Being a writer and author of 14 books and counting, I like to think I know a thing or two about words. However, I am constantly reminded that such is not always the case. I am reminded of this often by my hubby who is a walking dictionary. Truly. I’ve never known the man not to know the meaning of a word in the 41 years we’ve been together. He and Daniel Webster have a lot in common, only hubby is cuter. Sometimes when I run across a word I’ve never seen before and often don’t even know how to pronounce, I will look it up, get the meaning, and then turn to hubby with a quiz. If he doesn’t know the exact meaning immediately, he knows the roundabout. You know, a glimmer of it, enough to use it in a sentence and not make a total jackass of himself. This is where I hee-haw.
The other day I wrote to my doctor asking if it was okay to use melatonin on the rare occasion when I can’t sleep. I have sleep apnea, use a CPAP, and try to be very careful not to impinge my breathing at night. I got a message back from her that dumbfounded me: Answering your question:
Melatonin is not contraindicated with sleep apnea. Having said this is very important to treat sleep apnea with CPAP machine.
Please let me know if you need anything else I will try my best to help!
Okay. I had never seen the word contraindicated before and had no idea what it meant. In fact, I pronounced it con – train- (as in choo-choo train) -di-cated. I was at a loss and turned to hubby. He knew the word, pronounced it correctly, but wanted us to look it up to be sure he had it right. After all, my health was at stake here. So we did. Here’s what I found online:
con·tra·in·di·cate/ˌkäntrəˈindəˌkāt/verbMEDICINEpast tense: contraindicated; past participle: contraindicated (of a condition or circumstance) suggest or indicate that (a particular technique or drug) should not be used in the case in question. “surgery may also be contraindicated for more general reasons of increased operative risk”
I still had no idea whether I could use melatonin with my sleep apnea or not. Hubby was a little flummoxed, as well. So I called my heart sister, who was a medical assistant. I had to read her the message twice, especially the phrase Melatonin is not contraindicated with sleep apnea. Apparently, it was the double negative in the sentence that was confusing, at least once you knew what the word meant. Not contraindicated meant it was okay to use.
This was another reminder to me to watch how how I phrase things. The doctor could have said, Yes, melatonin is fine, Toots, and be sure to use your CPAP. I don’t think we even needed contraindicated in the sentence although now that I know the word I simply love it. Besides, broadening your horizons means learning a new word here and there. And using them. As a wordsmith, I should know that. It’s my bread and butter. But sometimes things that are contraindicated are counterintuitive.