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Nursery, gutter, or anatomy class? Obscene expression in consumer health

By Catherine Arnott Smith


This paper presents results of a consumer health vocabulary study of text appearing on Web-based bulletin boards. Consumers used obscenities and euphemisms to refer to certain body parts, functions, and behaviors. The female genitalia are the body region most often described with an obscenity (29% of all instances); male genitalia, in contrast, were rendered as obscene only 3% of the time. Consumers responding on the bulletin boards appear genuinely to prefer euphemistic slang and baby talk (62%) over obscenities (24%) when referring to the buttocks. From an anatomical perspective, this large dataset reveals a consumer health vocabulary of euphemisms and outright obscenities coexisting with professional medical terminology. The evident preference for euphemisms and slang for some anatomical parts has important implications for the design of health information controlled vocabularies and translation systems, faced with a lay language more informal than expected

Topics: Articles
Publisher: American Medical Informatics Association
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Provided by: PubMed Central
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