FROM TODAY, THE disease discovered in Mexico can no longer be called “swine flu”. The pork industry is introducing a shoot-to-kill policy on people who use those words.
So what do we call it? “We suggest you call it ‘beef flu’,” said film star Kevin Bacon, hired as a spokesman by international pork producers. (From his next movie onwards, Mr Bacon will be known as Kevin Pastrami.)
The Beef-Eaters’ Association is not happy. “We’re mad as hell,” they said, which surprised nobody. “Why not call it bird flu?”
Hearing this, the avian flu virus has applied for an injunction, pointing out that it has been using the name for 15 years.
The SARS virus is in talks with its lawyers, who released this statement: “Our client reserves all rights to the exclusive use of the name SARS but will allow others to use the term ‘corona virus’.” I suppose this has possibilities since the makers of Corona beer are based in Mexico, where the trouble started.
Now you may have read (and this is NOT a joke) that the authorities in Israel last week announced that they were unable to say the words “swine flu” so had to call it “Mexican flu”. Having the word “swine” in their mouths was equivalent to eating pork, you see. One wonders how the same authorities refer to other things they wouldn’t want in their mouths, such as toilets, rat poison or sweaty jockstraps? Will they now rename these items “Mexican rooms”, “Mexican liquid” and “perspiration-soaked Mexi-garments”?
The New York Times has unimaginatively started calling it “Influenza A (H1H2)”. That’s not a name, guys, it’s a crossword clue.
The Hong Kong authorities sent me a press release referring to it as “the human swine flu”. No good! That phrase makes you think of people. “Human swine” was what we called my former boss. In fact, it was the NICEST thing we called him. (When I first joined the company, I thought “human swine” was his name.)
A reader suggested we call it “The Disease Formerly Known as Swine Flu”, or “Prince” for short. Not bad, but we need a name that accurately captures the spirit of the disease. How about Hysterical Mediaitis Syndrome?
Incidentally, can I ask news editors to instigate a policy of instantly sacking any journalist who includes a reference to historical flu pandemics which killed millions? This is blatant fear-mongering for the purposes of spicing up news pages – oh hang on, that’s what journalists do. Never mind. Forget it.
And what about the Lambada pandemic of 1989? This was a dance in which you had to intertwine your legs with your partner’s. I could never get it right, but this didn’t matter, since getting it wrong was actually more fun.
Any DJ who wants to revive this song, please note. I operate a shoot-to-kill policy.