It’s Down syndrome

It’s a pet peeve of mine. I’m not really sure why. Perhaps it’s because technically it is incorrect, even if it is common use. But every time I see or hear it, I cringe. 

When Peanut was born, I barely knew what Down syndrome was, much less why it was called that. In fact, many of you reading this may think, “She spelled it wrong. Doesn’t she know anything about her own daughter’s genetic disorder?”

I do, and I didn’t.

The fact is, it is not Down’s or even Downs syndrome and “syndrome” is not capitalized. Down syndrome is named after Dr. John Langdon Down who first described the distinct set of characteristics of people who have Down syndrome instead of the then common name of “mongolism” or “mongloid”. Dr. Down did not identify the genetic link. It was nearly a century later that French geneticist, Jerome Lejune, discovered the extra chromosome and cause of Down syndrome.

Because Dr. Down did not discover Down syndrome, he does not “own” the syndrome. Therefore “Down’s” is incorrect. In addition, since it is named after Dr. Down, who does not have an “s” at the end of his name, “Downs” is also incorrect. 

Finally, although “down” is often a term used to describe a person’s mood, it has nothing to do with the mood of a person with Down syndrome. The term again, is simply based on the man’s name and nothing else. It is unfortunate that Dr. Down’s last name had not been “Happy” or “Resourceful” or any of the other adjectives that better describe a person with Down syndrome. Or perhaps “Person syndrome” would be most appropriate, because in the end, they are all just people, like you and me, with a full spectrum of “moods”.

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