This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Friday, 14 October 2016

Word To Use Today: influenza.

Do the stars rule your life?

Does Jupiter's visit to the region between you and that bunch of stars that someone a long time ago thought looked a bit like a crab mean that you're going to cross water to meet a tall dark stranger who'll precipitate a change of career and some luck in money-matters?

Or will it just give you influenza?

I ask, because the word influenza is to do with influence, and in the 1300s an influence (from the Mediaeval Latin influentia) implied some action of the power of the stars.

By the time influenza (the Italian for influence) began to be used as a name for the disease, however, influences were being seen as more earthly, and the idea at that time (1743) was that the disease was an incursion that spread in just the same way as a fashion for, say, tartan braces, might be spread by a boy band.

Nowadays we'd call that sort of trend a meme, making an analogy with genes. 

If you go back to the original source of the Italian word influenza, though, you'll find another analogy entirely.

Word To Use Today: influenza. This word is the Italian for influence, which comes from the Latin fluere, to flow. So influenza is at its deepest root not a power of the stars, nor an incursion, but a river. 

File:3D Influenza virus.png
This is a portrait of the virus that causes all the trouble.

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