Each issue we will include a few common errors that crop up time and time again. If you have a personal favourite you think we should add to this section, please email me and I will try to include it in a future issue of HOC.

Dangerous Dyads

  • Anesthesia, Anesthetic

Terms are not interchangeable. Anesthetics are substances or drugs used primarily to induce anesthesia , which is the loss of the sensation of pain.

  • Cohort, Colleague

One may be a member of a cohort , but other members of the group are colleagues , not cohorts. A cohort is a specific, discrete group or subgroup, not an individual.

  • Dose, Dosage

These words are not synonymous or interchangeable. A dose is the quantity administered at one time or the total quantity administered. The dosage is the regulation or frequency of doses. Dose could be thought of as a one-shot deal, and dosage as the timing or periodity.

  • Nauseous, Nauseated

To be nauseous is to cause nausea, to be loathsome or abhorrent. To be nauseated is to become ill.

  • Precribed, Proscribed

To prescribe is to direct, lay down rules, or give or write a prescription for someone. To proscribe is to forbid, prohibit, or condemn.

  • Use, Usage

The simple word use is underused. Usage means traditional or customary practice; it pertains to mores as well as to words. It should not be used as a variant of use.

  • Viral, Virile

Virus means slime, stench, or poison. [Viral refers to virus.] Virile is synonymous with masculine and means having the characteristics of an adult man. Pharmaceutical companies would not promote antivirile medications!

Thanks to Edith Schwager, Medical English Usage and Abusage (Oryx Press, Phoenix, Arizona, 1991).