The English Learners' Blog

A blog for English learners and their teachers everywhere, initiated in 2010 with the contribution of students from the Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland. More about me on the On-line Profile below. Welcome!

Conversation Topics: Global Issues

Before starting the discussion on global issues, it’s worth taking a moment to consider some personal issues, such as tiredness, or, if we think about the heavy rains in the city of Krakow of only a few days ago, the flu, the common cold, stuck noses, lost voices or sneezing. 

Here’s what you can find about Ah-choo! on Katherine Barber’s blog:

” The word “allergy” was coined in 1906 from the Greek word, allos (different) and the end of the word “energy”. But surely people had allergies before then? Indeed they did. An Italian doctor of the mid-1500s, observing the sneezing and itching suffered by a patient exposed to roses, dubbed the affliction “rose fever”. But in the 1820s we begin to see references to “hay asthma” or “hay fever”, the latter term becoming established when a physician in the mid-1800s fingered grass and other pollens as the culprit. He advised his patients to avoid it by spending the summer on a yacht. Try getting your health plan to cover that!”
On the same blog, some other less known stories about the words “sneeze”,  “virus” and “flu”. 

Bless you! 

[…] Until the mid-1400s, people fnesed (this wonderfully evocative word was pronounced “fnayz”). While words starting with fn- became rare, there were many starting with sn-, especially nose-related ones like “snivel”, “sniff”, “snort”, and “snot”. Gradually the venerable “fnese”, which dated back to Anglo-Saxon times, was supplanted by “sneeze”.

Going Slimy 

In Latin, a virus was a slimy liquid or poison. We borrowed the word around 1600 to designate snake venom. A century later, it was thought that disease caused the body to produce poisonous substances, for which this word meaning “venom” was appropriate. But then in the 19th century Louis Pasteur realized that nasty submicroscopic organisms are not the result of disease, but its cause, and used the word “virus” in the way we have understood it ever since. Computers have been suffering from viruses since 1972. 
Viral marketing” has been with us since 1989, and postings on the Internet have been “going viral” since 2004. Somehow, I don’t think this phrase would have caught on with such positive connotations if it were instead “go slimy” or “go venomous”!

Flus, gnus, emus, and tutus

The word flu was a 19th-century shortening of “influenza”, which the English had borrowed from Italian in 1743. Influenza, like the English word “influence”, comes from the Latin influere (to flow in).In the Middle Ages, astrologers believed that an ethereal fluid flowing from the stars or heavens affected people’s characters and events generally, so influenza in Italian and “influence” in English referred to the impact of the stars on human life. Since this kind of influence was thought also to cause illness, Italians used influenzato mean a “visitation” of an epidemic disease, an influenza of chicken pox, catarrh, and so on. When a particularly nasty flu outbreak hit Italy in 1743, people just used the word la influenza by itself. As flu does, it spread, and the English adopted the Italian name.

How do we become aware of other people’s personal issues?

How does the news of personal issues spread?

  • direct contact, letters, mails, media, heroes of the hour/ day…

When/ How do events go global?

Suggestions for discussion:

Filed under: 3►SPEAK▼, ■ Global Issues, TOPICS▼

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