It’s cold and flu season, and I have questions.

First of all, why is it always “cold and flu season,” never “flu and cold season”? Did we just collectively decide to go in alphabetical order? If so, it’s good to know we can all still agree on something.

Also, why is it a cold, but the flu?

For example: “I have a cold, but I can still go to work and spread this germ to everybody in the office.”

Compare to: “I have the flu. I can’t do anything but lay on the couch and watch Netflix.”

It’s also the mumps and the measles. (Poor chickenpox doesn’t rate an article in front of it. It’s just, “He has chickenpox.”)

One could theorize that this is because there are many different kinds of cold germs, but only one measles virus and one mumps virus. … but then there are many different types of flu viruses …

All we’ve proven is that English makes no sense.

Also, why do we “catch” colds? That implies deliberate action on our part, like we went out tracking a germ in order to bring abject misery upon ourselves. A cold in the hand is worth two boxes of tissues.

Also, don’t be sneezing your cold into your hand. That’s nasty.

You don’t often hear about people “catching” the flu. People are more likely to just “get” the flu.

This is probably because, on the predator chain, the flu virus outranks humans. Saying, “I caught the flu” is the equivalent of saying, “I caught a rabid bear!”

The word “flu” is shorthand for “influenza,” a word that has been around since 1743, according to Merriam-Webster. It is literally the Italian word for “influence,” because people in the Middle Ages believed that epidemics were due to the influence of the stars.

Now I’m always going to hear the word “influenza” in the voice of Roberto Benigni.

A cold, however, is not that special. It’s just common.

We use the word “cold” for all sorts of other things. Cold drink, cold stare, cold facts, cold case, Cold War.

“Measles” is also a surprisingly versatile word. It can be a noun (a “measle” is a type of tapeworm larva), an adjective (“measly” means small or pitiful), a verb (“mease” is an old word meaning to appease or pacify), another adjective (“measled” means spotted).

But “flu” means only one thing.

One time when I had the flu, I sat in front of a really hot fire to try to get rid of the illness. And it worked!

The flu flew up the flue.

Lisa Davis is Features Editor of The Anniston Star. Contact her at 256-235-3555 or ldavis@annistonstar.com.

Features Editor Lisa Davis: 256-235-3555.

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