We are grateful to the author of the letter for the interest shown in our article and the opinion on the misuse of certain terms. We would also like to thank the Editor for giving us an opportunity to reply to the letter.
First, we agree that the misuse of terms is more prevalent than it should be. The incorrect use of terms can occur for a variety of reasons. Misnomers may occur in the common language when the original definition of the word is lost or begins to change, or an error in translation between languages or between trades might lead to misuse. Many words are frequently used with different meanings in various fields of everyday life. Indeed, as Fields et al said, according to its definition, the word “syndrome” in long-face syndrome seems to be a misnomer. We agree that, particularly in scientific literature, each word should be carefully selected, even at the expense of being pedantic.
With that being said, we can hardly agree that the use of “long face” is improper. According to another widely used dictionary, Merriam-Webster’s , the first listed definition of “length” is “the longer or longest dimension of an object.” In addition, one definition listed for “long” is “having greater height than usual.” Even in the Oxford English Dictionary , US English version, an informal meaning of “long” is introduced as “tall.” A corresponding example is: “He was a long lean man with grey eyes.” Needless to say, the word “long” connotes numerous meanings. Likewise, different areas of study, different trades, and even different cultures in the English-speaking world may also assign different meanings to certain words.
In our opinion, scientific terms that cause confusion should be revised with every possible effort. However, some terms or phrases are used commonly and effectively without any confusion, although their use may have some faults in a strict and sometimes picayune sense. In physics, the term “torque” is used as the tendency of a force to rotate an object about an axis. In orthodontics, it is thought of as a twisting force; yet, it is routinely used and accepted to indicate facial-lingual inclination, especially when denoting various bracket prescriptions used in the straight-wire method. Likewise, in dentistry, “height of contour” and “biologic width” are examples of other phrases, like “long face,” that express a dimension with the wrong sense of direction. These phrases are commonly used without confusion. Simply replacing well-understood terms with others poses the possibility of creating misunderstanding where no misunderstanding is currently present.
Words and language are like living, evolving organisms. Someday, we may use “tall face” instead of “long face.” However, at least to authors who are not native English users, “tall face” sounds a bit strange, so we still prefer “long face.”
Finally, we thank Dr Richard Donatelli of the University of Florida for his assistance in refining the nuances of the language in this reply.