"When dawn spreads its paintbrush on the plain, spilling purple... ," Sons of the Pioneers theme for TV show "Wagon Train." Dawn on the mythic Santa Fe Trail, New Mexico, looking toward Raton from Cimarron. -- Clarkphoto. A curmudgeon artist's musings melding metaphors and journalism, for readers in more than 150 countries.

Friday, March 13, 2020

Going "viral" with thoughts on words and vaccines

"Virus," 5 x 7 watercolor, 140 lb. Fabriano Artistico cold press paper
"This is the way the world ends. Not with a bang but with a whimper."
                           --The Hollow Men (1925), T.S. Eliot

 Twenty-First Century tech and globally co-dependent humanity,   having adopted the words "going viral" for its digital amusement, suddenly finds how deadly the term is, and how vulnerable "civilization" is.
This one apparently won't wipe out humanity, if it doesn't mutate, but it is in the process of crashing the world economy and causing untold physical and financial misery. But it's not the first and it  won't be the last one.
There is real irony is our previous use of  the term "going viral" in these times, but at least we have began using a better word--"pandemic."
I'm not a paranoid doomsday prepper--and besides, all survival gear  wouldn't stave off a virus. 
One hundred years ago, the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918 infected about 500 million people worldwide, killing from 20 to 50 million victims, including some 675,000 Americans. 
There was no vaccine for flu then; the first was invented in 1938. If there had been, I'm sure there wouldn't have been any "anti-vaxxers." (Have you had your flu shots?)
It's possible that another virus gave us the English word as we use it today. The Black Death arrived in Europe in about 1347, and proceeded to wipe out from 30 to 60 percent of Europe's population. 
Then, in the late 14th Century (1300s), Late Middle English used the word to  perhaps denoting venom of a snake, also  a "venomous substance," from the Latin "virus" to mean "poison, sap of plants, slimy liquid, a potent juice." It probably comes from Proto Indo-European root *weis- "to melt away, to flow," used of foul or malodorous fluids, with specialization in some languages to "poisonous fluid" (source also of Sanskrit visam "poison," visah "poisonous.")
So pardon me if I my thoughts on virus go virally off on several tangents. And today's watercolor.


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