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Rosenbaum, J.B. (1964). Some Misuses and Abuses of our Private Language. Psychoanal. Rev., 51A(1):29-37.

(1964). Psychoanalytic Review, 51A(1):29-37

Some Misuses and Abuses of our Private Language

Jean B. Rosenbaum, M.D.

The motivation for developing a specialized or private language within any scientific discipline is to express to an audience, nearly as educated as ourselves, meanings and descriptions of situations and phenomena in a concise, condensed and accurate way. Time and words are saved and tedious repetition avoided in this way. This definition excludes those private languages in other than scientific fields which may be used to conceal communication from the audience, usually for some material or narcissistic gain, e.g., a sermon may be delivered in archaic language in order to enhance the impression of omnipotence of the preacher, or a used-car salesman may describe the workings of an internal combustion engine to a naive prospect in technical terms in order to hide the fact that oatmeal is in a noisy, damaged transmission.

The purpose of this paper is to describe some of the misuses of the special language of psychoanalytic psychiatry and to explore some of the implications of these misapplications for the patient, the therapist and the professional community. Clinical examples will be used to illustrate the far-reaching economic, dynamic and structural effects such misuses may have.

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