropriate level of language to talk with patients.

19. I’ve smoked: I smoke. Tense confusion: due to the presence of “for a long time” (indicating a link between the present and the past), the present perfect must be used and not the simple present.

20. a day (= par jour): by day is not idiomatic in English; “par jour” can also be translated by “per day” or “every day” in English.

21. For how long? (= depuis combien de temps ?): since how many times?(= depuis combien de fois ?) is not grammatically correct in English.

22. Quitting (= arrêter de fumer): quitting your wife (= quitter votre femme). Crazy Doc tried a bit of humour, but it does not make sense in this context. 

23. I heard (= j’ai entendu dire): I’m hearing (= j’entends en ce moment). Wrong tense again! The nurse is referring to a past context; the present tense cannot be used here.

24. Helpline (= service d’assistance téléphonique): landline (= ligne de téléphone fixe).Vocabulary problem. 

25. Lose (= perdre): loose (trop grand, lâche). Spelling mistake.

26. Leave (= partir): live (= vivre). Vocabulary, pronunciation and spelling mistake.

27. Blood pressure (= tension artérielle): pression is never used in a medical context in English.

28. Vital signs (= constantes, signes vitaux): constants is never used in a medical context in English.

29. Chest (poitrine, thorax): breast (= poitrine, sein). Wrong choice of word. 

Jean-Pierre CHARPY, Anaïs CARNET, Didier CARNET

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