Sunday, 7 July 2013

Of Colds and Summer

I have a cold.  It settled upon me on Thursday evening and has clawed deeper into my being since then.  I assume I will either recover, painfully and weakly, over the coming months; or it will kill me and probably eat me to boot.  It's a nasty cold.

I'm not going to waste my time, or yours, decrying the injustice of a summer cold.  Viruses care little for seasonal preferences.  Instead, I'm going to consider why we persist in calling it a cold.  It really is a most unsatisfactory name for the illness.  I would argue, in fact, that it removes even the connotation of disease, due to its very bland and vague nature.  What use is a name for a viral disease that makes it sound as if you simply need to put a jumper on?

Because of this, people everywhere have to pretend to be fine when they've got a cold.  They have to soldier on, and act as if nothing untoward is wrong at all.  Society, combined with linguistics, has left us powerless and guilty on those occasions where we 'catch a cold'.  I see this as wrong.  Catching a cold is horrid.  It's one of the more common viruses out there and it really lays into the victim, often for periods of a week or more.  It is usually more debilitating than a bout of tummy trouble (which, at least, people give you sympathy for as you waddle to the loo looking fraught), and is far more of a regular occurrence than, say, typhus.  It makes you feel like a slovenly furry animal has taken up residence in your sinuses and is steadily sandpapering the walls in order to redecorate.  It makes you very sleepy, and a hazard to other motorists.  It forces you to grimace apologetically to an audience of indifferent bastards as your nose transforms into a weir of snot and you desperately grasp for the loose end of the bog roll you're now forced to carry around with you.  It's a bad illness.

So, its name needs changing as a matter of some urgency.  People need to be allowed to look and feel horrific during the course of the illness, and they need to be able to garner sympathy from the multitude.  'Man flu' has had some vogue recently, mainly due to questionable pseudoscience seemingly performed by GQ magazine, but I fear that it lacks the punch required (and is still, clearly, a derogatory term).  I think most of the worst diseases have a hint of Latin or Greek about them.  Diphtheria - ends in a vowel, good move.  Typhoid - ends in an '-oid', making it sound like a killer robot.  Gonorrhea - hard to spell, a definite plus.  Legionnaire's Disease - slightly seedy sounding, with extra connotations of the French, excellent.

I think we should begin to call the common cold 'Fisherman's Grehbuloidia'.  That would work.

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