Laurie Anderson once spoke about language being a virus from outer space, but I don’t think even she was fluent in Covid.
Big Science, and let’s face it, these days Epidemiology is THE Big Science, is revelling in its new found spotlight. You have to admire the gusto with which its exponents polish up old terms and the “news” media, for want of a better name, polish up old experts, to front pretty empty programmes given us the absolute lowdown on all things we already know, but in bright, new, fresh, shiny language.
Bring on the ’emics
Don’t you just love the way these things keep cropping up? Epidemic, Pandemic, Endemic and so on.
In epidemiology, an infection is said to be endemic in a population when that infection is constantly maintained at a baseline level in a geographic area without external inputs. For example, chickenpox is endemic in the UK, but malaria is not. – Wikipedia
It all begs the question, what next? Or just how many bloody ‘emics are there?
Is ENDEMIC the ‘emic to end all ‘emics, as its name suggests? – Nope!
I have heard that C-19 may well become endemic in the UK, but I haven’t heard any mention of Hyperendemic or Holoendemic states…. yet. Perhaps the Science buffs are saving these for when things get really bad!
Hyperendemic refers to persistent, high levels of disease occurrence. Occasionally, the amount of disease in a community rises above even the expected level.
A disease is holoendemic when essentially every individual in a population is infected, but the symptoms of disease do not appear equally across age groups. This raises all sorts of problems with asymptomatic people.
So, with these thoughts in mind, and defying all risks to my personal health, I boldly went through internet space on my own Wordsmith Enterprise to find out more. My own epistemic voyage of discovery.
Captain’s Blog: Star date 2020: AC-19 or beam me up Snotty!
One of the first ‘emics I stumbled across, during a fit of coughing, was interpandemic. That looked like a really promising life form and was bound to pop up shortly because it relates to the bit of time between pandemics! Aha! I thought, much more pseudo-scientific than “between the surges”. We could have UK Government Science-spokesvolk addressing us plebs on the interpandemic intervals. Sounds kinda sexy!
Never fear, if the recurrences are not sufficiently intergalactic to qualify as pandemics, they always have interepidemic to fall back on. Doesn’t quite have the same ring though.
The postponed Olympics being billed as the First Interpandemic Games sounds quite cool. I could see that catching on! Quite Katniss Everdeen sounding, so that might well fit the bill. It certainly fits with our present Hunger Games theme, based on food shortages, or Supermarket Sweep as it was once fondly called.
But back to the present. The current pandemic already seems to act in a systemic way. In fact, it also seems to lead to multiple organ failure so can reasonably be described as multisystemic. It would seem to be only a matter of time before some bright spark introduces us to the concept of C-19 being Viraemic which means that it circulates and multiplies in the bloodstream.
R0, R0, R0, the boat
Yep, you may well have heard about the R value by now, and if you haven’t you soon will have. It is often referred to just as “The R value” or sometime “R-nought”. It has been nicked from another branch of science, namely demographics, and it refers to the number of infections estimated to stem from a single case. The lower it is the better, but crucially an R0 below 1 means that the number of cases may be shrinking – Yippee! let’s all start hobnobbing again! NB other biscuits are available, and in my view much nicer.
However, while R0 stays above 1, then keep the lid firmly on the biscuit tin because relaxing Lockdown is a much riskier proposition.
They do love a bit of jargon, don’t they?
It’s all reminiscent of White coats and WM7
Way back in the 1960’s when I worked at Unilever, the company used men in white coats on our TV screens trying to bamboozle us with pseudo-science.
They were promoting a different sort of message in those days, namely the whitening properties of OMO washing powder with its wonder ingredient WM7. I suspect it could just as easily have been WTF, but they weren’t that rude in those days.
The point is that they used people dressed up to look like scientists to give messages to the Great British Public in order to give those messages some kind of spurious credibility.
So, the next time you get hit with a “WM7”, “Prorogue”, “Furlough”, “Shielding”, “Social distancing”, R-nought, or maybe an “antilemic” moment, think twice.
Why are they using an obscure, previously defunct, or just made-up term? Is it to assist in improving the general level of understanding? Or could it perhaps be in the interest of making smoke? It certainly generates more heat than light and provides a new way of re-purposing wool as an aid to vision. Still it is 2020 – The year of good vision if ever there was one!
Oh, by the way, any of us who find the concept of thinking twice too big a stretch, should try with thinking just once to start with and see where that takes them.
For those that have hung on this far, I should explain that antilemic refers to that which is effective against the plague.
Now you might regard this whole piece as being philopolemic, and I must admit, I do love a bit of a barney, but I hope I’ve convinced you that these pseudo-academics with their gobs crammed full of ‘emics really are out to get us. Mainly to get us thinking about how clever they are, and how we can safely put our trust in them.
I’m not altogether sure that I go along with all that.