I underwent laparoscopic repair of an umbilical hernia two weeks ago (my 10 incisions are healing nicely, thank you, although the itching is nearly unbearable). In preparation for the operation, I was asked to have blood work done and to undergo an electrocardiogram.
When I arrived at the office where the electrocardiogram would be performed, the woman at the desk asked me what I was there for. I said, “An ECG.”
And then she “corrected” me: “You mean EKG.”
She also told me that the person who was to perform the procedure wasn’t in that day and that I’d have to come back and. . . . I needed her information—and I couldn’t afford to tick her off—so I didn’t respond.
But I wanted to.
Not that she was to blame. Use of the phrase EKG is nearly ubiquitous in the medical patois editors sometimes refer to as “stupid jargon.” If you look at it logically, EKG is an inappropriate initialism—at least in the United States.
Here is how I wanted my conversation with the woman behind the desk to continue:
“Oh. EKG. All right. Say, can you tell me what EKG stands for?”
In my perfect world, she would say, “Electrocardiogram.”
“Oh. Okay. And how do you spell that?”
In my perfect world, she would say, “Um, let’s see . . . “E. L. E. C.—“
“Ah HAAAAAAAH!!!!!” I would exclaim. “You fell right into my trap! There’s absolutely no reason to carry on this absurd tradition of saying ‘EKG,’ unless you spell “electrocardiogram” the way the Germans do: E. L. E. K. T. R. O. K. A. R. D. I. O. G. R. A. M. M. It has been abbreviated ECG in medical journals for decades—since we English speakers appropriated the word for our own use and respelled it. Come on, people! Get with the program! Calling it an EKG is as silly as making sure patients don’t eat anything after midnight before surgery despite the evidence showing that it’s not necessary!”
And everyone in the room would burst into applause.
A copy editor can dream, right?
(And about that “nothing to eat or drink after midnight”? I’m not bitter. Really.)