Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Swine Flu: What's In A Name?

As if being the cause of a global pandemic weren't enough, it seems that the 2009 H1N1 flu, better known through its stage name, Swine Flu, just can't get any respect in some circles. A small number of fervently religious Jewish and Muslim are objecting to the use of the word "swine" in describing this particular strain of the flu. For example, Israel's Deputy Health Minister Yakov Litzman, a member of United Torah Judaism, said earlier this week that the name "swine flu" should not be used as it contains the name of the unkosher animal. Litzman instead suggested that authorities the virus "Mexican flu." While I understand that ultra-orthodox types like Litzman would get seriously mind fucked by having a virus dwelling in them that at one point had been in a pig, I don't understand why they think it's okay to pass the offense off to Mexicans. Personally, I'm surprised Litzman didn't suggest calling it "Palestinian Flu" instead.

Pork industry officials are also objecting to the term "swine flu" as they claim that the term makes the disease sound like a food borne illness. Pork prices have fallen over the past few days, with many nations either considering or outright banning the import of pork products from the United States and Mexico. One has to wonder if perhaps McDonald's might not take advantage of the lower prices and offer the McRib early this year.

Personally, I think that the term "swine flu" is just not sexy enough to have any sort of longevity. The term just doesn't roll of the tongue. Were I swine flu's agent, I might suggest a number of other names, such as:

  • Hamfluenza
  • Pigmonia
  • Bacon Lung
  • The Porcine Pukeys
  • Porky's Revenge
Still, that won't please the uber-religious idiots who make legitimate science take a back seat to their petty sensibilities. If we're going to be as inclusive as possible, I suppose we'll have to try to please EVERYONE and come up with a more politically correct name. This year's so-called "swine flu" influenza strain actually has genetic elements of human, avian and porcine genes. So. perhaps it is best to come up with a name that best reflects this virus' multi species origin. Might I suggest the following:

  • Frankenflu
  • ManBirdPig Virus
  • Tripletheria
  • Tribuculosis
  • Bird Flu II: Electric Boogaloo
Honestly, though, who are we kidding? The term "swine flu" isn't going anywhere, despite the attempts of corporate, religious and governmental officials to drop it. It's here to stay. The term "swine flu" has gone viral.

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