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It's funny.  Laugh. Biotech Medicine

Let's Rename Swine Flu As "Colbert Flu" 607

Bruce Perens writes "The World Health Organization will no longer refer to Virus A(H1N1) as 'Swine Flu,' citing ethnic reactions to 'swine,' for example among middle-eastern cultures who feel that swine are unclean. Or, is it because meat packers are concerned that people might stop eating pork in fear of the virus? WHO suggests that the public select a new name for the virus. I suggest that we all start calling it The Colbert Flu, after the comedian and fake pundit who asked his audience to stuff a NASA poll so that a Space Station module would be named after him. What can we do to make the name stick?"
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Let's Rename Swine Flu As "Colbert Flu"

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  • Dear Bruce... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by fyngyrz ( 762201 ) * on Friday May 01, 2009 @11:24AM (#27787439) Homepage Journal

    Call it the Colbert flu? I don't think so. Colbert was just being funny, which is his job. It's why people watch him, and why they'll go so far as to stuff a poll. Plus, it was good publicity for the space station, led to an astronaut on his show, and even the naming of some widget or other after him. Treadmill? Whatever.

    Anyway, Colbert is generally a positive influence. His "fake punditry" is pungent social comment, with the intent of nudging the his audience to think about these issues. While being funny, which keeps them coming back. All in all, a good thing. So I don't think naming a killer flu after him is appropriate. Entirely the wrong set of connotations, you see.

    Flus are annoying, they show up wether you want them to or not, right in the middle of something else you were doing. Vaguely similar to your suggestion we name a nasty flu after a cool guy showing up on slashdot.

    So in honor of your annoying and inappropriate post, I'm simply going to counter-suggest that we name H1N1 after you instead: The "Perens Flu." Does that seem fair to you?

  • Who is Colbert? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 01, 2009 @11:25AM (#27787453)

    Who is Colbert? // not American // Swine Flu is worldwide.

  • by levell ( 538346 ) * on Friday May 01, 2009 @11:26AM (#27787463) Homepage

    Given the pandemic of meaning obscuring, "politically correct" names, I'm surprised that swine flu hasn't been renamed to "porcine repressing influenza" or some such.

  • by MBCook ( 132727 ) <> on Friday May 01, 2009 @11:29AM (#27787517) Homepage

    "Bacon Lung"

    Much better name.

  • Let's not (Score:5, Insightful)

    by decipher_saint ( 72686 ) on Friday May 01, 2009 @11:29AM (#27787527)

    Let's call it "H1N1" flu. You know, like, what it is actually called BY SCIENCE!

    • by commodoresloat ( 172735 ) on Friday May 01, 2009 @11:31AM (#27787575)

      You know, science doesn't take too kindly to being anthropomorphized.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      Let's call it swine flu. You know, like what everyone else calls it and knows it by! I fear if all the sudden the media starts calling this H1N1, everybody will get confused, perhaps thinking h1n1 is distinct from swine flu. Calling something by it's scientific name isn't always the best choice for non-scientists. Take animals for instance - few use an animal's scientific name outside of scientific discussions.
    • by geekoid ( 135745 )

      Well, that's a little confusing, it's just naming the two proteins.
      The Spanish Flu(originated in the far east, btw) is also aH1N1 variety. That doesn't mean it will be the as contagious or deadly as the Spanish Flu.

      Call it swine flu, educate people on why. Don't try to dodge peoples ignorance and stupidity. It is a losing game that leads to more ignorance and stupidity.

    • Re:Let's not (Score:5, Insightful)

      by eln ( 21727 ) on Friday May 01, 2009 @11:53AM (#27788013)

      I don't get why anyone would object to "swine flu".

      Let me see if I understand the logic here: You think pigs are unclean, and therefore you object to naming a deadly virus that thrives in unclean environments after them. Wha?

      I could understand objecting to it if it were called "Puppy and Kitty Cat Flu", or if we were trying to name a new translation of the Koran the "Swine Koran", but this is just ridiculous.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 01, 2009 @12:19PM (#27788511)

        I don't get why anyone would object to "swine flu".

        (1) There are some people whose living depends on selling swine-related products.

        (2) People are, in general, dumb.

        Consequently, people may jump to the conclusion that eating swine may result in them getting the flu.

        This is why I'm backing "Mexican flu." If nothing else, it'll cut down on people eating Mexicans.

      • Re:Let's not (Score:5, Insightful)

        by dontmakemethink ( 1186169 ) on Friday May 01, 2009 @12:32PM (#27788759)

        H1N1 is believed to have been initially spread from a rather unkempt pig farm in Mexico, hence the swine flu. However, it isn't the fault of the pigs that the place was so nasty, it was the farmers.

        So a more appropriate name would be the Dirty Mexican Flu. However that would unduly prejudice all Mexicans, just like "swine flu" unduly prejudices pigs and the pork industry.

        I got an idea, how's about we ask someone about to die from it what it should be called? Maybe they might give us some perspective about whether the name is worth arguing about.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          How could a virus come from a pig-sty? Even if in poor condition. Bacteria live for a long time in feces, virus don't.

          A virus needs a live body to live body transfer, or at least a short term in a moist cool dark place.

          Now I could see a transfer happening at slaughter. To kill, gut, and dismember an animal is a very intimate thing, you get covered in goo, there are aerosols of blood and other fluids. Yes, it's messy, and you're playing with sharp knives, cutting through bone and cartilage, leaving sharp

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        I don't get why anyone would object to "swine flu".

        International bodies of doctors and biologists do seem oddly concerned about names rather than disease prevention. Example: Drosophila biologists often give quirky names to the genes they discover that in some way reflect the phenotype of the mutant. One famous gene is Hedgehog, because mutants have spines all over them. Mammalian homologues were found, and someone named one version Sonic Hedgehog after the Sega character. Another one got named Indian Hedgehog.

        Apparently these genes are mutated in a few

  • by Gorm the DBA ( 581373 ) on Friday May 01, 2009 @11:31AM (#27787559) Journal
    Let's see....

    Characteristics of a flu...

    • Overrated in impact
    • makes you feel sick if you come in contact with it
    • Those who pay the least attention to science will be impacted by it the worst
    • makes you feel much better once you're beyond it
    • Costs the nation billions of dollars in lost productivity
    • invades countries without any concern for borders
    • the world would be a better place without it.

    given all these, the choice is obvious...

    I hereby dub this latest flu the CONSERVATIVE REPUBLICAN FLU

  • by JSBiff ( 87824 ) on Friday May 01, 2009 @11:31AM (#27787571) Journal

    Not be named after 'unclean' animals after all. I only get kosher diseases, thank you very much!

    • by Chyeld ( 713439 )

      I think the idea is, if it's known as swine flu among people who believe that contact with a swine makes one unclean, those who become ill with it will be less likely to seek treatment and more likely to be ostracized for contracting it.

      No, it's not a rational issue, but then how often are people rational, especially those living in areas most likely to be hit by an uncontrolled outbreak of this.

  • by FingerDemon ( 638040 ) on Friday May 01, 2009 @11:32AM (#27787599) Journal
    His running joke is that he will sell out in nearly any way to get his name out there. He'd probably love the idea and go on his show next week and urge viewers to write to WHO to ask for the rename.
  • Wilbur's flu Flu Z Montezuma's revenge Tequila flu Panic flu Non-Kosher/Non-Halal flu One flu over the cuckoo's nest
  • by Bruce Perens ( 3872 ) * <> on Friday May 01, 2009 @11:35AM (#27787657) Homepage Journal

    There is a real problem in Egypt, which is persecuting its Coptic Christians by slaughtering their pigs. A minority in Egypt are Christian, the word "Copt" refers to their Egyptian ethnicity.

    Some of the Copts farm pork, which the majority of Egyptian Islamic citizens (and their powerful clerics) feel are unclean. The Copts feed the pigs by recycling garbage, compounding their unclean nature in the eyes of Islamics. So, the Egyptians are slaughtering the pigs in the fear that they are influenza vectors.

    We don't actually know that the pig is a vector for the virus at all. Thus, the Egyptian slaughters are unwarranted. We do know that human-to-human contact is a problem this time. The pigs are where influenza genes are often mixed, because they are susceptible to avian, human, and swine viruses. There probably was one pig-to-human transmission at the beginning of this epidemic, but there isn't evidence of continuing transmission after that.

    The Copts are persecuted like most religious minorities in religious states. You don't see many of them in government (and none in high positions) or education. They don't often get government permission to build churches, and in 2007 there were Islamic riots because the people around the Copts thought they wanted to build a church. They need government permission to perform religious services.

    The bottom line here is that the Egyptians, by slaughtering the pigs, remove the livelyhood of the Copts. They aren't promising to restore that livelyhood.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by maxume ( 22995 )

      Unfortunately, that situation is also a case of too late. If there were any traction for cooler heads in Egypt, they wouldn't have come out with a plan to slaughter uninfected pigs, so some wily Westerners trying to deflect attention away from pigs now isn't all that likely to matter.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Morphine007 ( 207082 )

      So, let me get this straight:

      Egyptian majority generally persecutes Egyptian minority.

      Swine Flu hits and the Egyptian majority uses that as an excuse to further persecute that minority.

      Changing the name of the flu is going to stop one demographic - who actively searches for ways to persecute the other - from persecuting a second demographic? How?

      I mean, I understand the linkage between the poor choice of name and the current mechanism of persecution, but it seems like you're implying that changing the name

    • Interesting point, but I don't believe for a second that renaming the swine flu now is going to change all that. Anyway, if you have a headline that starts with "lets rename swine flu", you just KNOW that you're already too late.

      Basically, people will call it what they want, and once something is stuck it's hard to get it out. Maybe you can in some months time, but either then the "swine flu" is way more popular or it's mostly forgotten.

  • by Sporkinum ( 655143 ) on Friday May 01, 2009 @11:36AM (#27787673)

    You can bet that Prescott Pharmaceuticals is working on a nostrum to exploit this latest panic. Includes such side effects as trotter lip, spleen bristles, and toe hams.

    BTW.. I'm a Colbert too, you insensitive clods!

  • by Greyfox ( 87712 ) on Friday May 01, 2009 @11:36AM (#27787679) Homepage Journal
    Space herpes. Let's try it on:

    "I can't come in to work today. I have space herpes."

    "Some guy on the subway gave me space herpes."

    "CNN Reporting today that another 35 cases of space herpes have surfaced in New York."

  • Here's an idea (Score:5, Insightful)

    by shma ( 863063 ) on Friday May 01, 2009 @11:38AM (#27787713)
    How about we stop giving stupid suggestions their own Slashdot articles?
    • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

      by Lord Ender ( 156273 )

      Bruce is famous for writing some sort of P2P software, which, I believe, failed due to inadequate support for now-ubiquitous NAT, and for having a borderline-worthless search capability. Because of this project, though, he is somewhat of a celebrity, so his ideas are going to get more attention than the average slashdot comment.

    • Great idea! (Score:5, Funny)

      by denzacar ( 181829 ) on Friday May 01, 2009 @12:11PM (#27788373) Journal

      Further more, I suggest we submit that for further discussion in an article of its own.

  • Or, is it because meat packers are concerned that people might stop eating pork in fear of the virus?

    Meat packers aren't just concerned about it - it is [] in fact [] actually [] happening []. Plenty of people genuinely (and jokingly []) think that eating pork products is a way to get this disease.

    Public health officials have to live in the real world, where irrational behavior, fear, hysteria, and misinformation are enemies as big as disease itself. If referring to it as "H1N1 Influenza" rather than "Swine Flu" ge

  • by spooje ( 582773 ) <<moc.liamtoh> <ta> <ejoops>> on Friday May 01, 2009 @11:39AM (#27787757) Homepage
    How about editing the Wiki page to call it the Colbert flu. And while we're at it let's say the flu is a direct result of saving all the elephants.
  • by presidenteloco ( 659168 ) on Friday May 01, 2009 @11:41AM (#27787787)

    Or P.I.G. Flu

    - suggested by CBC radio's "The Current" program this morning.

  • If we're going to do euphemisms, let's show the WHO what we think and call it the WHO Flu.

  • by CRiMSON ( 3495 ) <crimson&unspeakable,org> on Friday May 01, 2009 @11:47AM (#27787899) Homepage

    I'm telling you Bacon Fever!!!

  • by jbeaupre ( 752124 ) on Friday May 01, 2009 @11:48AM (#27787915)

    Wilbur's flu
    Flu Z
    Montezuma's revenge
    Tequila flu
    Panic flu
    Non-Kosher/Non-Halal flu
    One flu over the cuckoo's nest

    (just flat out ignore my poorly formatted list above. Sorry)

  • Who is going to not call it swine flu after all the hubbub?

    But if we want to put Colbert's name on anything how about on a swine?

    BTW does anyone know if Colbert has the flu? Like they say "that truck has your name on it", I don't think he wants his name on the flu. But if he has the flu, anyone who wants to snuggle with him can call it the Colbert flu.

  • by muuh-gnu ( 894733 ) on Friday May 01, 2009 @11:52AM (#27787991)

    > ethnic reactions to 'swine,' for example among middle-eastern cultures who feel

    Actually, they do not "feel" this at all, it has been force-hammered into their heads from early childhood, when they minds could not defend themselves, because several hundreds of years ago, their self-appointed religious founders had no refrigerators (but forgot to leave a "or any later version" in their GPLs.. err... holy scriptures).

    So basically a secular, neutral, international health organisationen now forces a disease renaming onto the whole planet because a few backwards theocracies, who happen to have stuck themselves into a religion without a feasible upgrade path (hehehehehe), threaten to let their people die en masse in order to avoid pronouncing the word "swine" loudly. (I'm writing this, but still cant grasp that they rally mean this seriously. Jeez.)

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Actually, they do not "feel" this at all, it has been force-hammered into their heads from early childhood, when they minds could not defend themselves,

      As opposed to having it hammered into their heads that something which is religious is necessarily backwards and wrong? I find it interesting that one who condemns religions for their backwardness is himself so intolerant of the beliefs of others.

  • by geekmux ( 1040042 ) on Friday May 01, 2009 @11:52AM (#27787999)

    How about Pussification Flu? Anyone who is offended by that name, well, they probably deserve to be.

    In other words, get a fucking grip. It's the flu. Get over it already. A pig by any other name.

    Oh, and just another small observation for those who are still offended by the "dirty" reference, any animal that still stands on four legs and eats slop with its mouth because it happens to lack opposable thumbs, logical thinking and an IQ under 50 is very well likely to be DIRTY.. For further reference on this fact, please refer to the guide of Common Sense under the No Shit, Sherlock section.

  • by Ken D ( 100098 ) on Friday May 01, 2009 @11:56AM (#27788087)

    PCFlu - Politically Correct Flu
    WWF - World Wide Flu
    WTF - World Terrorizing Flu

  • by drDugan ( 219551 ) on Friday May 01, 2009 @11:56AM (#27788095) Homepage

    No person, country, or industry deserves to be saddled with the name of a deadly infectious disease that happens by random evolutionary chance.

    We have a similar problem with random tropical storms that can eventually turn deadly, and we have in place standard, non-offensive naming system. It uses an annual system with alpha-ordered names. []

    Given the ever-growing global population and the *inevitable* concomitant increase in pandemic diseases, we will eventually need to come up with preemptive arbitrary unoffensive names like we do for storms.

    Get the WHO or some robust international group to make a set of arbitrary, alpha-ordered, gender-unbiased names, and any time one reaches pandemic stage 4 (or some stage of early but serious global problem), assign the next name.


    Arthur Flu
    Betty Stomach Bug
    Carl Flu
    Denise Spotty Fever
    Eric Virus
    Florence Worms

    etc ...

  • by AkkarAnadyr ( 164341 ) on Friday May 01, 2009 @11:58AM (#27788133) Homepage

    The virus has genetic characteristics of avian flu and swine flu.

    The obvious way to distinguish this one is to call it the Flying Pig Flu.

    Late-night comics and morning zoo types will flog it for all it's worth, so it will overtake the current moniker.

    And the zealots will have to try to kill all the flying pigs.

    Sorry, Stephen.

  • I prefer... (Score:5, Funny)

    by prograde ( 1425683 ) on Friday May 01, 2009 @12:11PM (#27788381)
    I prefer the name Pandemic Influenza Germ...although people will undoubtedly shorten that to an acronym of some sort.
  • No. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Punto ( 100573 ) <puntob&gmail,com> on Friday May 01, 2009 @12:34PM (#27788789) Homepage
    Let's not name a possible pandemic after some local celebrity of yours. It was funny (to you) when it was some NASA space station, but really, nobody knows (nor cares) who Colbert is ouside of US and Canada.

Programmers do it bit by bit.