Reader Asks “Why Orthop(a)edics?”

Which medical specialty cares for the iris, cornea, and retina? Can you spell it?

If you answered “opthalmology,” you are incorrect. But you’re in good company. In reality, ophthalmology is such a consonant-riddled, cluster-yuck of word that virtually everyone has trouble spelling it. In fact, so many of the general public think it’s “opthalmology” that ophthalmologists often embrace the misspelling to appeal to their communities.

So why do we, in a field that stirs similar confusion and questions over its nomenclature, insist upon orthopaedic surgery? Almost every other medical specialty in the United States has abandoned their pseudo-Grecoisms in favor of something more practical. Even paediatrics, our etymologic half-sibling, dropped the “a” more than 150 years ago. Are we so self-important that we wish to assert an air of pompous properness? Or perhaps we are so backward-thinking that we refuse to evolve with the times?

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