And not for a single day did I not ask myself who the smart alecs who had coined the term were. Why ‘swine’? Wouldn’t ‘porcine flu’ or plain ‘pig flu’ have been a better term? The Spanish called it ‘gripe porcina’, and the French, ‘la grippe porcine’. But the English had to be different, of course.
Porcine /ˈpɔ:sɒɪn/ means relating to pigs, or similar to a pig. Swine /swaɪn/, on the other hand, is an almost archaic word meaning a pig. It is also used informally (almost rudely) to mean an extremely unpleasant man, or something that is extremely unpleasant or annoying. So, swine flu, although technically correct, tends to leave a rather foul taste in my mouth.
Hand in hand with swine flu, you’ll undoubtedly read ‘pandemic’. Now, you might have asked yourself, ‘What happened to plain old epidemic?’ Well, there is actually a difference.
“Ministers had accused the National Childbirth Trust of overreacting after it said that women should delay getting pregnant until the pandemic had passed.” The Times, 20 July 2009
An epidemic, however, is defined by Oxford as ‘a widespread occurrence of an infectious disease in a community at a particular time’.
In other words, a pandemic disease is an epidemic affecting many people over a wide geographical area, but an epidemic is not necessarily pandemic. HIV can be considered an epidemic, while the Black Death was a pandemic.
Then, there’s ‘endemic’, which refers to a disease which is almost constantly present in a given area, though usually at low levels. Malaria in parts of Africa can be considered an endemic disease.Read more about swine flu in CDC or About.com.