In their annual review of the changing use of American English, the American Heritage Dictionary group announced that the phrase “It’s not brain surgery” is to be redefined in new editions of their popular Dictionary of Contemporary American Idiom. The change is credited to the impact of the Republican Presidential Primary race, and one of the stand-out candidates, retired neurosurgeon Dr Ben Carson.
The phrase, like its counter-part “not rocket science”, has been in popular use throughout the last half-century, and is generally employed to compare a comparatively mundane profession or task to those requiring high levels of intelligence and expertise.
Lead lexicographer with Heritage Publishing, Alexis Connor said the popularity of the phrase arose post-war due to high popular regard for science and professional expertise. “You have to remember this is before Reagan and the neocons got their hands on school funding,” she noted.
Recent, however, “it’s not brain surgery” has undergone semantic shift. Heritage now define it as meaning “not difficult, accurate, or well-informed”. Connor said this rapid re-definition was could clearly be attributed to Dr Carson’ presidential tilt.
Carson, the one-time rival to front-runners like Senator Ted Cruz, is noted for his observations that the Egyptian pyramids were not built as elaborate pagan tombs, as discovered by scientists, but were created as Christian grain silos, as discovered by his reading of the Book of Genesis.
The highly respected Minnesota-based specialist medical clinic Mayo Clinic was quick to issue a press release stating that standard neurosurgical practice was not based on similar scientific grounds. However, after Carson’s comments, numbers of patients willing to undergo brain surgery went down in blue states and up in red states.
In the most recent Republican primary debate, Carson baffled the international community by observing that “Putin is a one-horse country: Oil and energy.” This deepened doubts about the candidates grip of key geopolitical realities, coming in the wake of his observation that Islam is not a religion, but a “life organisation system”.
Heritage’s decision to change their published meaning for the phrase is not without critics, but Dr Connor is confident of her decision. “The people at the OED were sceptical this usage will stick as these minor candidates drop out, but I just Trumped those stupid asshats”.