Tuesday, January 26, 2010


Today this word was said to me, and once again, my frustration toward the word flared. (don't worry Hil, no frustration directed at you :)) SO, about 4 years ago I went to the doctor and found out that I had -that word-. The doctor said to me (or so I heard) "You have a stigmatism." cool. I went about my day whatever. Months later I discovered it wasn't "a stigmatism" but rather, "astigmatism". This is where I feel extremely frustrated. I'm not an English major, but I'm not dumb, I passed 3rd grade english! If a word begins with a vowel you say "an" rather than "a".. so shouldn't the doctor have said "you have an astigmatism"? And I have seen commercials on TV where they distinctly refer to it without saying "an". So now my question is this: Is everyone else wrong and it should be pronounced "an astigmatism" or does it have a silent "a" kind of like 'oppossum' has a silent "o" OR is it a proper noun and Astigmatism, not astigmatism? If I am going to say it different than everyone else (an astigmatism) then I want to know I'm right so I can say it with confidence and not care when I get funny looks! Someone please tell me the right way to use this word!

Edit (from awhile after I wrote this): I may have figured it out.. is it kind of like a disease or illness? Like saying you have strep throat. Because you wouldn't say you have a strep throat. That MUST be it. Am I right? Someone with English knowledge please tell me.


Charles and Nancy said...

Sorry I have no idea but you made me curious. I hope someone can answer you so we both know.

Jason & Shannon said...

Yes. You got it with the disease analogy.

Jessica said...

Yeah you're right with the disease analogy. And I have it too, so I will commiserate with you. Stupid astigmatism! And yes, I agree that it is a very confusing word and that the medical community could have done a better job of naming it.

Katrina said...

:) you are too cute! :) I didn't ever realize that it really was "astigmatism" either! Thanks for the info! :)

yeah...I keep finding reasons why I DIDN'T go into the medical field! One of which is definitely all the terminology! :)

Ang said...

Yes, it is a condition, like strep throat, so you have astigmatism. Also, it's because it's plural. You have an "astigmatism" in each eye. Th article 'an' would make it appear to be singular when it's not. An English major wouldn't help because it's Latin. (like most medical terms)

Matt and Mari said...

The a/an rule actually is NOT in relation to vowels, but rather it is a sound rule. (I feel like a liar when I teach my students that it is a vowel rule, but in general, it is simplier.) That's why there are wierdos out there like: an hour, an honor, a eulogy, a European, et cetera.
That's not a medical explanation, but now you can sound smart when you say, "It is AN honor to meet you" :)