Swine Flu Infects Unexpected Regions


The swine flu virus that spread so rapidly among people is quickly catching up on … our dictionaries? The pig flu symptoms may take time to show up in people, but they’re showing up in our dictionaries remarkably fast.

Swine flu, also known as swine influenza and pig flu, has taken over headlines in a big way. This, which fuelled a sudden worldwide interest in the swine flu virus, vaccine and symptoms, has also been mirrored in a rise in translations for the term into other languages. Swine flu is also commonly known as Spanish flu, thanks to the 1918 swine flu epidemic that began in Spain and then spread to almost every part of the world. The scientists are referring to it as the disease caused by the H1N1 virus, not to be confused with the H5N1 virus, which gave us the bird flu scare from 2004.

The word flu is short for influenza, which literally means “influence” in Italian. Some other archaic equivalent terms for the flu include sweating sickness and grippe. The latter, originally French, has had a very evident influence on the other languages’ terms for “swine flu”, from German – Schweinegrippe, to Spanish – gripe porcina, to Polish – świńska grypa. In Polish, pig flu has also been referred to as meksykańska grypa, meaning, of course, Mexican flu. In Israel, the swine flu is exclusively referred to as “Mexican flu”, to avoid using the term “swine”, which is considered taboo.

This pig influenza is said to be contagious. It apparently cannot be contracted by eating pork. But the scary part is, once a human has contracted the virus, it then merrily jumps around from human to human. We have been witnessing a similar propensity of the swine flu to jump from dictionary to dictionary. Our forums seem to have caught it too: eleven of our forums currently feature a question regarding “pig flu” in their respective languages, among the top three recent posts. One thread suggests that the flu should perhaps be called the piglet flu. With that name, it’s a little difficult to comprehend it as life-threatening. All in all, most users seem to be sticking to variants of the term “swine flu”.

Who said pigs can’t fly? Well, this pig flu right into our database.

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2 thoughts on “Swine Flu Infects Unexpected Regions”

  1. rench for swine flu is “fièvre porcine” as you know.
    But it should be pointed out that in biology, the family of pigs etc. is called “suidés” in Fr.
    So you see the etymologic conection between suidés (fr), świńskan (pl), schwein (de), svine (da), svína (icelandic), suina (it), suína (pt), svinein (no), svinin (se). isn’t it interesting? check the international versions of wiki: http://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swine_influenza

    This pandemic should convince people to become Muslims, I guess 😉

  2. Pingback: Words that “ruled” in Poland in 2009 - Lexiophiles

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