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Under Pressure

In my life, I have been lied to. Granted there’s nothing special about that as we’ve all be lied to at some point. But to me there seems to be one group of people for whom lying is just a matter of everyday business. And here’s the thing, I’m NOT talking about politicians! This group is large, diverse, and all seem to think they know what is best for you. Yup. I promise. I’m still NOT talking about politicians.

I’m talking doctors and their ilk. I swear they must all take the same class on the subject. It is probably something like, “Advanced Truth Telling 403” or some such.

My most recent pair of liars was my dentist and his assistant. I recently had a wisdom tooth extracted and like the fool I am I assumed I was man enough to experience the ordeal awake. Such a silly man I sometimes am. And apparently occasionally Yoda like in my speech patterns. Anyway, I digress. The lie I was told is one that I think most of you have been told. It was, “Now you’re going to feel a little pressure”. I didn’t feel pressure. I felt the sharp intrusion of a red hot needle being jabbed in and out of my jaw repeatedly. I should have paid for the anesthesia, but I’m cheap and would have felt the pressure in my pocket book instead. *Shudder*

Google tells me that “pressure” is:

  1. the continuous physical force exerted on or against an object by something in contact with it. “The slight extra pressure he applied to her hand”
  2. the use of persuasion, influence, or intimidation to make someone do something. “The proposals put pressure on Britain to drop its demand”

Neither of the above definitions is ever what someone means when they tell you that you might experience some pressure. What they mean to say is, “Now you’re going to feel a little pain”. For completeness, and to allow you, dear reader, the chance to compare and contrast the two definitions, here is Google’s definition of pain:

  1. physical suffering or discomfort caused by illness or injury. “She’s in great pain”. synonyms: suffering, agony, torture, torment, discomfort

Discomfort. That’s the real word that should be used in the majority of these situations. But as you can see above, discomfort is a synonym of pain. Looking again and I see that pressure is NOT. Why? Because nobody really wants to admit that in order to make you feel better, you are going to have to experience something worse first. I think this is because many people seem to feel more pain and discomfort if they know it is coming. But if this is the case, all that is really happening is that we are instead making people afraid of the word “pressure”. People will then start to expect actual pain and discomfort at the use of the word “pressure”. The pain I felt as the dentist extracted my tooth was completely different than the pressure I felt as his assistant took my blood pressure. The blood pressure cuff applied actual pressure to the arm. Ripping a tooth out of someone’s head causes pain or at the very least discomfort. Ya know, come to think of it, I didn’t get “pressure pills” prescribed to me, I got “pain pills“.

Of course there is the chance that our society is merging the two meanings, like we have LITERALLY done with the word literal. Some literal dumb asses have decided that so many people have used literal incorrectly to exaggerate a point that literal now has a new meaning on top of its literal meaning. And I’m literally not exaggerating.

This can be seen in Google’s “informal” definition of literal:

  1. formal: Taking words in their usual or most basic sense without metaphor or allegory. “Dreadful in its literal sense, full of dread”
    • informal: absolute (used to emphasize that a strong expression is deliberately chosen to convey one’s feelings). “Fifteen years of literal hell”

I’ll avoid digging into the bastardization of the word “absolute” as used in the example of the informal definition above. Let’s just say I hate the English language. Too bad I’m too lazy to learn a better one.

Thinking along these lines, I start to consider what happens if we start to misconstrue all uses of pressure to mean only pain or discomfort. If you suggest that you are feeling a lot of pressure at work, people might wonder about the type of work you do. Queen’s Under Pressure changes context. And high and low pressure fronts really start to make the weather report a lot more interesting.

Regardless I think doctors should say what they mean. Be frank! We can take it. I have yet to have one doctor tell me that I’m a fat ass and I need to diet. WTF people? We all know this! It should be talking point number one right after taking care of the emergency that drove me to your door. “So Niassne. I see you are bleeding profusely. While we are taking care of that, you should know that you are a giant fat ass. If you don’t lose weight we are going to start charging you more and demanding you come in for more frequent visits. If that doesn’t work, we’re going to start applying some ‘pressure’. We’ll start with the scrotum”.

Maybe the rest of us should start using the word “dollars” in place of the word “rocks”. That way when we pay a bill for a procedure that included some “pressure” we can pay with “dollars”.

I don’t know though. Following the rule of Unintended Consequences, if we started doing that I think in the long run we’d just be hurting strippers. (They’d start to feel a lot more “pressure” during their performances as “dollars” were thrown their way – if you didn’t follow).

© 2013, Joe Little. All rights reserved.