Thursday, September 16, 2010

thought showers, idea clusters, and excogitation

After our conversation about it in class, I was curious to follow up on the derogatory use of the word "brainstorming." It turns out to be a pretty interesting case, and oh-so relevant to the issue of health education and information dissemination. Thanks so much to Megan for bringing this up!

According to Epilepsy Action, the concern that the term might be offensive people with epilepsy was raised by some well-intentioned governmental agencies: The Welsh Development Agency and the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment in Belfast. Apparently, in addition to its far more common colloquial use to describe creative problem-solving, "brainstorm" is sometimes used to describe ‘a succession of sudden and severe phenomena, due to some cerebral disturbance’ (Oxford English Dictionary).

As an alternative, the agencies suggested the term "thought shower" be used as a substitute. Here in the US, apparently that was translated into the more American "idea cluster," or even "excogitate" if you want to get really fancy about it, none of which quite have the same ring to them.

Interestingly, The National Society for Epilepsy followed up on this bit of political correctness with a survey that found that the vast majority of people who actually have epilepsy had never even considered that the term might be used in a derogatory way, and in fact were much more put off by the idea of public misperception that they might be overly sensitive. In fact, many seem pretty annoyed by the whole thing.

Epilepsy Action also provides a helpful info page on the condition which includes terminology you should try to avoid when discussing the condition, which seems fairly relevant to our discussions (and publications) around health and the body in general.

1 comment:

  1. That's really interesting. Also, I think I could get used to "thought shower" as a milder, alternative metaphor for when the thoughts just rain--not bolt.