Schott's Vocab: Smart Writing About Words

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I've been enjoying Schott's Vocab, a new blog from the New York Times. It's about words and word usement (sorry, LA Story reference). Word-nerd Ben Schott has a passion for "lexicographical trifles," and is attempting to document language as it evolves, day-to-day. Today the blog is about the swine flu -- just like every other piece of media in every paper everywhere. But Schott's article isn't about deaths, epidemiology, or where to get a SARS Guard; it's about the language used to describe the current flu. Here's a sample (minus a bunch of embedded links Schott uses to reference his sources):

Pork producers, for obvious reasons, also favor the (non-porcine) term Mexican flu; the European Union's Health Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou has advocated (the already out-of-date) "novel flu"; and World Animal Health proposed (the curiously specific) "North American flu."

The non-profit SaveCalifornia.com decided that what A (H1N1) needed was an alarmist prefix, and promptly re-branded the disease "killer Mexican flu." British Professor John Oxford went one step further, warning that swine flu could combine with avian flu to form an "Armageddon virus."

Satirical Web site The Spoof suggested that, to reassure tourists, the virus be called "Miss Piggy Flu" - which was disturbingly close to The Sun's recent headline, "Piggies in The Muddle."

Read the rest or check out the main Schott's Vocab page for a great look at today's words.

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April 29, 2009 - 10:12am
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