WhiteCoat Challenge #4


Had a lot of fun with previous Whitecoat Challenges. Links are here, here, and here.

My latest idea for this challenge got put on hold after a comment made by a little old lady not too long ago.

She told the nurse that she was taking “peanut butter” to help stop her seizures.
Peanut butter ?!?!?”
“Yeah, my doctor prescribes me these little peanut butter balls to take three times a day.”
“You mean these little pills?”
“Yeah, those.”
“I see. Phenobarbital. Ahhhh. That makes more sense.”

I’ve heard a lot of malapropisms over the years. ERP posted several good ones last year on his blog at ER Stories.
Patients with “fireballs on the eucharist” who really have a “fibroid uterus”
One patient who almost died from the “smile of mighty Jesus” who got better after treatment for “spinal meningitis”
All those patients with “sick as hell anemia” whose “sickle cells” get better once the pain medicine kicks in.
“Seahorses in the liver” after patients have been drinking too long and develop “cirrhosis.”
The old lady who chastised me because I wanted to make a police report when she said that “Arthur” had been beating her up. I thought Arthur was her husband. Her response: “‘No, Arthur-itis,’ you dummy.”

So give me the best ones you have heard – from patients, friends, family members.

Three best responses as chosen by EP Monthly editors will get their choice of any of the products at EP Monthly’s Online Store.

Challenge winners announced Monday, May 18.

First, thanks to everyone for their submissions. The goal of this challenge was to show people how medicine can be fun and it paid off. These were all great.
Winners are:
1. Ryan for the story about the patient with black testicles
19. HyperAI for his “athlete’s foot of the vagina” remark
23. Michael Garrett for the “high anal hernia”

Honorable mentions get a free EP Monthly coffee cup and are
27. Kathy for the Hurricane Katrina comments (especially the “very close veins”) and
33. Roxanne for the chief complaint of “can’t breed”

Please drop an e-mail to info@epmonthly.com to arrange to get your prizes.

Thanks again to everyone for playing along.


  1. I was told the story of a patient wearing a non rebreather mask asking the nurse a question…

    Patient – “Are my testicles black?”

    Nurse looks under gown – “No, they seem to be ok.”

    Patient takes off mask – “Are my test results back?!”

  2. Sadness, I was told the joke by an old ER nurse, but it seems this one’s pretty well known (according to my wife, an ICU nurse). Oh well, funny nonetheless.

  3. As a later-in-life student nurse, I had to excuse myself from a patient’s room. The sweet old guy told me he had heart problems and sometimes had to take NTG for his “terrible vagina”.

  4. have seen some funny stuff by the transcribers of dictations…

    “patent foraminal valley” (foramen ovale)

    “blast glaucoma scale” (glasgow coma scale)

  5. I trained at a large City Hospital and have quite a few to share.
    Inborn Hemorrhoid – Internal Hemorrhoid
    Colonosposy – Colonoscopy
    Tubalization – Tubal Ligation
    Vagina Pectoris – Angina Pectoris
    Old Timers Disease – Alzheimer’s Disease
    Chicken Pops – Chicken Pox
    my favorite spoken by a medical student:
    CABO EN SABO – Couer en Sabot

  6. Asian nursing student with a heavy heavy accent during clinical rounds in maternity:

    “The patient was passing big “cocks”.

    {Big clots}

    While everyone just stared in *shock* for a few minutes till we figured it out, big clots from the vagina.

  7. One teen told her parents the optometrist told her she had cataracts. Worried, the parents phoned the optometrist, to be told the teen had astigmatism. They are both big words, after all, completely interchangeable…

  8. Someone needed the “cartridges” in her knees changed out (cartilage, which we can’t just pop in and out, to the best of my knowledge)

    The ever famous “rotary cup” (rotator cuff, usually torn)

    I think this one is regional, but it makes me crazy: “whelps” (welts or hives)

  9. Some famous triage complaints at our ER…..

    “Head Cold” got somehow triaged as “Dead Coed”
    Hurt wrist, fell off whore (pt misspelled horse in worst possible way)
    recently had a prisoner with “Penal Pain” (I bet….)

    Finally, don’t we all love those “Fuzzy babies” (fussy babies)

  10. My nurse who used to work for a County Health Department contributed this:

    Hairy Syphillis – Erysipelas
    Lazy Ass Syndrome – Lazy Eyes Syndrome
    The Drop – Urine Drug Testing

  11. (laughing, seriously laughing, hard)

    Thank you, everyone. I needed this.

    My experiences parallel some already mentioned so I’ll toss out one from the receiving end. Twenty years ago a thickly-accented foreign doc kept telling me, because I made him repeat it a few times unable to believe what I was hearing, I was “very arfritic” during a routine pelvic exam. This blew my mind because who wants arthritis of the vagina, you know?

    He meant “athletic”.

    Why he even said anything in the first place is beyond me…

    • This reminded me of residency days when one attending physician referred to Vaginal Candidiasis as “Athletes Foot of the Vagina”.

  12. Michael Garrett on

    I’m surprised nobody’s mentioned the old standby, “enlarged prostrate.”

    One I always enjoy is a patient who reports they’ve had a “colonostopy.” I’ve heard it a few times and I always chuckle (on the inside) at this conflation of colonoscopy and colostomy.

    My personal favorite, though, is “they said I had a high anal hernia.” Wow. How’d they diagnose that, by a colonostopy?

    Finally, the chief complaint “pussy discharge” has shown up twice on our ED tracking board recently to describe purulent drainage from non-vaginal sources.

  13. You got to put my moms “pisser back in”. Huh? Ya, get her pisser and push her bladder back in then use the “pisser” to hold it in place. Double Huh? Do you mean “pessary”. Ya, use that on her. Sheesh! Glad I didn’t grab the nearest pisser and try to put it in her Mom. Don’t think I’d have got a Thank You card.

  14. As a resident I got paged on several occasions about a patient having episodes of “Oy Tach”, an elderly patient going,

    night long.

    Usual treatment, 5mg of “Mellow Yellow” – Valium

  15. When a woman was asked during a sexual history whether she had mutual orgasms, she got upset and stated that she told that woman outside she had Mutual of Omaha.

    Had a patient who had “mind drain headaches” = migraine headaches

  16. A mother told us in neurology clinic her son had been tested for gardenias. She meant myasthenia gravis.

  17. I used to work in New Orleans before Katrina so here’s a few:

    I got six roaches in my liver = cirrhosis
    I suffer with the very close veins = varicose veins.
    He just done fell out = acute LOC
    I got the sugar = diabetic
    I got the grand Marshall Skeizures = Grand Mal seizures.
    Technical shot = tetanus shot
    Do you have any medical problems sir? Well, you GOT MY RECORD.
    There are more…. but some have already been mentioned….

    We once had shirts made up that said Charity Hospital. The life you save may take your own.

    Sad but true.

  18. Gay couple came one complaining of abdominal pain and bloating. After the exam he came out. His partner asked what happened and he said that the doctor said he is fine but that he only noticed a “homo systolic murmur” in me. The partner cried out..oh my God, oh my God..we’re going to have a baby?

    So guys pronounce “holo systolic murmur” carefully.

  19. My young son lamented to our neighbor that he couldn’t go swimming in her pool because he had *wrongitis*.

    He had bronchitis. 🙂

    I may have already mentioned that here though.

  20. One more… not sure if this qualifies.. but going with “flu” as medical connection.

    Younger son told me the weather report one spring morning before school. He was in 2nd grade.

    He said we were going to have “flu showers”.

    “Flu showers? There isn’t any such thing as flu showers.”

    “Yes Mommy… you know..those little raindrops with sickness in them.” (Used his fingers in downward motion to indicate drizzling rain)

    Then the report came on again stating we would be getting a “few” showers.

    I said “Chris, they said “FEW” showers.”

    Then he said, “Ohhhh…they forgot the L.”

    I guess he was just convinced it was flew/flu showers. 🙂

  21. whitecap nurse on

    I know it’s too late for the contest but I just wanted to add the well-know “chicken nut bread” for a Filipino woman who cannot breathe.

  22. This is also too late for the contest…

    I am a veterinarian.

    One of my clients requested depo primavera for his mare, to suppress estrus.

    (This is even funnier if one considers that horses cycle seasonally.)

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