Tuesday, April 28, 2009


I was listening to the Big Glass Teat with one ear when I overheard a news report - something to the effect that the Obama administration has requested that people refer to swine flu as the “swine influenza (H1N1) virus” - or, even better, “the H1N1 virus.”

The rationale? Administration officials were concerned about the possible negative impact of the term “swine flu” on the American pork industry.

Did I hear that right? Or did I imagine it? If it’s true, it is the most creative exercise in Proactive Euphemism Creation since PETA came up with the harebrained idea of calling fish “Sea Kittens.” It ranks right up there with “Freedom Fries,” brought to you by the prior administration.

It’s doomed to fail. For one thing, “swine influenza (H1N1) virus” - or just “H1N1 virus,” for that matter - has too fucking many syllables. Swine flu has just two.

[That’s the same objection I have to the term “African-American.” Not only is it inaccurate in many cases, it’s seven syllables. Whereas “black” has one. “Caucasian,” with three syllables, isn’t quite as cumbersome, but it’s still nowhere near as efficient as the monosyllabic “white.”]

For another thing, when everybody is running around like headless chickens screaming “We’re all gonna die!” nobody is going to consult their Directory of Officially Approved Disease Terminology. They’ll go with simple and quick. Swine Flu.

But if you want something more creative, I have a few ideas.

The Mexicali Pork-Grippe - a creation of the inimitable James Lileks.

Chazzer Choleria - Leave it to the Jews, who aren’t supposed to eat pigs, to have the best words for them. Chazzer Choleria literally means “pig cholera.” Catchy, innit? A perfect name for a cartoon character, the Smokey Bear or Woodsy Owl of the New Millennium.

Chazzer Choleria
Meet Chazzer Choleria, official H1N1 virus spokesman.
(Apologies to Warner Brothers)

Porkulusterfuck - For those who prefer a political spin to their euphemisms.

How ’bout you? Can you come up with some creative alternatives to “Swine Flu”?

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