In the medical world, there is often more than one way to describe the same thing. There are also local or colloquial ways of saying things.
For example, if someone has gastroenteritis (also known as food poisoning, viral enteritis or intestinal flu), they may say they have a "funny tummy caused by a nasty bug which has given me the trots". If you haven't grown up in New Zealand or if English is your second language, this can all sound incredibly confusing.
When writing our health topic pages, the Health Navigator style is to use the term your health professional would most likely use in a consult, ie, the medical term. If there is another less commonly used medical term for the same word we put this in brackets after the medical term. For example:
- whooping cough (pertussis)
- indigestion (dyspepsia).
Also, if the medical term has a common name we sometimes put this in brackets on the first use, for example:
- abdomen (tummy, puku)
- diarrhoea (runny poos)
- urine (pee, mimi).
We do this because we want to make sure our pages can be easily understood by all our readers.
Common colloquial or slang words
In general, we try to avoid using colloquial or slang words unless they are widely understood and used. Some common words we do use are 'bug' and 'germs'. We use these when we are talking about micro-organisms (tiny life forms that can only be seen under a microscope).
The word 'bug' is used to describe an illness that is usually not serious and is caused by bacteria or a virus:
- I had a tummy bug last week.
- There's a bug going around (an illness that many people are getting).
'Germ' usually means a very small organism that causes disease:
- Wash your hands so you don't get germs on the food.
- Cover your nose when you sneeze – we don't want all your germs!
We try to avoid words and expressions that may not be understood by everyone. However, sometimes words slip through. If you spot a page that you think needs to be improved so it can be more easily understood we would love to hear from you – contact us here.
Colloquial expressions for medical terms UsingEnglish.com