Thursday, April 30, 2009

Aporkalypse Now

It's all about the language. A swine-flu outbreak is probably less worrying than an epidemic which, in turn, is less concerning than a pandemic.

Pandemic sounds catastrophic. The reasons for this are obvious. For one it reminds us instantly of panic and also of pandemonium. When you think of pandemonium you may not think of the dictionary explanation (below from dictionary.com) but even so, you know it's bad.

Had the media been hamming it up or using similar puns we'd be a lot less worried, but instead we have the hype (written about beautifully here) and the World Health Organisation with their helpfully serious messages.

If you give numbers to the scales of risk then you run the risk of panic. If I hear numbers in this context I always think of the Richter scale or gale forces - the higher the number the greater the devastation.

Ben Goldacre's piece makes the point very clearly - the margins of error are huge. More people are dying of other diseases but we don't have the same level of panic about those - which is probably to do with the means of transmission.

It seems that once every few years we have to have something to panic about, the language makes that very obvious.

pan*de*mo*ni*um

–noun 1. wild uproar or unrestrained disorder; tumult or chaos.
2. a place or scene of riotous uproar or utter chaos.
3. (often initial capital letter) the abode of all the demons.
4. hell.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Pass the pigs

Amongst the things I've learned from media coverage of the swine flu PANDEMIC, is some interesting language - pandemic is a greatly underused term (possibly a good thing) but, until today, I'd never heard the word prophylactic used out of a sexual context and to mean preventative measure. That it was used by an English MP in a press conference is even more amazing.

I learned that the quasi-surgical face masks (currently becoming very popular) probably don't prevent transmission of infection to you, but might help to stop you transmitting the virus. Thus, wearing one is not as selfish as it might otherwise appear.

I also learned (via the BBC) that we shouldn't be sneezing into our bare hands. This makes a lot of sense, but the alternative option is to rummage around in the handbag I don't carry to find the disposable tissues I won't have with me. Or - as the BBC suggested in all seriousness - sneeze into the crook of your elbow.

I fear that I may take more people out by swinging my arm up to my face than swine flu will eventually finish off in the UK but we shall see.

Incredible video

This is incredible, with or without music it's worthy of much wider circulation. Not that this will help!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Jade Goody, the musical

There are times when I struggle to find anything that I think fits the content of what might conspicuously be called 'absurd'. I guess this explains the random and irregular nature of these postings.

This, however, certainly fits the bill. Sometimes it's hard to believe your eyes and it would seem to be a tasteless joke, a punchline in search of a question.

I have no doubt that my inbox will soon be flooded by people suggesting songs that would work in the context, who would really want to write it?