Naming Convention

It seems the pork industry is not at all pleased with the term “swine flu”. I agree it is hardly a mellifluous name, but their objection is more practical than aesthetic; apparently they are concerned that it is depressing their market, even though you won’t catch the disease from eating pork. Given how poorly informed most people are about most things, they’re probably right.

We had already learned that two other groups who rarely see eye to eye about anything — Jews and Muslims — also dislike the name; they both have an skittish aversion to pigs, which they consider unclean and are forbidden to eat. (That nobody anywhere has suggested that swine flu is in fact clean, or should be eaten, least of all by them, doesn’t seem to matter; they simply don’t want to hear any talk at all of matters porcine, or be reminded that there even are such things as pigs, it seems.)

According to this news item, the pork-packers, giving up on educating the public as to the undiminished safety and nutritiousness of their scrumptious product, are taking another tack: they are trying to convince us that the term is actually a misnomer, and that this new flu has nothing to do with pigs at all:

“This flu is being called something that it isn’t, and it’s hurting our entire industry,” said Dave Warner, communications director for the National Pork Producers Council. “It is not a ‘swine’ flu, and people need to stop calling it that … they’re ruining people’s lives.”

This is audacious nonsense, of course: pigs are indeed a vector for this form of influenza, just as birds were for the “avian flu” a little while back — but you have to admire the industry’s feisty attitude, and that they are not about to be bullied around by mere facts. I expect they are actually well aware that the name is not just a capricious inaccuracy, and has a sturdy connection to the truth of the matter, but, as Mark Twain said, “Get your facts first, then you can distort them as you please.”

As several commenters have suggested, it’s time we had a “Name That Flu” contest. The pork producers have already offered an alternative:

Minnesota is the nation’s third-largest pig farming state, and its health experts said Wednesday they would be calling the illness “H1N1 novel flu” going forward.

” ‘Swine flu’ gives a connotation that really it shouldn’t have, and makes people wonder about eating pork,” said Minnesota Health Commissioner Dr. Sanne Magnan.

The European Union has followed suit.

“In order not to have a negative effect on our industry, especially under this crisis situation, we decided to call it ‘novel flu’ from now on,” said Androulla Vassiliou, the European commissioner for health.

The “novel flu”? That won’t do at all: the publishing industry is already up in arms about it.

Any ideas?

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2 Comments

  1. chris g says

    see pict: http://growabrain.typepad.com/photos/uncategorized/2007/11/10/kissing_pig.jpg

    “You little bastard! You’ve killed us all!”

    Posted May 1, 2009 at 12:54 am | Permalink
  2. JK says

    When you (or “another” hopefully so far down as to be in the archives) first mentioned it there was a “suitable prize” mentioned in the contest, there seemed to be no interest, well except for RD.

    Except for an “AirForce One Photo Op” Which I cannot understand why the US didn’t look to North Korean PhotoShop experts for… (which would be cheap – or should be) – anyway what’s the prize?

    “Swat Valley Flu.” “Pakistani Surrender Flu.” “Somali Roasted Goat-Dance Flu.”

    Any acronyms and partnerships accepting Malcolm’s $Million-Dollar “Name-This-Flu” contest will (probably) be acceptable upon receipt of a $40 buck bottle – (seal-unbroken, worm intact) Mezcal. Delivered of course with sufficient funds to remit from NY to AR.

    (Testing not required Malcolm.)

    Do your Patriotic Duty! Send your submissions (along with required non-swine concoctions) to:

    Oh hell, by the time the Post Office gets it to me, it’ll be aged properly.

    Posted May 1, 2009 at 2:11 am | Permalink