I love being at an academic institution for many reasons. One of which is that the residents keep me on my toes -- they've read the latest stuff, they want justification for proposed workups and treatment plans, and...
....they've got the sharpest grammar?
Yep. I can only imagine the patients watching us in the ED -- when we're not hunched over our keyboards, charting, reviewing and ordering, we can be seen gesticulating wildly about things like the placement of apostrophes in eponymous diseases.
For instance, can you pick what's proper, below?
Down Syndrome or Down's syndrome
Legionnaire disease or Legionnaires' diseaseThe rule I've always heard is: if the disease is named for a patient, it deserves an apostrophe. If the disease is named for its discoverer, the apostrophe is inappropriate. Lou Gehrig's disease was his, and the Legionnaires had theirs, but Down didn't own his syndrome. More here.
The most consistently misattributed apostrophe, I think, belongs to Crohn -- though that's slowly changing, too. We'll leave for another time the discussion of proper possessive apostrophe usage when a name ends in s (Legionnaires' or Legionnaires's), perhaps until agreement can be reached the Chicago Manual of Style and AP Style.
I just want to highlight the body of work of Tsung O. Cheng, who has been writing about eponymous diseases and the inappropriateness of apostrophes for fifteen years -- including how to handle the situation when the discoverer of the condition is also a patient.
While Dr. Cheng is Professor of Medicine and has been a prolific author, churning out 10 medline-indexed publications on this trivial topic means either medical grammar is an exciting and contentious field for potential scholarship -- or that our system of academic promotion and peer review is kind of messed up.
So, I humbly suggest: Deciding on whether to devote one's energies to adding lines on one's CV, or actually trying to contribute to the body of knowledge in medicine, shall henceforth be known as Genes' dilemma.