What is only slightly more annoying than trying to decipher your doctor's handwriting? Trying to decipher their language. Thanks to a new translator extension, however, your life is about to get a little easier to understand. By Thomas Goetz.

Jargon is insidious: it pervades business (where companies optimize their core competencies for vertical scalability), stupifies government (where pols leverage their soft power for sweetheart deals), and inundates technology (where disruptive startups pivot into platform-agnostic strategies with collaborative go-to market strategies).

But the worst arena for jargon, arguably, is in medicine.

In medicine, jargon is not only ubiquitous, it is codified, with obscure latinate derivations and quasi-scientific coinages that make it impossible for ordinary people to know what's being said.

Part of this is by tradition and by design; it wasn't too long ago that doctors were trained to say "supratentorial" instead of "psychological," and they spoke of "mitotic bodies" instead of "cancer." They even used to write prescriptions in Latin so patients couldn't understand what they were taking. The whole idea was to speak in code so that patients – ie, us – couldn't do a thing without a doctor's approval.

Thankfully, those days are waning. Consumer empowerment is reaching medicine, and a new breed of doctors realize that the best way to keep somebody healthy is to help them understand their health. But the jargon? It's still all over the place – especially online, which is often the first place people go (even, ahem, before their doctor) for information. To visit Wikipedia or WebMD or even the Mayo Clinic is to dance in a tab toggle between the site and a medical dictionary, just so we can sort out what we're trying to learn.

All of which is why my startup Iodine has cooked up our Medical Translator – an extension for the Chrome browser that automatically deciphers medical terminology into language that anyone can understand. Just like that, epistaxis becomes nosebleed, pyrexia becomes fever, and somnolence becomes drowsiness. Words normal people can understand.

The Medical Translator works off a database of about 3,000 terms, with the translations validated by our team of pharmacists and physicians. We're adding to it constantly, so it will get bigger and better over time. But we're excited to share it with Boing Boing readers, in the hopes that you'll appreciate the experience of making medical information a little less foreboding and the Internet a little bit friendlier.

Photo: Christopher Michel