Thursday, November 11, 2004

A Debate about Grammar

My doctor wrote up an order calling for a cholesterol test in two weeks. So three days after being informed of the order, I went to the hospital lab and took the test.

Later, got an irate phone call from the doctor's nurse for ignoring the specifics of the order. Here is how the conversation went.

Nurse: You took the test too soon. The doctor said to take the test in two weeks.

Me: I don't understand. He said in two weeks, so I went to the lab inside the time frame. The doctor did not say to take the test two weeks from now, but in two weeks. I did not want to procrastinate.

Nurse: The doctor did not say to take the test within two weeks. He said in two weeks. That means the earliest you can take the test is November 22nd.

Me: Neither did he say two weeks from the day of the order.

So that is how the unexpected debate about grammar with my doctor's nurse went, and now I am confused. That her native tongue is English and mine is not does not mean an automatic concession from me . Native speakers are responsible for some of the most grammatically butchered sentences and phrases that I've had the misfortune of hearing.

So am I totally off on this?


At November 13, 2004 8:17 PM, Blogger Carrie said...

I would interpret the statement the way she did (and I guess the way it was intended) by understanding that I was to take the test after two weeks.

At November 13, 2004 8:19 PM, Blogger Jenny said...

Uh, that comment was made by me--I was altering Carrie's blog and I guess did not log out of her identity.

At November 16, 2004 2:55 PM, Blogger Jenn said...

Well, Dave, I'm sorry but I'll have to side with the nurse on this one. "In two weeks" means "two weeks from now". "Within two weeks" would be the appropriate wording for your interpretation. But she should have been a little more understanding. It's an idiom and really could be unclear to a non-native speaker.

At November 16, 2004 4:26 PM, Blogger David Cho said...

Hmm... In this case, my cholesterol test had to be retaken because I had not fasted for 14 hours the first time around. That was the only reason it had to be retaken. Other than that, waiting 2 weeks won't make a difference to your cholesterol level.

So according to my interpretation, at issue were the fasting period, and getting it done in less than two weeks so as not to wait too long.

There really was no rhyme or reason to waiting 2 weeks other than fasting for 14 hours. So I still don't understand what the nurse was irate about.

At November 16, 2004 5:44 PM, Blogger Jenn said...

Yeah, it might just be that she REALLY likes her ducks all in a row, as it were, and can't handle a deviant in her pattern. Or perhaps her coffee was lukewarm and she had a hangnail and you were just next on the list of people to call.

Sheesh. They check your cholesterol and raise your blood pressure. What's the deal?

At November 25, 2004 7:26 PM, Blogger Jenny said...

Hey Dave! Thanks for the Thanksgiving wishes. I hope you also have a great Thanksgiving. :)

Are you ever going to blog again???


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