I was sitting in the Weli Deli at work having a conversation with another Type 1 diabetic on staff when my boss brought up an interesting point. He said to another gentlemen in the room “it’s like when you listen to people talk about Star Wars”. To my boss we were speaking another language. The statement he made really got me thinking; diabetes is a foreign language all on its own. When we talk to one another about diabetes we usually shorten the actual terminology. When I am having issues with my blood sugars I usually vocalize it’s high or it’s low, instead of saying I have high blood sugars or low blood sugars. Now that I’m fluent in the language of diabetes, I decided to look further into its slang and learn the street talk.
When I first was diagnosed, my doctor would mouth off words like hyperglycemic, basal, bolus, and A1C. I had no idea what those things meant; I was too embarrassed to bring up the fact that I didn’t know the language. After most of my initial doctors appointments I would go home and Google diabetes so that I could understand what my doctor was actually telling me. When I would visit home after being diagnosed I would start speaking to my parents in my new native tongue, they would listen intently, trying to catch any little bit they understood, then have me tell them everything again so maybe they could soak some of what I just said in. Not only did I have to learn a new language I also had to learn how to translate it to the people around me.
Now to the street talk of diabetes. Sounds a little dirty doesn’t it? It’s really not though. Truth be told the only reason I even bothered with the slang terms was because saying things like hemoglobin A1C doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue. So, I Googled “speaking diabetes” and was amazed by how many slang terms people have come up with for diabetes. Some were gross, like the term “gusher”. This term is pretty simple to place the meaning (if you’re diabetic). It basically is a way to describe when you remove your cannula and the injection site begins to bleed profusely I have actually ruined a shirt or two because of this. Some of the terms I wouldn’t have ever thought of. On one website they mention the term “Larry Low”. “Larry Low” was created based off the baseball player Larry Low because his number is 33. They use this term to let the other person know their blood sugars are in the low 30’s a dangerously low number. It was probably the most unique term I came across. Then there were a few terms that just made me laugh. I came across “Bolus-Worthy” and smirked because I understood it completely. You would say this term if you were lusting over a delicious dessert that is high in carbs. In my case this would be a beignet, would inject myself with all the insulin in the world to enjoy a beignet. So, for me, a beignet is definitely “Bolus Worthy”.
I have to admit learning a new language is always hard and complicated. Once you master the formalities you have to learn the slang. But to me teaching a foreign language would be even harder, especially the language of diabetes. I am still learning the language and the slang that goes along with it. But I definitely feel I could probably add bilingual to my resume. It may not be a majorly used language, but who knows maybe one day it could save someone’s life.
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