Recently we received a reaction to our information leaflet, in which it was test suggested that we are using an inappropriate vocabulary. It pertained to the following text:
Problems with peeing, pooing or having sex?
Come and talk with us to see whether we can help you.
It suggested that ‘pooing’ (in Dutch: poepen) is considered to be bad language.
Being pelvic-floor physiotherapists, our field is the pelvis and the pelvic floor musculature. These muscles have openings; in women three and in men two. It pertains to the urethra, the vagina and the anus, which will open or close by means of contraction or relaxation of the pelvic floor.
Here they are again, those words ! Because in order to retain pee and poo these openings have to be able to close ; and in order to pee and poo they should be able to open. These muscles are also used while making love.
Because one would rather not speak about these subjects, or because they are considered to be inappropriate conversation topics, one prefers to use euphemisms and descriptive definitions.
In common language, there is no shortage of words and expressions for the above-mentioned actions, but most of them are indeed not neutral, like having to go for a ‘number one’ ; or they are vague indications, like going to ‘powder your nose’. And some folks do not shy away from using coarse language.
We can choose from various types of language. Taking ‘bowel movement’ as an example we can use medical language( to defecate), children’s language (go poo-poo), vague language (go for a number two), coarse language (to shit) and clear language (to poo). When speaking Dutch, we prefer to use the last one (‘poepen’). By the way, since numerous editions the authoritative Dutch dictionary, ‘van Dale’ marks words like poo, pee and making love no longer as informal or coarse.
Why do we prefer clear language? To solve the problem, first the problem has to be clarified precisely. Using clear language both patient and therapist know what they are talking about. The fact that this language is sometimes experienced as coarse has to do with the haze of taboo which in our society still surrounds these basic human activities. One doesn’t like to talk about it to strangers.
This categorization in language is of course subjective, because what for one person is coarse, for another person may be clear. Or the other way around. That’s why we will tailor the type of language we use to the patient’s needs and comfort, as long as clarity remains guaranteed. Whichever language is used, solving the patient’s difficulty is priority.
We do welcome further suggestions ! In case you know more civilized, clear expressions to indicate these basic human activities, please let us know !