Parkie. It's a word that slides easily off the tongue , then catches in the craw. Some of us use it freely. Others loathe it. Why?
A fellow PD patient recently made the case against "parkie" in a post on Facebook. Her argument was that the term trivializes PD. Here is how it was put in the post: "I can not think of one other illness, disease or condition that is
referred to by a cute nickname. Parkinson's is not a club I wanted to
join. I was abducted into it."
Can we think of another disease that gets similar treatment? "Leukies" for leukemia victims? "Leppies" for those with leprosy? "Lupies" for those with Lupus? "Crohnies" for people with Crohn's?
And yet, "parkies" is used regularly in the community of those with the disease. I have always felt a bit wary of the term, though I used it in the company of allies from the PD world. Looking at the list above, I wonder what came over me. My cronies must have thought I was loopy. I can't imagine calling someone with leprosy a "Leppie", there is an air of condescension about it, an unearned intimacy.
But there is a bit of confusion here. The objection above is to referring to an "illness, disease or condition... by a cute nickname." "Parkie" does not refer to the disease, it refers to a person with the disease. And here, context matters. Used between two people with Parkinson's disease "parkie" is a diminutive that functions a little like the word "namasaste", only instead of the spark within me recognizing the spark within you, it's the pain in me that recognizes the pain within you, my fellow person with Parkinson's. What could be more ruefully human than that?
This also explains why it falls so wrong on the ear when used by someone who doesn't have the disease, or who isn't an active caregiver. Such a person hasn't earned the right to the intimacy of the diminutive, so for them to use it does indeed trivialize PD.
But, parkie-to-parkie, I am glad to have people around to share the misery. PD forces us to give up so much."Parkie" is the rare case where we get to do something nobody else can.