Linguistic Teaser

Sick English - Medicalization in the English Language

Sick English is available at

Sick English: Medicalization in the English Language was first published in 2012. An updated and expanded 2nd edition will be ready later, in 2019. It will be just as exciting as the first edition and just as global, but will include many more examples from the media and popular genres.

I coined “Sick English” to describe the tendency of citizens in English-speaking countries to speak of their lives—or the lives of others—as if they’re sick, in need of treatment. So when a man believed his career was stuck, going nowhere, he said it was “comatose”. When a talk-show host became wealthier and could afford more expensive goods, she claimed she was suffering from “fluffy towel syndrome”. An architecture critic who disliked the style of a new building, called the style “autistic”.

Scores of examples like these are used by citizens in the U.S., Canada, the UK (England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland), the Republic of Ireland, New Zealand, and Australia. And Sick English is spreading to speakers in developing countries that are becoming Westernized.

Sick English represents the linguistic expression of people’s tendency to medicalize their lives; that is, to metaphorically shift most particulars of their lives to the clinical arena, making them a matter of life or death. To a great extent, the pharmaceutical industry, along with medical breakthroughs, have encouraged us to view our lives in this way.

The 2012 shorter edition is still available for sale at Amazon, in paperback and Kindle. Check it out, to get a taste of the even greater pleasure you can expect in 2019 with the 2nd updated and revised edition.

If you’d like to interview me about Sick English, or would like me to write a short piece about it for your publication, style manual, or blog, please let me know.


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