Apparently we are getting a spell checker added to the call taking system. This is not a moment too soon. I sometimes think the ambulance service has a deliberate policy of employing people who cannot spell “vomiting” (it’s either vommiting or vomitting. Occasionally vommitting…) or diarrhoea (the permutations are endless…) I know diarrhoea is a difficult word to spell and some people are dyslexic or whatever, but honestly, if you need to write a word several times a day, you should learn to spell it! It’s a shame that a spellchecker won’t pick up the countless calls to persons “laying” in the road (to which my response is always “Laying what? An egg?”).

I’m not sure the spellchecker would help with the following error, though. We had a call to a house called “High Gables” the other night. The call taker spelt it “High Gay Balls”. We may have laughed at this longer than was strictly necessary…

Published Jul 12, 2008 - 34 Comments and counting

34 Comments on “Spellchecker”
  1. Hazel Says:

    High Gay Balls! Priceless!

  2. Tom Reynolds Says:

    Heh, management will do *anything* to batter down the morale of those of us on the road – no longer will we be able to snigger at some of the ‘interesting’ interpretations of some of the things you folks write to us.

    But more seriously will the spellchecker be mucking up some of the more bizarre names of places? Imagine if it corrected High Gables to high gay balls, it could end up with an ambulance being sent to the wrong place…

  3. Mark Myers Says:

    I’m not sure how it will work yet, but someone said it will be checking road/place names against the gazetteer. I imagine that will fix quite a lot of the “mid point of road” errors on calls which will counteract the odd “High Gay Balls” incident… but we shall see. I’ll report back when it’s in!

  4. Erin Says:

    Oh man, this could be useful. I was passing someone else’s suicide call the other day and they had spelled father as “FARTHAR”. I was mid call and I think the bloke on the other end thought I was a bit daft because there was a long pause and I had to sound the word out slowly. Honestly, at 330am how am I supposed to work that out?
    And then from the same call taker someone was DIEING.

    And it’s not laying here, everyone’s led. Led on the floor. Led out. Led down. Led where?

  5. Maz Says:

    A little trick I learnt from an EMT from south London that some may of already heard of – how to remember the spelling of diarrhoea:-

    Dump It And Run Right Home Or Else Accident

    Never fails :)

    Maz x

  6. Steve Says:

    I don’t think a spellchecker will make much difference for words like laying. It’s spelled (or spelt?) correctly, just not in that context.

    Years ago, I had a team leader at work who’s surname was Dyer. One of my colleagues had been off sick the day before and was filling in his sick leave form. When he got to the reason for absence he asked how to spell diarrhoea and someone said, “D-Y-E-R…” That’s as far as he got before he got sworn at by the boss.

  7. Sue Says:

    I used to work on an A&E reception and we used Symphony – which doesn’t have a spell checker. One day someone wrote “swallowed leg” as a presenting complaint, rather than swollen leg! Wonder what the GP thought of that discharge letter!! We also had an SHO with terrible handwriting, I asked him about it once and he said he couldn’t spell so he’d start the word and then just draw a squiggle for the rest…

  8. Gaz Says:

    One of my old unintentional habits while working in control was describing severe stomach pains as ‘cute abdo’ obviously accidentally leaving out the a at the on the first word…..eep!
    Btw hello and long time reader:-)

  9. emt-vessel Says:

    Quite a few years ago we were called to an address. Theopopolous. Now i live in an area where “It’s all greek to me” does NOT ring true. Olives have barely landed and nana moussaka is for the noveau riche.
    We were slightly out of area so shrugged it off and began the hunt for Theopopolous. We asked a taxi driver. Surely he’d know. Strike one. We asked a passing copper. Strike two. What a shame posties aren’t about at 2300hrs. We nagged Control for details or for them to call back the caller.
    Finally, a dawning answer emerged.
    Theopopolous my rear-end!
    It was The Poplars, for goodness sake!
    AND, it wasn’t the callers fault.
    No patient was harmed in the making of that mistake – thankfully! ;0)

  10. Mrs Mal Says:

    High Gay Balls. That will go down in my list of “needs laughing at more than once” things.

    I’m a self confessed grammar Nazi – You sort of get like that after doing a 4-year degree in linguistics.

  11. domino Says:

    in my brief forray into nursing, I remember a tutor being asked “how do you spell diarrhoea?” The response came back –

    “l-o-o-s-e- -s-t-o-o-l-s”

    (funnily enough, it’s always been one of those words I’ve never had trouble spelling.)

  12. Kerry Says:

    After Rest Bite at work, I’d believe anything from spell checkers

  13. Dullahan999 Says:

    I am another fully signed up member of the “grammar socialist party” (I’ve not started genocide of illiterate people yet, so not a full Nazi), but I have noticed a scary trend!

    I’m never afraid to point out the correct spelling or pronunciation to friends, and always happy to have myself corrected. It stops bad habits. However I have noticed that the more I type with computers (work and online games) the worse my spelling becomes. Not so much bad spelling, but as Eric Morecombe would put it “all the right letters, just not necessarily in the right order!”. The becomes teh, my becomes ym, it seems my fingers and brain are racing against each other.

    Somewhere there is probably a happy huggy hippy who wants to call me dyslexic and give me a grant for a new laptop, personally I see it as part of using a computer that I have to keep under control.

    As for spellcheckers. I have an Oxford English Dictionary. Works just fine and doesn’t try to make me spell the American way.

  14. Rachel Says:

    I have been labelled a Word Nerd and frequently tell people that spell-check is ‘generally wrong’… however, it would probably be a marked improvement on the spelling habits of 99% of the population!!!

  15. Chris Says:

    I have to be honest – and I’m generally very good with my English – I’ve never really been arsed to learn how to spell diarrhoea. I think I got that right, I guess they better make sure it’s not checking against US spellings because Firefox has just underlined that as a mistake!

    Mind you, you’d think fast poop would be in your active vocabulary if you work in medicine in more or less any capacity.

    I work in a school’s IT department and I could show you some pretty shocking abuses of the English language made by teachers – confusing “of” with “have”, that sort of stuff.

  16. swast nick Says:

    diarroea = d no v!!!

  17. Vic Says:

    Many years ago, I worked for a publisher located in ‘Digswell Place’.

    On the letters we received there were such interpretations as:
    Digsville Place.
    Big Swell Place.
    Pig Swill Palace.

  18. Melph Says:

    or we could employ calltakers who can spell like we used to.

  19. swastnick Says:

    That would be a capital ‘O’ on ‘or’ then………

  20. Mart Says:

    I’ve always remembered Diarrhoea as

    Desperate in a real rush help one exploding ARGH!!!

  21. Mart Says:

    I’ve always remembered Diarrhoea as

    Desperate in a real rush help one exploding ARGH!!!

  22. Steven Says:

    I too get annoyed by spelling mistakes!

    My favourite ever was a call to a man who had a wound on his leg after:

    “failing down the stares.”

  23. Melph Says:

    Spelling was correct though :)

  24. Steven Says:

    fair point

  25. Kitten Says:

    Have to say the worst I’ve seen is Johndist (Jaundiced). Made a few of us laugh though :)

  26. Lauren Says:

    I sometimes think we should get that at NHS24.- I’m amazed how many people can’t spell diarrhoea and, slightly more memorably a call handler who couldn’t spell vagina and as such used fanny instead. I have to admit that I once thought a patient said appendectomy instead of orchidectomy which got me a slight slagging.

    At least we don’t have the address problem as we actually talk to people for long enough to dredge up their CHI record so in theory we have all of the information in front of us.

  27. Steve Rush Says:

    Spell checker absurdities are fun, but what’s degrading the language is the “garbage in, gospel out” effect of spell checkers’ inability to flag usage errors. If I were to win the lottery, I would rent a few hundred billboards with messages like “‘To’ is NOT ‘too!’”, “‘Their’, ‘their’ and ‘they’re’ are THREE DIFFERENT WORDS!” and “Most words that end in ‘s’ DO NOT need an apostrophe!”

  28. Spellchecker Says:

    [...] Source: Spellchecker [...]

  29. sam wood Says:

    almost as bad as the report of a mugging in Black Keith I saw on one report recently. (Blackheath)

  30. Nik Says:

    meh an easy one that, one of my colleagues got around it by stating…D&V without the V. He was tempted to put ‘the shits’ but was told that wasn’t allowed.

  31. S Says:

    As someone who used to work in Control and now works on the other side of the radio, spelling errors do give a laugh to both sides. Although it wouldn’t pick up on some of the wrong words I’ve seen, such as: “13yom fallen off snow bored”, an emergency call to “Haggis and Castle” instead of Haggerston Castle, and a diagnosis of “exasperation of COPD”… Nor would it have helped my repeated typo when I tried to type bowel. Everyone had bowl problems. But it might have picked up the error when someone tried to type “female fallen off a horse” and didn’t quite hit the “s” key….

    As for spelling diarrhoea, I was taught:

    Do In A Real Rush, Hurry Or Else Accident.

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  33. Trooper Says:

    and your and you're are completely different!

  34. Trooper Says:

    Reading at 00:52 and it gave me a real laugh, thanks! Some of the comments were almost as good! :)

    Nee Naw
    Nee Naw was a blog about life in the London Ambulance Service control room. It was written by Suzi Brent from 2005 to 2010. The blog is no longer being updated, but the archives will remain here.
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