kneecap

“Me duele la tapita,” your patient says, gingerly touching her knee, to the interpreter next to you.

“Her kneecap hurts,” the interpreter informs you.

You proceed with the office visit, but your brain is wondering, Didn’t I just learn that ‘tapita’ means bottle cap? (You’ve been trying to learn a little Spanish yourself.)

Before the interpreter leaves, you get to ask her.

“Yes, according to your regular Spanish-English medical dictionary rótula is actually the word for kneecap, but I have this.” She pulls a blue, pocket-sized book from her purse.

You look at the title. ‘Understanding the Guatemalan Patient: A Glossary of Spanish Medical Terms and Folk Medicine. Pretty long name for such a small book.”

She laughs. “I know, right? Well, there are more than 600 terms just in the Spanish-English section, a lot of them slang. Since many of the people we serve here are Guatemalans who don’t speak real dictionary Spanish. It’s helped me out more than once. See? Right here in the English-Spanish section.”

Kneecap – tapita.”

“That’s right. I love it when I know just the right word to make our patients feel understood.”