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January, 2004, Vol. 05, Issue 01
By Editorial Staff
The Acupuncture Poll's question for October 2003 was:
"Do you believe acupuncture publications should adhere to a standard set of guidelines for formatting words, names of herbs, acupuncture point locations, etc.?"
Results are as follows:
These results are based upon 302 responses. As this is a voluntary, non-scientific survey, caution should be used in generalizing the results. Here is a sample of the comments made by those who took the survey and how they voted:
Yes: While I do not any advocate formatting guidelines that would make it harder for practitioners around the world to submit articles to an acupuncture publication, I do think it might be a good idea to have a codified format for indicating the names of herbs and acupuncture points. This seems especially important with herbs, where the Chinese or common name for an herb may apply to several plant species, or where a single species may go by several different Chinese or common names. Giving both a Chinese name and a species designation would be safer.
Yes: This is a difficult topic to state in a few words. The goal of communication between different types of practitioners is important. Eliminating confusion over which species of plant we are referring to is also important. Having point numbers in pin yin and having herbs in pin yin and Latin are probably the best for communication. Describing agreed-upon locations or channels in Chinese-type descriptions and English or biomedical Western descriptions also seems inclusive and accurate.
No: I think we should move toward that as a goal of communication; however, there may be differences due to Chinese, Korean, Japanese, etc. styles of acupuncture that may be lost in standardizing the translations. Remember that all translation is inherently deviated from the original. Nor does everyone agree on locations of all the points. Losing that may mean loss of effectiveness and diversity in our medicine.
No: I am against standardization because the industry seems intent on standardizing by using the most awkward translations possible. Wiseman's use of vacuity instead of deficiency is an excellent example.
Yes: As a teacher at a college of Oriental medicine, I can say that one of the hardest things for new students who cannot read Chinese or Japanese is the randomness and lack of uniformity in translation. This lack of uniformity often leads students to believe that Oriental medicine does not have a precise language like Western biomedicine.
As someone who reads both Japanese and Chinese, I can say that in both traditions medical terms have specific meanings that, when understood precisely, lead one to a more concrete understanding of the therapy used and the reason behind that therapy. While it is true that traditions do disagree on many things, what is not true is that a specific medical term can be understood any way a practitioner likes. Chinese (and Japanese) medicine are much more precise.
A uniform translation system (I actually do prefer Nigel Wiseman's terms) will help establish Oriental medicine as a medical system on par with Western biomedicine and will also allow a real dialogue between practitioners of all traditions.
Yes: This should be a formal process, beginning with a draft by a voluntary committee of leaders in the profession. The AAOM and significant international organizations should participate. Western medical authorities and legislators should also have a chance to see the draft so that the final listing receives as much exposure as possible.
No: Translations reflect the attitude and orientation of the translator. To unify translation is indeed to become like biomedicine in that it would limit perspective, deny dialogue, narrow vision and create a process where there would be a "correct" and thereby allowable translation. This would lead to "correct" and allowable styles and perspectives in acupuncture as well. All we need to ask translators to do is include the Chinese character and or pin yin source word. This would create a wonderful ongoing dialogue of translations of these terms, which would allow those not fluent in the source language a multitude of perspectives and orientations to the translation of Chinese medical texts, and at the same time eliminate confusion as to the word or phrase being discussed.
Yes: Standardization does not mean loss of diversity as some respondents are stating. Standardization, however should be grounded in unambiguous concrete terms. That is, irrespective of the reader/speaker, each practitioner should be interpreting a particular term similarly. Accordingly, if a particular term has a number of interpretations, then use a number of different terms to capture each of the connotations that it could potentially represent; maintain the "diversity" without compromising communication.