Fine wigns

Clin Orthop Relat Res. 2010 Apr;468(4):1165-7. doi: 10.1007/s11999-009-0953-0. Epub 2009 Jun 26.


There are three categories of diagnostic data collected during the physical examination-sign, symptom, and that in between-but only two words to describe them. To fill that gap, I modestly propose here that examination responses that are vocalized (and thus symptomlike) yet thought to be specific (hence signifiers) be classified as wigns. I define a wign as the subjective reaction to a provocative examination maneuver deemed to have some valid relationship to the underlying pathology. This word is pronounced "whine" to remind us it is a spoken response, and its spelling echoes that of sign, reminding us likewise a wign is more definitive than a generalized complaint. The distinctions between sign, symptom, and wign are worthy of preservation, particularly regarding their probative value: treatments offered on the basis of signs can be said to be most rigorously indicated, as symptoms, unlike signs, pass through (and are affected by) the prism of patients' perceptions. Remaining skeptical about the value of information provided by our patients is in the interest of these patients, as our skepticism might save them from unnecessary treatments and procedures.

MeSH terms

  • Communication*
  • Humans
  • Patients / psychology*
  • Physical Examination*
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Terminology as Topic*