COVID-19 и эпонимическая контроверза в современной медицинской терминологии
The paper looks into the current terminological polices proposed by the World Health Organization and successfully implemented in the current epidemiological crisis caused by COVID-19. According to the WHO recommendations issued in 2015, the newly coined terms are supposed to be “scientifically sound” and “socially acceptable”. The paper primarily focuses on the latter requirement linking it to the dramatic changes in the sociocultural practices. Within these practices medical knowledge has ceased to be the province of the professional medical community. It is becoming increasingly available to the general public due to the culturally licensed shift towards democratization of medicine assisted by the development of communication technologies. In this newly emerging context, medical terminology acquires a distinct social dimension. Circulating in lay discourses, a term does not only name a disease, but is potentially capable of shaping a certain attitude to it, as well as to those afflicted by it. Among others, WHO explicitly prohibits the use of geographic names and people’s names, thus putting an end to the time-honored eponymic tradition. The paper considers two groups of factors that make eponymy an inadequate means of naming. The first one is of an ethical character. Eponymy is described as a stigmatizing practice which can have pronounced negative effects on nations, economies and people. Thus, as the current coronavirus epidemic clearly shows, association of a disease with a particular place can ignite xenophobia and cause societal tension. In line with its current polices, WHO made a commendable effort to ban the use of the term Wuhan virus coined by journalists and offer a geographically neutral substitute COVID-19 in record time. The use of personal names has also proved to be a highly controversial practice, as it often attributes scientific priority to the wrong person, may cause confusion, stigmatizes people who bear the same last name as the eponimized doctors, and sometimes commemorates medical professionals who discredited themselves by resorting to unethical research methods. The second group of factors is of a purely linguistic character. The paper lists such inconsistences as orthographic variation (Bekhterev / Bechterew disease), the use or the omission of the apostrophe (Down’s / Down syndrome), the use of proper nouns that coincide with common nouns (Christmas disease, Baker’s cyst), the use of composite terms (Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever), which impede professional communication and mislead lay people. Once an eponym is introduced, it is extremely difficult to eliminate its use due to the conservative nature of professional and lay discourses. The terminological initiative of the WHO spares the medical community the embarrassment of commemorating unworthy researchers and stigmatizing ethnic communities. This strategy fully corresponds to the current sociocultural practices based on tolerance and social inclusion.