Chikungunya and Dengue.

Scott B. Halstead’s “Reappearance of Chikungunya, Formerly Called Dengue, in the Americas” (Emerg. Infect. Dis. 21, April 2015) is an interesting look at a confusing situation of diseases and disease names; the abstract says:

After an absence of ≈200 years, chikungunya returned to the American tropics in 2013. The virus is maintained in a complex African zoonotic cycle but escapes into an urban cycle at 40- to 50-year intervals, causing global pandemics. In 1823, classical chikungunya, a viral exanthem in humans, occurred on Zanzibar, and in 1827, it arrived in the Caribbean and spread to North and South America. In Zanzibar, the disease was known as kidenga pepo, Swahili for a sudden cramp-like seizure caused by an evil spirit; in Cuba, it was known as dengue, a Spanish homonym of denga. During the eighteenth century, dengue (present-day chikungunya) was distinguished from breakbone fever (present-day dengue), another febrile exanthem. In the twentieth century, experiments resulted in the recovery and naming of present-day dengue viruses. In 1952, chikungunya virus was recovered during an outbreak in Tanzania, but by then, the virus had lost its original name to present-day dengue viruses.

There are sections on “The Chikungunya Epidemic of 1827–1828,” “Origin of the Term Dengue,” “Discovery of Chikungunya Pandemics,” “History of Disease Caused by Dengue Viruses,” and “History of Chikungunya Name Change.” One thing Halstead doesn’t explain is the morphology of the word chikungunya; he says that “in the Makonde language (spoken by an ethnic group in southeast Tanzania and northern Mozambique) [it] means that which bends up,” but the AHD adds the vital (for LH) information that it consists of “chi– sing. n. pref. + –kungunyala to become contorted, fold up (so called because joint pain causes sufferers from the disease to assume a hunched posture).” Thanks, Nick!

Comments

  1. I never saw the word exanthem before; it turns out to mean an eruptive skin rash with associated symptoms such as fever. (An enanthem is a rash on the mucous membranes.) Many diseases can produce exanthems/exanthema (ayther will do), but the ones that produce generalized red spots were originally considered a single disease. In 1905 they were numbered in order of their separate discovery: first disease ‘measles’, second disease ‘scarlet fever’, third disease ‘rubella, German measles’, fourth disease (no longer recognized as separate), fifth disease ‘slap-cheek disease’ (caused by a parvovirus), and sixth disease ‘three-day fever / baby measles’.

  2. Bathrobe says:

    Having read your excerpt, my head was spinning from trying to figure out which was which!

  3. I’ve never heard about Makonde before, but of course I’ve read about Makondo. Wikipedia sayz that the two are unrelated, though Marquez apparently thought differently.

  4. cavorting says:

    The verification of which historical epidemic was which isn’t as obvious as Halsted makes it. The clinical syndromes overlap significantly such that defining based on descriptions is not reliable. There was likely confusion, and sociolinguistic context often mandated one rather than leading to a choice between them, but perhaps the broader question is if naming based on pathological agent is necessarily better than naming based on syndrome…

  5. They are similar in that respect to Márquez and Marquez.

  6. Rodger C says:

    Exanthemata?

  7. As someone who comes across and uses the word exanthem a reasonable amount, no, usually exanthems.

    I emailed the OED once to point out that the word excipient is not obsolete, despite it being listed as such in OED2, and they replied and suggested that I use a specialist medical dictionary rather than the OED. It’s still by far the best dictionary of anything, even of medicine, I’ve used, so I’m not about to rush to do that.

    Most dictionaries (and the Microsoft Word spell checker, somewhere it could be *really* useful!) are weak on medical vocabulary. An interesting exception is Sulayman Hayyim’s Persian-English dictionary, which I used for years because it has the best Persian pronunication info I had come across (though, of course, it doesn’t document the incomplete /ɒn/ -> /un/ sound change you need to use with Iranians to avoid cognitive dissonance on their part about whether they’re talking to a mollah or a newscaster). It’s otherwise not great, my Persian-speaking wife, whom I trust on this, flatly disagrees with a decent proportion of what he says, where she broadly agrees with what Phillott, from a few years earlier, describes. Getting good language resources was easier with German!

  8. David Marjanović says:

    I was wondering where Varanus exanthematicus comes from!

  9. I use Hayyim’s Persian-English dictionary myself, supplementing it with Gaffarov’s Persidsko-Russkii Slovar’ [Persian-Russian Dictionary] (see this LH post), which is, after all, only a century old.

  10. Exanthem? Where did that come from? Sounds like what I wish for the rockets’ red glare.

    Go Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land”!

  11. Fascinating. And a special case of the terminological tangle that always accompanies diagnosis. Here’s an example of a similar circumstance for something much less exotic (can provide a PDF for those disinclined to scale paywalls):

    http://annals.org/article.aspx?articleid=2197182

  12. I love “This Land Is Your Land”, but I think “America the Beautiful” (1913 version) is a better anthem. One of my email .sigs uses the second half of the second verse:

    America! America!
    God mend thine every flaw,
    Confirm thy soul in self-control,
    Thy liberty in law!

  13. If I had my druthers, we’d go with “American Music.” The whole world digs that sound from the USA!

  14. When I was in elementary school (in the 1970s), we always sang “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee” (the classic unparseable syntax! took me decades to start hearing it as “[O] my country, ’tis of thee (sweet land of liberty) — of thee I sing”), occasionally varied with “America the Beautiful.” They barely even tried to teach us “The Star Spangled Banner.” I don’t recall singing “This Land Is Your Land” either; the school likely thought it too Communistic.

  15. All of the -man ethnonyms are pretty outdated by now, even ‘Frenchman’. ‘Chinaman’, I suspect, is especially disfavored since it was used so commonly as a catch-all for all Chinese, with whatever unsavory characteristics were assigned to them, often in the combination ‘The Chinaman’. The only time I’ve heard the word used was by someone who wanted to make sure that you knew he was being racist.

    ‘Jew’, likewise, has a racist mustiness to it, in a way ‘Jewish’ doesn’t; it’s still not as troublesome as ‘Chinaman’.

  16. Oops, this should go with the Maundy thread.

  17. Eli Nelson says:

    @Y: Which post are you responding to here? I think you exaggerate the outdatedness of these words. Yes, I agree “Chinaman” is generally not used at all nowadays, generally being replaced with the adjective “Chinese”, but I wouldn’t call “Frenchman” or “Englishman” outdated, although they may be more rarely used nowadays.

    Likewise, the idea that the word “Jew” always carries a whiff of racism, or that it is inherently “troublesome,” is certainly an overgeneralization. Yes, anti-Semites tend to direct their hatred towards “the Jews” and not “Jewish people”, but it’s the sentiment, not the terminology, that is offensive. In other contexts, such as a text on history, nobody would find the term “Jews” offensive. And in the singular, it’s extremely commonly used as a self-identifier by Jews themselves.

  18. @Eli: Nonetheless, some people do have the impression that “Jew” is offensive, and assiduously use “Jewish person” instead. I don’t agree – I’m a half-Jew myself –, but it is a view that exists. What we can all agree is bad, of course, is the use of “Jew” as an attributive, like “Jew lawyer”.

    Interestingly, English seemed to be making a turn toward “Hebrew” during 19th and early 20th century, especially in periphrastic forms like “Hebrew gentleman” or “of the Hebrew persuasion”. My dad likes to make joking use of the latter one.

  19. It’s Jew, especially in the form the Jew, but also using is a Jew instead of is Jewish (etc.) that’s problematic, not the plural Jews. These things are subtle.

  20. Similarly (but not identically), a black or a gay is likely to cause offense in contexts where blacks or gays would not.

  21. I can’t remember where, but I recall somebody writing about how specifically feminine terms tend to come off as more pejorative (i.e. Jewess, negress).

  22. Dan Milton says:

    When I was in elementary school, thirty or forty years before Vasha, I had no problem parsing the first verse of “America”. I simply thought the country had two names when talking about it: “United States” or “America” and two different ones when singing about it: “Columbia (the Gem of the Ocean)” and “Tisalee”.

  23. J. W. Brewer says:

    Re feminine forms being more pejorative, consider http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinawoman (the stage name for a Canadian performer of ethnic-Russian ancestry).

  24. Trond Engen says:

    ‘Norwayman’ may be a special case. It sounds like an awkward attempt to English the Norwegian self-designation nordmann.

  25. Well, as far as I know, English doesn’t use -man forms when a Latinate -(i)an is available.

  26. It has been said time and again that chikungunya — which some people tend to pronounce “chicken gunya” — was a Swahili word, but it comes from another Bantu language instead: Makonde.

    Incidentally, in French the word dengue is pronounced exactly like “dingue” (insane, mad). That’s most certainly because the fever drives people crazy.

  27. gwenllian says:

    Similarly (but not identically), a black or a gay is likely to cause offense in contexts where blacks or gays would not.

    I’m not so sure about blacks or gays not causing offense. The plurals are definitely less offensive than a black or a gay but they are often seen as offensive in their own right, at least from what I’ve seen, with black people and gay people by far preferred.

    On the topic of slurs, an anti-semitic Ukrainian politician launched a Facebook attack on Mila Kunis a few years ago. Reading about it, I was surprised to see that one of the slurs he used was zhydovka, since in Croatian, židov/židovka are the neutral words for Jewish people. Čifut would be the slur, from Turkish Çıfıt. Now Wiktionary surprises me by telling me that the common Slovenian slur čefur, which is used against inhabitants of Slovenia originating elsewhere in former Yugoslavia, probably comes from Çıfıt as well. I had always thought čefur could be related to the.word for infidel, which in Bosnia is most commonly realized as ćafir.

  28. The plurals are definitely less offensive than a black or a gay but they are often seen as offensive in their own right, at least from what I’ve seen, with black people and gay people by far preferred.

    I agree.

    Now Wiktionary surprises me by telling me that the common Slovenian slur čefur, which is used against inhabitants of Slovenia originating elsewhere in former Yugoslavia, probably comes from Çıfıt as well. I had always thought čefur could be related to the.word for infidel, which in Bosnia is most commonly realized as ćafir.

    I’m not sure I’d trust Wiktionary, but etymology is complicated and often counterintuitive.

  29. gwenllian says:

    I’m not sure I’d trust Wiktionary, but etymology is complicated and often counterintuitive.

    Yep, I’m trying to find a good Slovenian source which would outline the etymology. Not sure if I’ll have much success. There’s a relatively okay one for Croatian, for example, but it’s got a lot of unnecessary gaps and is missing an insane amount of colloquial and regional vocab.

  30. Now Wiktionary surprises me by telling me that the common Slovenian slur čefur, which is used against inhabitants of Slovenia originating elsewhere in former Yugoslavia, probably comes from Çıfıt as well. I had always thought čefur could be related to the.word for infidel, which in Bosnia is most commonly realized as ćafir.

    Wiktionary tells me that Çıfıt is a Turkish word meaning Jew and that it derives from Farsi جهود (jahud, “Jew”). Assuming Wiktionary is correct, it’s curious that the Farsi word for Jew contains a J as its initial letter. Farsi almost for sure picked up its word for Jew from Arabic yahud.

    ćafir-čefur is very likely related to the South African term kaffir. Hebrew has a parallel term: כופר kofer, from the same root as seen in Yom Kippur.

  31. The normal Persian word for ‘Jew’ is یهود (yahud); جهود (jahud) is a variant, and I don’t know what its status and origin are.

  32. gwenllian says:

    ćafir-čefur is very likely related to the South African term kaffir. Hebrew has a parallel term: כופר kofer, from the same root as seen in Yom Kippur.

    That’s what I thought, and that’s why I was surprised that I was wrong. Ćafir definitely does derive (via Turkish) from the Arabic for infidel (same source as the South African word), but apparently čefur is completely unrelated to ćafir, or to another Bosnian slur đavur, which comes from the Persian gaur and ultimately also probably derives from the same Arabic source. Another version used in Bosnia is kaur, kaurin, which has also become a surname (not sure whether the other ones have, too).

    The Slovenian čefur apparently really does derive from Çıfıt, via BCS. Here’s a good source confirming it: fran.si/iskanje?View=3&Query=%C4%8Defur

    I find it surprising not just because it’s somewhat conterintuitive (well, counterintuitive to me, and it’s obvious I don’t know much about etymology) but also because the anti-Semitic stereotypes associated with the slur čifut are vastly different from Slovenian stereotypes about the so-called čefurji. Well, both are a perceived Other, so I guess that might be the connection.

  33. gwenllian says:

    Seems I cut off part of the link, sorry.

  34. Ethnic insults can shift targets with surprising ease. Take Russian pindos, which started out as an insult for Greeks and is now an insulting term for Americans.

  35. gwenllian says:

    Thanks, that’s an interesting example.

  36. Dago < the name Diego was originally a slur for Spaniards and remains so in the UK, but in the U.S. it shifted a century and more ago to being a slur for Italians (who don’t use the name Diego).

  37. gwenllian says:

    I know the name is originally Spanish, but I know 4 unrelated Italian Diegos of various ages. I’m not sure how far back it goes, but I think the name is quite popular in Italy.

  38. The now derogatory Modern Persian word ǰuhūd (the source of Turkish çıfıt) continues a Middle Persian word. MacKenzie in his Pahlavi dictionary puts it under ǰahūd, written yhwd’. The word is also known in Sogdian, spelled cxwd, also the source of Medieval Chinese 石忽 shíhū (Middle Chinese ʂɦaik xut, or the equivalent in one’s preferred reconstruction). The early existence of the word in Middle Iranian rules out any Arabic origin for the word. Instead, the word must be from Aramaic yhwdy (Hebrew יְהוּדִי ), borrowed into Iranian early enough, perhaps even in Achaemenid times, to undergo the change of y to ǰ in the history of the Iranian dialects.

    I would like to have the phonology of Slovene čefur explained, if it is the Slovene representative of the family of slurs that includes Bulgarian чифут, Croatian čifut, Greek τσιφούτης, etc. Where do you get the final -r? To my knowledge, there is no rhoticism of final -t in Slovene (Slovene and Serbian-Croatian vrat “neck”, Slovene noht and Serbian-Croatian nokat, “fingernail”). Can the final -ur be explained by crossing with the family of words that includes Albanian kaur, Bosnian đavur, Bulgarian гяур, Greek γκιαούρης, and Serbian ђаур, all ultimately from Ottoman Turkishكاور gâvur “non-Muslim, infidel” (pronounced with palatal g, [ɟaβ̞uɾ]), usually taken to be from Persian گبر gabr (for which see the Encyclopaedia Iranica article about the term). I imagine the Balkan reflexes like čifut preserve an archaic Ottoman pronunciation çıfut intermediate between modern Republican Turkish çıfıt and the pronunciation çufut indicated by Meninski in his Thesaurus Linguarum Orientalium of 1680.

  39. Fascinating, thanks!

  40. Albanian kaur, Bosnian đavur, Bulgarian гяур, Greek γκιαούρης, and Serbian ђаур, all ultimately from Ottoman Turkishكاور gâvur “non-Muslim, infidel”

    And older English giaour, now mostly preserved because of Byron’s 1813 poem.

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