Thursday, February 18, 2010

ERM-BC-COOP: Speak English !


I confess to being a bit "put out" by "de" words.

Words such as "de-identification" as in "Workshop on the HIPAA Privacy Rule’s De-Identification Standard" and "de-duplication."

As a former journalist, flack. and technical writer I find words such as these counter-productive. They cause listeners to ask "Say WHAT?" and readers to reach for their glasses.

I understand what the coiners of these words are trying to convey, at least in broad terms, although to be truthful I had to confirm "de-duplication" (,,sid187_gci1378533,00.html).

There's nothing inherently wrong with coining (making up) words, but these two words in particular offend me eyes and ears.

"De-duplication" is, in English, deletion of duplicate files.

I assume that "de-identification" translates to "remove (patient) identifiers" given the related article. The reason for the "assume" weasel word is that the text at never clearly states that the workshop is about removal of information that could identify a patient .

Per the referenced Web page, "The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA)1 requires HHS to issue guidance on methods for de-identification of protected health information (PHI) as designated in HIPAA's Privacy Rule.

"To facilitate timely collection of information, OCR is organizing an in-person workshop that will consist of multiple panel sessions. Each panel will address a specific topic related to the Privacy Rule’s de-identification methodologies and policies. The workshop will be open to the public and each panel will be followed by a question-answer period. The workshop will be held March 8-9, 2010 in Washington, DC and, at the present time, this is the only workshop planned."

To borrow a line from My Fair Lady , "Why can't the English learn to speak . . . the language."

I really would like to "de-dictionary" those two words.

By the way, "OCR" translates to "Office [for] Civil Rights" that, it would seem, is part of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.

John Glenn, MBCI
Enterprise Risk Management/Business Continuity practitioner
English language curmudgeon
Hollywood/Fort Lauderdale Florida

Looking for work in, or from, southeast Florida


Anonymous said...

After this article and the day I've had, I think I need to de-stress!

Anonymous said...


Specifically, since a lot of the IT Security, Governance, Regulation, and Compliance lexicons come from policy-maker’s attempting to “translate” ad-hoc conversations with technical subject matter experts…

Most of my contracts are just that... "Translating IT to address business need..."