Hog farmers and pork producers would like us to call it “the North American flu,” due to how panic over the “swine flu” is affecting sales of the Other White Meat. This is understandable, but as a lifelong North American, I would find that name offensive, not to mention geographically imprecise. Some politicians suggest we adopt the scientific name, A (H1N1) 2009, but it doesn’t roll off the tongue. The “Mexican flu” might be more accurate, but it is clearly a non-starter. Nonetheless, the overall goal here is a laudable one: To remove any stigma that this rogue bit of RNA might leave in its feverish wake. In furtherance of that goal, I suggest that we think boldly, and target not just the modifier but the unpleasant word “flu” itself. I propose we call it “an enhanced cold,” or alternately, a “harsh fever.” If we must add a place name, let us pay a friendly but desperate foreign nation to assume responsibility. The Bulgarians, I’ve heard, could use the money.
But it is not only the pork industry that is suffering due to irresponsible naming conventions. Take the financial, banking, and auto industries, which have endured such grievous public relations setbacks over the past year. “Bailout” is such a negative word, as are “losses,” “bankrupt,” and the suspiciously socialistic “nationalization.” Henceforth, let us speak of companies experiencing “unexpected profit inversions,” necessitating “asset augmentation” through a “unique private-public partnership.” As for my brethren in the newspaper and magazine industry, they are not losing circulation and revenue; they have embarked on a “green initiative to cut down fewer trees” and are now “providing costly services to the public free of charge.” There. Don’t you feel better already?