Friday, May 01, 2009

A Flu By Any Other Name

In Shakespeare's play Romeo and Juliet, young Juliet Capulet famously said "...that which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet." But as I've noted before in this very space, however, names matter. Consider the Influenza A, Subtype H1N1 virus, better known as the Swine Flu.

Yesterday Israel's Deputy Health Minister Yakov Litzman said the reference to pigs is offensive to both Jews and Muslims, and "we should call this Mexican flu and not swine flu."

I'm sure that won't be offensive to Mexicans. On the other hand, though, I suppose it's nice to have something on which Jews and Muslims can agree.

The Swine Flu moniker is also offensive to - surprise! - the pork industry. The Executive Director of the Oklahoma Pork Council was just one of many spokesmen for The Other White Meat who said that calling the disease swine flu rather than the easy-to-remember Influenza A Subtype H1N1 could scare people away from eating pork, sending pork prices tumbling and driving pig farmers (ranchers? raisers?) out of business.

You just can't please everyone.

What would be a suitable name for a potentially deadly pandemic ... a name that would capture the awful implications, yet not offend anyone?

We could call it The Deadly Virus from Hell, but I'm sure the residents of Hell, Michigan would object. We could call it Captain Trips, the name Stephen King used for the flu strain that wiped out most of the world in his novel The Stand, or The Satan Bug, with a head-nod to the novel of the same name by Alistair MacLean. Or we might give it a country music twist and call it Achy Breaky Joints (with apologies to Billy Ray Cyrus).


A rose by any other name would smell as sweet, and a flu by any other name would be ... the flu. Wear a mask, wash your hands 150 times per day, and cover your mouth when you sneeze.

Good luck.

Have a good day. Tomorrow is Cartoon Saturday - and I guess we're all ready for it. See you then.



Gilahi said...

Obviouly, we need to adopt the methods of the auto and pharmaceutical industries and just make something up.

ulysses s grunt

I dunno. Something.

The Mistress of the Dark said...

LOL! I'm just sick of hearing about it. Have they ever mentioned why its called the swine flu? I'm pretty sure the oinkers are part of the reason.

Amanda said...

They can call it whatever they want as long as they keep working on minimizing its effects.

Over here, its called FluBabi (Pig Flu).

allenwoodhaven said...

I suggest panicflu, or wearealldoomeditellyoudoomedflu.

Seriously, it is something to be aware of, to educate ourselves about and to take some precautions, but more people have died of "regular" influenza, gun violence, or car crashes, than from this new flu.

Blame the 24 hour news channels for whipping us towards hysteria. They do have some reasonable reporting on it, but only about 1 minute for every 20 minutes of overblown hype (leaving 9 minutes of commercials to pay the bills every half hour).

Jon Stewart on The Daily Show has done some great stories on the media's coverage of the flu. Sorry I don't have a link but perhaps someone more computer savy than I can provide it.

SusieQ said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Leslie David said...

As I recall, they called the 1918 strain, "The Spanish Flu." And how many people have to die for it to move from a potentially deadly pandemic to a real one? Didn't the Chinese slaughter all the chickens when the avian flu was going around? Did it stop it?

SusieQ said...

If we are going to rename this influenza so no one is offended, Pig Latin is the way to go. Who knows Pig Latin these days? It's a dead language.

Inesway Uflay.

I don't know why the Obama Admin. didn't think of this.

Mike said...

Hey, in a few hours I'm going to get in a metal tube with 200 other people. I ain't afraid uh no stinkin' flu!

Jean-Luc Picard said...

What? Did Juliet have swine flu?

Alex the Girl said...

No, Jean Luc, Juliet had Whine Flu. Captain Trips is a good name to choose from, but ooo, the shivers and shudders I'd get just thinking about the walkin man would be more than I can handle.

Bilbo said...

Gilahi - "Ulysses S. Grunt" ... priceless!

Andrea - Makes you rethink the term "pigging out," doesn't it?

Amanda - "FluBabi" sounds too cute, somehow.

Allenwoodhaven - your suggestion of "wearealldoomeditellyoudoomedflu" takes second place only to Gilahi's "Ulysses S. Grunt." And I agree with you on the hysteria pandering of the news networks.

Leslie - how un-PC and insensitive of you to refer to a deadly disease as "Spanish"! Oh, wait ... I just remembered who I was talking to. Never mind!

SusieQ - no one else has mentioned using Pig Latin yet. Perhaps you and I are the only ones who still speak it.

Mike - can you hold your breath for 10 hours?

Jean-Luc - no, I think Juliet had terminal lust.

Alex - you had to go and remind me about the Walkin' Man ... now I'll have nightmares... Thanks for visiting the ol' blog, and please come back!

anOCgirl said...

sorry about the late comment. i've been a bit MIA in the blogosphere lately.

my two cents: the people who should be the least offended about the name swine flu is the pork industry. consider the horrible conditions the pigs live in, all the crap they feed them that only rats consider a healthy diet, AND the unhealthy stuff they inject them with. the pork industry needs to zip it.