Every so often, there is a word I can't wrap my head around. I can’t think of any recent examples, so I’ll use my big sister's instead. Sue can’t say the word anecdote. So when attempting to tell a story she’ll say she’s got a funny 'antidote', and then there’s a pause, and then a look of confusion, followed by another look that says ‘I got it wrong again, didn’t I?’
For me, the current word is pyhsiatrist. Because I have pain in my shoulder, Nurse Linda thought I needed to see someone in rehab, and she referred me to a Physiatrist. ‘What’s that!?’ I asked. She explained that it is an MD who is also trained in rehab medicine. I thought that sounded like a great idea, and agreed to be set up with an appointment.
The problem was, when I tried to talk about it, I couldn’t remember what he was called. I remembered his name was Dr Patrick Chan, but couldn’t remember his official title. And when I tried to put it in a sentence all I could see in my head was that section of the dictionary where everything begins with phi, phy, ps .
‘I’m going to rehab,’ I declared proudly. ‘With Dr Patrick Chan. He’s a psyiologith….’ Then a pause, and I’d close my eyes while long latin words would do somersaults in my head, ‘… he’s a rehab doctor’.
So the only way I could remember what he was called was to change the spelling. I had to do it phonetically. So I slammed shut my mental dictionary of the pages that had a ‘ph’. Instead, I started with a clean slate, and mentally wrote fizz-iatry. The suffix ‘iatry’ stems from the Greek 'iatrei' meaning healing, cure, or doctor. So to remember who he was, I had to think of Dr Patrick Chang as the Doctor of Fizz.
So on Wednesday afternoon I showed up at the clinic. ‘ I have an appointment with Dr Patrick Chan,’ I announced to the receptionist.
‘We don’t have a Dr. Patrick Chan here.’
‘Are you sure?’ I asked, ‘He’s a Fizziatrist.’
‘Oh, you mean Dr Eugene Chang. He’s the only physiatrist here.’
Dammit! How did I get Eugene out of Patrick? And who names a child Eugene anymore? 'Are your sure?' She looked up at me with zero interest. 'Yes, I'm sure.'
I sat down and opened my mental address book. You! Jean Chang. Fizzatrist.
That might make a funny antidote, someday.