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[Perspectives] My mother’s tongue

When I got into medical school, I called my mother and said, “finally, I will be able to speak your language”. She used to dictate case notes throughout my childhood while I read a book in her office. The words she spoke contained secrets within them: “patient is a 70-year-old right-handed man with a history of peripheral neuropathy”. These words echoed in the background of my childhood, but now I wonder about the specific words I heard. Did I ever hear her really say peripheral neuropathy? Tachycardia, diaphoresis, dyspnoea? These words are steel blocks encased in Greek and Latin—protected by their antiquity against the Anglo-Saxon hesitancy, doubt, and fear that come with “heart’s too fast, sweating, can’t breathe”.