In his recent list of the “top 10 most fatuous phrases in the English language,” Rod Liddle, the somewhat controversial associate editor of The Spectator, included at #7, “bravely fighting cancer.”
“An odious phrase, patronizing and meaningless,” Liddle wrote. “All people with cancer are bravely fighting the vile disease. All people with cancer who have decided not to fight it, but instead to acquiesce, are also brave — perhaps even more brave. In truth, ‘bravery’ and ‘fighting’ have nothing to do with it.”~TM
I have never liked that phrase.
I’m with you, Chris. A lot has been written about the unacceptability of “battling cancer” and other warrior metaphors, but it seems inescapable. That said, most news reports no longer talk about motor vehicle “accidents,” substituting “crashes” or “collisions,” in recognition that there is rarely anything accidental or capricious about those events. So maybe with enough poking at it, “battling cancer,” “lost his/her fight with cancer,” etc., will disappear too.
This is such an important issue for the families of patients who die. Did they not “fight” hard enough? Were they not “brave”?
Dr. Jack Coulehan described three common types of metaphor used in medicine (each type, he believed, tending to “objectify and dehumanize” the patient). They are paternalistic, engineering and war metaphors. More about this on “She’s A Fighter!” –
Thanks for this, Carolyn!