Thursday 7 February 2019


I’ve just had flu. I knew it was flu because I'd had it in my twenties and it was characterised by the same lead being poured into all my limbs, even my fingers, and particularly my head, over a matter of minutes only to realise that if the house was burning down, I’d have to pray the hubbie was up to a fireman’s lift because I couldn’t move my body, not an inch.

The first time it happened I remember my mum peering at me through the living room window as I sat stock still on the sofa on a fiery hot summer’s day in the long university holidays, sporting the entire home’s stock of blankets. She was wondering why I hadn’t answered the door, used her key instead, took one look at me, asked me to put my chin on my chest and when I could, said, in her indomitable matter-of-fact nurse’s voice: 

Oh, that’s ok, I thought it might be meningitis. It’s just flu.

Just flu? I said, goodness! This was worse than flu!

Flu’s bad, she said, people call a bad cold, flu. But flu is flu, a bad cold is a bad cold.

I remember thinking they needed a better name for a bad cold. Because a bad cold can feel really, really horrible can’t it? But a cold can be anything from a sniffle to confining you to your bed and preventing you from work, so when it’s a bad cold we feel the need to call it something else so that we at least get some sympathy - AKA hot water bottle, Lemsip and a pass out on the dishes – and our manager doesn’t think we’re being pathetic, worse, skiving. For what it’s worth, I do believe the RIGHT thing to do is to stay away from work when you have a bad cold because nobody, but nobody wants to catch your cold so it’s kinder to the rest of us, and you’ll get better quicker, if you give yourself some TLC. Ok? You’re allowed.

How about colflu, flucol, flueyold or, flold. Yes! If you have a ‘flold’ then you are allowed to go to bed without putting on the washing before you go, your team will understand that you didn’t respond to that email and your boss will absolutely insist you don’t set foot anywhere near the office. Sorted.

This post isn’t a veiled appeal for sympathy by the way. I am currently in that post poorly-ness wave of euphoria, where it was almost worth feeling so bad, to feel so good in comparison. Almost. No, it reminded me of one of my questions I have running around my brain that never gets answered: where do these words start? You know, words like ‘peng’ and ‘sick’, or,‘dordy’ (threw in a Newark one there – I’m happy to say that my memory of being 14, and my diary corroborates, was that most things in life were, ‘dordy’) and even, ‘cool’ – that came from someone, somewhere, sometime. 

It’s the words that already have a meaning which bears no resemblance to what the speaker would like them to mean, that I wonder about. Who is the first person to say them and how do they end up being global? I mean, I understand it in the practical sense, a la internet et al, but how does one teen say something’s ‘peng’ in a little country village in deepest darkest Sussex for example, only for it to end up on the lips of a rapper in America? How did one person decide that using a word which described something pretty gross such as ‘sick’ would be a great way to describe something being ‘great’, and then manage to convince everyone else to feel the same?

I realise some of this is generated through the influence of idolised celebrity, but celebs aren’t getting up in the morning and thinking: Hmmm. What new word could I come up with today that, within weeks, will be universally understood by everyone under twenty?

Are they?

Well, maybe it’s our turn to make a mark on the Oxford English Dictionary. What word do you think should exist, but doesn’t…yet? Maybe it's a word only your family knows, or one you misspoke as a child but that makes so much more sense your way...

Meanwhile, my sympathies if you have had the misfortune to develop a cold, flold or flu this winter, and I hope that we all manage to beat off the gremlins going forward.

Stay well, folks!


  1. I do remember windowscreen for windscreen which was very appealing and always said in our family some years ago now! When you think about it is quite appropriate really. Can't think of any more at the moment but am sure there are loads!!!!

  2. That's very cute :) I do remember it! And it is logical, only that I think opening the windscreen sounds very cold - in this country, anyway!!!


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