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A Devil's dictionary for mental health

  • Philip Timms (a1)
Summary

Clinical psychiatry, for all its emphasis on scientific rigour, is mediated mainly by words rather than by numbers. As with other professional areas, it has developed its own set of jargon words and phrases. Many of these are not the technical terms traditionally seen as jargon, but standard English words and phrases used in an idiosyncratic way. They therefore go unnoticed as jargon, while enfeebling our communications. I have used the template of Ambrose Bierce's The Devil's Dictionary to highlight some examples, with the aim of helping us all to talk, write and, perhaps, think more clearly.

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Copyright
This is an open-access article published by the Royal College of Psychiatrists and distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Corresponding author
philip.timms@slam.nhs.uk
Footnotes
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Declaration of interest P.T. runs occasional writing courses for the Royal College of Psychiatrists' Public Engagement Committee, as part of their advanced communications module.

Footnotes
References
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1 Rowlands, G, Protheroe, J, Price, H, Gann, B, Rafi, I. Health Literacy: Report from an RCGP-led Health Literacy Workshop. Royal College of General Practitioners, 2014.
2 Deacon, M. Sketch: Pfizer prepares to coin it in. Daily Telegraph, 13 May 2014.
3 Farrington, C. Reconciling managers, doctors and patients: the role of clear communication. J R Soc Med 2011; 104: 231–6.
4 Lask, B. Jargon, ambiguity, pomposity and other pests. J Fam Ther 1985; 7: 75–6.
5 Sparks, P, Farsides, T. Buried in bullshit. The Psychologist 2016; 29: 368–71.
6 House of Commons Public Administration Select Committee. Bad Language: The Use and Abuse of Official Language: First Report of Session 2009-10. TSO (The Stationery Office), 2009: p. 8.
7 Fowler, FG, Fowler, HW. Pocket Oxford Dictionary. Clarendon Press, 1960.
8 Martin, B. Secret passwords at the gate of knowledge. The Australian, 23 Sep 1992: p. 16 (http://www.bmartin.ee/pubs/92aust09.pdf).
9 Bierce, A. The Devil's Dictionary. Bloomsbury, 2003.
10 BBC News. LGA banned words - full list. BBC News, 2009 (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/7949077.stm).
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BJPsych Bulletin
  • ISSN: 2056-4694
  • EISSN: 2056-4708
  • URL: /core/journals/bjpsych-bulletin
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A Devil's dictionary for mental health

  • Philip Timms (a1)
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