Gripped by the nose of the goat

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I am at my mum’s house in Edinburgh, Scotland for Christmas. She is in bed with flu, my sister is in bed with flu, and I am in bed trying to avoid the flu. My brother is hiding from the flu at the other end of the house, lest he be gripped by it. I’ve been using the word ‘grippe’ (flu) in French for 6 years but I never thought to wonder why it’s called that. ‘Gripper’ means to clasp or hook, or grip (argh that’s a bit obvious). So the French for flu is ‘thing-that-gets-its-hook-in-you’. Which is quite good. The English word influenza comes from the Italian ‘influentia’, because flu was thought to be such a grand and mysterious thing that it could only be powered by the universe, the moon and stars influencing who got it and who escaped. That’s quite good as well. But the best one is the phonetically similar Arabic ‘anf-al-anza’, which means ‘nose of the goat’, as goats were thought to be transporters of the disease. Oh dear, our household is gripped by the nose of the goat. What a mysterious place to be.

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By freakyparisandbeyond

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