Wounded by the Language of War

“Wounded by the Language of War” by Paula Span, The New York Times.

When did the language we use to talk about death start to resemble a Pentagon briefing, full of military references and combat analogies? Maybe it dates to 1971, when Richard Nixon declared a “war on cancer.” Or much earlier, in the late 1800s, when doctors began using the word “armamentarium” to describe all the techniques, materials and equipment available to treat disease. Certainly these metaphors have since become pervasive, among patients and physicians, the public and the news media. Family members seek aggressive treatment for an ailing relative, saying, “He’s a fighter,” or “She’s a survivor.” We talk about whether people with terminal diseases want “heroic measures” or not. And when people die, we portray them not as having succumbed to disease, but as having struggled to the very end before being vanquished by a superior foe. If immortality has become the only victory, we’re all failures.

More »

Be Sociable, Share!

Articles & Posts