As the in house linguistics major, I was sometimes called upon for word and language references when I worked as a unit secretary. My least favorite was the time a nurse asked me to use my extremely out of practice Italian to communicate with one of our frequent fliers who spoke nearly no English. “Hai dolore al petto?” I asked tentatively (and, I think, incorrectly), only to be rewarded with his barrage of fluent Italian, of which I caught about every fourth word. I felt totally unhelpful and we were none the wiser for the nurse’s having recruited me in her efforts to communicate with her patient.

But my all time favorite was puss – or more specifically – the adjectival form of that word. On more that one occasion I was fed the line which began “How do you spell…” And I would answer merrily “Exactly how you hope it isn’t spelled.”

I asked my mother about this one time. Without batting an eye, she rattled off “p-u-r-u-l-e-n-t”. Damned English major RNs.

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