Sunday, 11 July 2010

Tuesday the 13th looms and I am having a hell of a time – phonetically speaking

Next week brings with it Tuesday the 13th and our School Graduation Ceremony. We have two ceremonies planned and over 500 students are likely to graduate. But fantastic as this celebration might be, regular readers of this blog will know it also heralds the start of my worst nightmare; that is being on the stage and unable to pronounce the names of the students correctly.

Having spent two days this week in the company of my Head of School colleagues in the improbably named Renascence Hotel (yes we all remember it as the Ramada) I have found out that I am not alone in having this fear.

Whilst not quite an example of onomatophobhia, this collective reluctance to become engaged in an activity that seriously challenges one’s ability to respect the name of a other by pronouncing it correctly is more wide spread than I first imagined. Many colleagues really find the process difficult and anxiety provoking. However such anxiety is perhaps not as wide spread as:

Anatidaephobia – the fear that somewhere, somehow, a duck is watching you


Luposlipaphobia – the fear of being pursued by timber wolves around a kitchen table while wearing socks on a newly-waxed floor.

(both were made up by Gary Larson for his The Far Side cartoons).

In a somewhat oxymoronic sense, my Father worries that I suffer from the long term condition: hippopotomonstrosesquipedalianism, which, as everyone knows, is the art of using VERY long words to confuse people. It comes from the root sesquipedalian, meaning a person who uses long words which can confuse people. Of course in my cognitively challenged but somewhat introverted postmodernist personal phenomenological zeitgeist that is, in a Wittgenstein sense, my meagre existence, I couldn’t possibly begin to offer an explanation, existential or otherwise.

My choice of ‘meagre existence’ as a way of describing where I am possibly reflects those I very much admire in terms of their personhood and what they have been able to achieve in their lives. The title of this blog reflects such a person. Virginia Henderson (1897 – 1996) has been called by many ‘the first lady of nursing’. Her definition of nursing remains unchallenged today:

"The unique function of the nurse is to assist the individual, sick or well, in the performance of those activities contributing to health or its recovery (or to peaceful death) that he/she would perform unaided if he/she had the necessary strength, will or knowledge"

Her writing, presentations and research have profoundly affected nursing and impacted on the recipients of nursing care throughout the world – and this definitely includes me! Like other mental health nurses, Virginia will always have a special place in our hearts – it was Virginia, of course who in 1929 (!), was one of the earliest advocates for the inclusion of psychiatric nursing into the wider nurse curriculum. Her revision of Bertha Harmer's textbook the Principles and Practice of Nursing in 1939 remains a seminal text, and her book, Nature of Nursing, published in 1966 expressed her belief about the essence of nursing and influenced the hearts and minds of all those who have read it.

As a person and a nurse she was radical, witty and above all else, compassionate.

However, would you know how to pronounce her middle name – Avenel? To me it sounds like aving ell. On Tuesday I will try and do better!