Terms Schmerms

This was originally posted to my blog, Diabetes Odyssey.

“There is an old saying that states “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me”. I’m willing to bet we’ve all disagreed with this at some point, and especially when it comes to diabetes. Many advocate for the importance of using non-stigmatizing, inclusive and non-judgmental language when speaking about or to people with diabetes. For some, they don’t care, others care passionately. Where do you stand when it comes to “person with diabetes” versus “diabetic”, or “checking” blood sugar versus “testing”, or any of the tons of other examples? Let’s explore the power of words, but please remember to keep things respectful.” - Bitter-Sweet Diabetes, Diabetes Blog Week, day 3.

I find that many things these days such as political correctness, tolerance, and the such can sometimes be way hypersensitive, and put too much emphasis in the wrong places. nit-picking every little detail of the way something is said, the exact words used, and not using common sense to understand what is being said. It’s what is being said (the intention) not so much how it is said that matters.

Honestly, in most cases I could not care any less what words are used when it comes to diabetes terminology. As long as I understand your meaning (intention) then I really don’t care how you say what you say.

I am not hypersensitive about terminology. I am, however, hypersensitive about pronunciation. If you pronounce it dia-beet-us, I just might punch you in the mouth. Not really, but I sure will want to.

If you read my blog, then you know I mix and match my terms all the time. I’ve used both “test” and “check”. I’ve used both “blood-sugar”, and “blood-glucose”. I’ve used “high” and “low” and also “hypo” and “hyper”. One term I’ve never used is “person with diabetes” because, in all honesty, I think it is too politically correct and I really do not care for politically correct terms. They actually seem cold and impersonal to me, like people only use them out of fear of hurting feelings or offending. I refuse to walk on eggshells for any reason. Eggshells hurt my feet.

I am a diabetic and I love the term diabetic, it’s who I am and what I am.

I am fine with whatever term people want to use for whatever they are talking about. Like I said, as long as I can understand your meaning, then we’re good. I don’t expect you to speak exactly like me. I don’t want you to be afraid of hurting my feelings or offending me, I want you to be able to be yourself around me. And I appreciate the same from you.


I totally agree with you, I don’t care much about terms, they don’t offend me.

Agree. I’m a diabetic and I don’t avoid calling diabetes a disease, I simply don’t care. Why should I?
However there is one term that I don’t like: “Quality of life”. I don’t really know what it means and to me it sounds cold and impersonal. As if you could measure it with your glucose meter or as if some quality assurance agency can measure the quality of my life and then certify it. :confused: It doesn’t make sense to me. But it doesn’t offend me when a doctor uses this term.

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Personally, I have no emotional attachment to either term, so I really don’t care how someone labels me. Labels are just labels, they don’t change the underlying reality one iota.

That said, I recognize that it really matters to some people, so when I know that about someone, I try to use the term they prefer. Why? Common courtesy. I’m not out there to gratuitously annoy people. I do it enough by accident, I don’t need to do it on purpose, too. :wink:


Tamra, I can think of quite a few terms with which to label you besides “diabetic”: intelligent, caring, supportive, and friend are just a few that come to mind…


That’s how my mom pronounced it when she asked me about it. Used to drive me nuts.


Of course I won’t offend someone on purpose. However, I can’t keep up with the ever-growing list of terms that (the increasing number of) minority groups want me to avoid. So it would help a lot if people were a little less sensitive.

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I take no offense when someone refers to me as a “diabetic.” That term no more defines me than does driver, walker, or writer. Unless someone tries to infer that diabetes is the description that predominates in the sense of who I am. As a writer, the term “diabetic” is more concise than “person with diabetes.” I almost always prefer fewer words than more words – even though I tend toward the verbose.

I’m not offended either by test rather than check. My confidence in my ultimate value as a person does not hinge on the number that appears on my meter. I understand the preference for “checking” versus “testing,” but it’s not important to me.

Having stated my word preferences, I don’t mind making an effort to use the terms “person with diabetes” and “checking” as a courtesy to those who do prefer these words. I’m not 100% when it comes to this. I hope that tolerance and common courtesy extend both directions when this happens.

I take offense at other words because I think they do greater damage to people. I despise the use of the term “reverse” when coupled with “diabetes” or type II diabetes. It is deliberate misuse in order to unduly influence someone to follow a guru and give up some of their hard earned money in exchange for the magic system. For the same reason, I’m very suspicious of the word “cure.”

I also take a dim view of speakers and writers when they refer to T2D as simply “diabetes.” As a T1D, I am a member of a distinct subclass of those with diabetes. Again, this gross imprecision of word use has tangible consequences. Informing a youth sports coach, for example, that one of his new team members has “diabetes” can be dangerous if the youngster has type I diabetes and the coach’s only knowledge of diabetes is type II.

I do think words matter. The weight we assign the misuse of these terms need to be carefully calibrated. When someone says diabetic instead of person with diabetes, there is hardly ever intent to injure. I’ve never interpreted “diabetic” as a pejorative, a term with insult attached.

There has been lots of use of the term “political correctness” this political season. Some may see the polite term used to describe a person as a member of a certain ethnicity as an unneeded “niceness.” I don’t at all. Especially if the alternate term is rude and insulting. It seems to me that some people would like to go back to a ruder time when it was OK to openly insult people based on their race or ethnicity. Political correctness is not to blame.


. . . and I thought it was just me . . . :laughing:[quote=“Terry4, post:7, topic:53602”]
I take offense at other words because I think they do greater damage to people
+1. Heavens yes. A particular bête noire of mine is “non-compliant”. And there are others, too.

This is truly the one term that bothers me, unless it’s used in humor, in which case it can be quite funny. Unless someone is deliberately trying to be funny though, there is no quicker way to convince me someone isn’t very bright.

The term ‘sugar diabetes’ gets me every time. Grrrr!

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I’m a programmer, and in programming one often needs to get information from another machine (or send it). A man called Jon Postel handled many of the standards that make up the modern internet. He formulated what has become known as Postel’s Law

Be conservative in what you send; be liberal in what you accept.

I think that fits this thread.

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I totally understand that, it’s very annoying when people say things that are misleading or outright lies.

‘Political correctness’ should be used with caution. I do not deny the existence of political correctness, but the term is used way too much by populists who use it to describe anything they don’t like. Populists tend to think that being rude is the same as being politically incorrect.
That said, as a millennial myself, I think that political correctness is a problem among millennials in the US. (This culture of hypersensitivity has not reached my country yet). I can’t believe my ears when I hear about students rioting in order to prevent dissenters from giving a lecture. So-called ‘microaggressions’ and ‘privileges’ that might violate their ‘safe spaces’ are their worst nightmares for some reason. Have entire college campuses lost their mind? Life will be very hard if you take offense at everything.


I agree with you. I don’t much care what terms people use.

I use “politically correct” terms because it’s what’s expected of me professionally, and it sort of spilled over into my personal writing. I don’t like them, though. The reason being that they are only used for things perceived as “negative” by society, and so to me just emphasize that whatever condition is being referred to is viewed as negative. Either change the entire English language to use that type of syntax, or don’t chage it at all. The whole point of political correctness is to emphasize the “person” with the condition first and indicate that their condition is not the only aspect of them that matters—but if someone thinks that a condition is the sum of who a person is, then changing the order of words is not going to change that way of thinking.

I do agree with @Terry4 that there are some words that have come to be insults that should be avoided, but many groups who are the target of politically-correct language didn’t even ask for the change in language. It’s very different if a minority group themselves asks for a word not to be used.

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When I was a kid, we referred to my meter as a “tester”. I didn’t even hear it referred to as a “meter” until I was an adult and connected with the DOC. :slight_smile:


Conversely, the concept (not the phrase) is used by ideological liberals to target any language or behavior they don’t like. So one way or another, both sides of the ideological divide use it as a weapon with which to bludgeon the other. Which is why I disdain it. The germ of truth that’s in there someplace is generally drowned out by the blanket, angry posturing.


Maybe they’ve heard about diabetes insipidus, which is excessive urination without excessive glucose in the blood, but don’t known the correct term for it.