WHAT YOU'LL FIND ON THIS BLOG

Monday, 26 January 2015

Evidence that Fran can write a load of old Baloney

A friend saw the photograph of me I have on my blog (see the sidebar) and said, 'You look as though you have a neck problem.'

And there was I, trying to look engaging and light-hearted.

'The blue tee-shirt looks nice, though,' he added, to compensate for suggesting I looked as though I had cervical spondylosis.

I'm proud of knowing terms such as cervical spondylosis. It's all down to having trained as a medical secretary when I was eighteen. We had to learn medical terms with all the Greek and Latin prefixes and suffixes so that we knew the difference between hypothermia and hyperthermia and didn't condemn someone to an early grave by getting it wrong on the doctor's letter.

When I first trained in the late 1970s, we didn't even have audio typing, let alone computers.  I went into the doctor's office and took the letters down in shorthand on a spiral notepad before decoding my scribbles and typing them up.

Fran kept her fingers on the key for hours before remembering it was 1979 and she wasn't connected to a printer.


One's shorthand, especially taken down at speed, isn't always reliable. I have a couple of funny shorthand mistake stories for you.

Once, I typed up a letter dictated to me by an orthopaedic surgeon. 'Thank you for sending me Mr Smith. I am recommending he undergo a Baloney amputation.'

When I took the letter in for the doctor to sign, he nearly had a coronary because of the laughing.

'What have I done?' I said.

'It's not Baloney,' he said, snorting. 'It's below-knee.'

'Oh,' I said. 'I did wonder. I thought maybe a Mr Baloney had invented the procedure.'

'He may as well have done,' said the doctor. 'I'm calling it a Baloney amputation from now on.'

2. Another secretary in the same hospital wrote in a letter, 'Thank you for referring Mrs Jones to me. I have carried out tests on her gynaecological problems and recommend she has a day at the sea as soon as possible.'

Her doctor, similarly, nearly fell off his chair when he read it.

'I said "D & C",' he said. 'Dilatation and curettage.'

'I've never heard of that,' the secretary said. 'I did think it was strange, but I thought that maybe you were one of those unorthodox doctors who prescribes yogurt and rest, or cranberry juice and a daily walk.'


You know, I think I could write a book along the same lines as 'Being Miss' (see under the spondylosis photo for details) all about being a medical secretary, my career for years before I became a teacher. There are so many good stories. But it would sound dated now, with tales about Pitman shorthand and carbon copies and patients' cardboard files and correcting mistakes with a gallon of Tippex, so that people would have to read it with a 'Dictionary of Ancient Secretarial Customs' alongside them.

I did write a radio sitcom recently called 'Receptionists', based on some time I spent working in a GP surgery. I sent it to an independent radio producer, but he sent it back saying, 'Sorry, but the first page didn't make me laugh enough, so I didn't read on.'

Not one for euphemism, then.

I should have sent him my Baloney letter with a note saying, 'This made a doctor laugh like a drain in 1979. So, what do YOU know?'










38 comments:

  1. So what is Hyperthermia? I now Hypothermia is extreme cold from exposure, so is Hyperthermia being too hot from exposure to too much sun or cavorting in the desert?

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    1. Yes, it is, so cancel that holiday in the Sahara and stop all the cavorting.

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  2. Parallel lives! I also took a medical terminology course before becoming a part-time secretary in the hospital's pediatrics wing, followed later by a teaching career.

    So basically, aside from the different continents, ages, and genetic lines, we're twins.

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    1. Apart from those small issues, yes, we're virtually conjoined. I have to say, I have found my typing skills one of the most useful things in teaching. The kids are quite impressed when I type up what they're saying on the whiteboard, as they say it.

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  3. Ha! I think I'd prefer a baloney amputation. Wait, on second thought, maybe not.

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    1. Ah, go on. You know you want one.

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  4. I'm sure Mrs Jones would have preferred a day at the sea ...
    Good luck with finding a more appreciative home for your radio sitcom. It sounds like the sort of thing I'd laugh at it.

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    1. Yes, I must fish it out of the drawer (the virtual drawer ..). I have already re-worked it but I haven't had the courage to send it out again ...

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    2. yes please - a doctor who prescribes a day at the sea - wonderful!

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  5. I think I'll give up teaching and train as a medical secretary. It sounds far more fun! :) Great post.

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    1. Well, that's one option! Bear in mind that if you end up working in a general practice, some patients are just as demanding as some 7 year olds!

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  6. I laughed so hard at your photo caption and the typos. I'll review Being Miss on Friday for The Cephalopod Coffeehouse blog hop. Do you think I should admit I like it?

    Love,
    Janie

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    1. Please do say you like it and direct them to FeedaRead if they're in the US and want to order. Thank you!!

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  7. I once sent an email to my big boss and copied in to a host of others with an embarrassing typo... rather than commencing with "Dear Dale" I opened with "Dead Dale". Thankfully nobody appeared to notice. Maybe they did but were too scared to point it out?

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    1. Brilliant! I've seen an email with the sign-off 'With kind retards' which was also an interesting typo.

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  8. Audiotyping, putting carbon paper in the right way round , remembering the alphabet under stress ! I've always admired people who multitask .
    No , it's probably just as well I chose building Lego towers with three year-olds , rather than anything to do with possible amputations .

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    1. I did so love the smell of carbon paper, though. And we used to sniff the Tippex thinner in my typing class at college.

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  9. I agree re touch typing. It's THE MOST useful life skill, and they don't even bother to teach it in schools. They spend hours and hours and hours on getting the little things to write, and one or two sessions a week on typing. Because obviously the next generation are going to do a lot more handwriting than typing. I learnt it at 18, in a few evening classes. They were some of the most useful hours I've ever spent, and like so many things, it's so much easier to learn young.

    Off soap box.

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    1. You are so right. I wrote this piece for the Times Educational Supplement a few years ago on the subject. https://www.tes.co.uk/article.aspx?storycode=6006685

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    2. You and I are singing from the same songsheet on this one. Though actually, I think voice recognition will be in common use before long, so the next generation will just talk to their screens, and the words will come up. In that case maybe touch typing would, in fact, be a waste of time. But beautiful loopy handwriting is definitely a waste of time.

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  10. Last night was spent playing nursemaid for a friend after dental surgery. This morning over breakfast we discussed dementia. Then I told her about someone who needed injections for...for...for... parsnip ... parsnip... amnesia ... that's it ! .. pernicious anemia. Got it ! I will now always think parsnip amnesia.

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    1. Parsnip amnesia is definitely a thing and I have it: a condition in which the sufferer tries to forget there are parsnips in the fridge that need using because she doesn't really like them.

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  11. Soup. They make nice soup.

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    1. Parsnips? Or doctors? Baloneys?...

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    2. selective amnesia sounds like a condition I might adopt !

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  12. Fran, I, a nurse, actually asked the chemist for Baloney stockings, as I was told I must wear them after some op. It took a patient pharmacist to explain my error. Oh dear.

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    1. Oh my. That made me laugh. It's not just me, then!!

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  13. Hi, Fran....I came over from Janie's blog to visit today, since she is promoting your book, and I'll be back. Love the humor in your story. I love to write, but I'm not naturally entertaining in the same way. Have a great weekend!

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    1. Thanks so much for dropping by, Linda, and for leaving a comment! I've just read Janie's review, and it made me laugh. It's so kind of her. She and I share the same silly, zany sense of humour, I think....

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  14. A day at the sea beats a D & C any way you look at it! I found your blog via Janie Junebug's review of your novel. I love good humour writing -- thank you!!

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    1. I agree - surely a day at the sea would cure anything! Thanks for following - really appreciated.

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  15. Those were both funny mistakes! I'm sure the doctors never forgot them.

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    1. Hi Sherry - and thanks for following! I wonder if either of those doctors writes a blog now and posts about 'the stupid mistakes our secretaries used to make' ... Who knows?

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  16. Not seen your blog before but it's like a breath of fresh air! Love Baloney operation and a Day at the Sea! I learned Pitman's shorthand, too - I had very neat outlines (not that I can remember any now as I never had to use shorthand in my work) and for those reading this who haven't had the dubious pleasure of learning shorthand, that is nothing to do with my figure! Yes, dear old typewriters, and in the days before 'golfball' typwriters, too ... old Underwoods and Imperials, oh larks! And having to re-wind an over-used ribbon, and liquid Tippex before Tippex strips of paper, and carbon copies ... I remember it all, and having to rip up a whole piece of work because of a silly error two thirds of the way down!
    Margaret P

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    1. I'd forgotten about the Tippex strips! Yes! I can't believe how careful I used to have to be, especially as a medical secretary, with so much potential for mistakes, and four carbon copies to go to all the different doctors. Thanks for reading, Margaret P, and for your comment. Do come again!

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    2. Hi, Fran,

      I think what you have described, all those mixed words, is actually called a mondegreen (rather than a typing error, poshly called a literal but to we typists, simply a typo.) If you've not heard of a mondegreen, then Google it, it's great fun for those of us who enjoy words.
      Margaret P

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