Printable Version
Pronunciation: flu Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun, mass

Meaning: A highly contagious viral infection causing inflammation of the respiratory tract, fever, muscular pain, and a rotten mood.

Notes: You will find slang words in English that have been shortened or "clipped". Usually the first syllable is retained: doc for doctor, rep for representative. Rarely, the last syllable will be retained, as van for caravan and bus for omnibus. Retaining a middle syllable, as fridge for refrigerator is rarer yet, but today's Good Word is a member in good standing of that elite group: it is a double clipping of influenza. So, for an adjective, you have to go back to influenzal.

In Play: We thought our North American readers might be interested in the origin and nature of this Good Word as they enter the flu season: "'Have you had your flu shot yet, have you had your flu shot yet?' That is all I ever hear these days!" Vaccination can help against certain strains of flu but remember: flu is a family of different virus strains whose number increases year by year.

Word History: If you think influenza is remindful of English influence, you have etymological potential. Influenza is the Italian word meaning "influence". From about 1505, Europeans believed that epidemics resulted from the influence of the stars, since the same disease affected so many people over such a wide area. Hence an epidemic came to be known as an "influence". The word itself comes from Latin influentia "influx, inflow", made up of in "in" + fluere "to flow". The root of this word goes back to an ancient bhleu "swell, well up" and came to English as blow. (Today's Good Word is the result of the beneficial influence of Chris Stewart, our chief South African word-spotter. We are happy to make his finds epidemic.)

Dr. Goodword,

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