Person one: Your local Council, how can I help?

Person two: I’d like to report an issue with the road outside my house.

P1: I’m the road engineer for the district, what seems to be the problem?

P2: There is a pothole outside my house.

P1: Impossible.

P2: Impossible?

P1: Potholes don’t exist.

P2: Potholes don’t exist?

P1: Correct.

P2: Perhaps I do not understand you correctly. You’re saying potholes don’t occur.

P1: Exactly.

P2: We’re talking about a small round hole in the road, ummmm, you drive over it and it sometimes damages the rim of your wheel?

 P1: Oh! Those exist all right, but they aren’t potholes.

P2: Everyone calls them potholes.

P1: Everyone is wrong.

P2: Everyone is wrong?

P1: You’re talking about a wearing of the asphaltic surface?

P2: Maybe, if that is what a pothole is called.

P1: Hmmmm… Maybe it is an exposure of the concrete base. Or a ravelled edged depression following fatigue cracks. Were there fatigue cracks prior to the ravelled edged depression forming?

P2: Cracks? I’m not sure. Maybe.

P1: I mean the point here is that ‘pothole’ is an anachronistic term that people think they know what’s happening, except they don’t.

P2: Don’t potholes form when water washes a bit underneath the road so a little ‘pot’ sized hole –

P1: I’d say more kettle-sized

P2: – pot sized hole forms and gets worse as more cars drive over it.

P1: Yes, but no. Sometimes it can be the sun. Expanding and contracting the asphaltic surface – quite common here in Australia.

P2: Whatever. So what do we do next? I really would like you to repair the wearing of the asphaltic surface. Or fix the exposure of the concrete base? Is it different fixes for the different problems?

P1: No, pretty much whatever it is we just come out and fill it up with some more asphalt. Works about ninety percent of the time. If it reappears, call me and we’ll come and have a more detailed look.

P2: Now, don’t take this the wrong way, I mean, I love road engineers and roads are great and I’m happy knowing you guys know your stuff…

P1: Go on

P2: But wouldn’t this conversation have gone a lot quicker if I’d said, “I have a pothole outside my house” and then you have said, “OK, we’ll come fill it in?”

P1: That conversation could never have happened.

P2: Why not?

P1: Potholes don’t exist.

P2: …

P1: {YAWN}

P2: My, that was a big yawn! Tired?

P1: Yes, sorry, I was up all night with my newborn.

P2: I’m a paediatrician! Anything I can help with?

P1: My child has colic.

P2: Impossible.

P1: Impossible?

P2: Colic doesn’t exist.

P1: Colic doesn’t exist?

P2: Correct.

P1: Perhaps I do not understand you correctly. You’re saying colic doesn’t exist.

P2: Exactly.

P1: We’re talking about an inconsolable screaming baby, ummmm, very fussy and farty?

P2: Oh! That happens all right, but it isn’t colic.

P1: Everyone calls it colic.

P2: Everyone is wrong.

P1: Everyone is wrong?

P2: We’re talking about an irritable nervous system?

P1: Maybe, if that what colic is called.

P2: Hmmmm… Maybe it is fourth trimester issues? It could even be a normal part of your child’s development. Is your child developing normally?

P1: Oh, I’m not sure. I think so.

P2: I mean the point here is that ‘colic’ is an anachronistic term that people think they know what’s happening, except they don’t.

P1: Doesn’t an upset stomach -

P2: Upset gastrointestinal system.

P1: – upset stomach cause colic?

P2: Yes, but no. Perhaps it is reflux? An ear infection? Ear infections are quite common here in Australia.

P1: Whatever. So what do you suggest I do? I would really like to solve the irritable nervous system. Or the fourth trimester issue. Is it different fixes for the different problems?

P2: No, pretty much whatever it is you should just use soothing measures plus stomach massaging and maybe try changing your diet. In a pinch, some parents find sips of mint tea helps too. Works ninety percent of the time. If the child keeps it up for longer than three hours a day or for several days in a row, come and see us and we’ll have a more detailed look.

P1: Now, don’t take this the wrong way, I mean, I love paediatricians and infant health is really important to me and I’m happy knowing you guys know your stuff…

P2: Go on.

P1: But wouldn’t this conversation have gone a lot quicker if I’d said “I have a colicky baby” and then you have said, “OK, try stomach massaging and stop eating cabbage?”

P2: That conversation would never have happened.

P1: Why not?

P2: Colic doesn’t exist.

OK, all jokes aside: someone tell me why it is so important to deny colic’s existence, given that colic is shorthand for a very upset baby.

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