Focusing on Words Newsletter #12

(the twelfth newsletter of a series that was formerly presented to subscribers by the Sr. Scribe, a.k.a. John Robertson)

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The Senior Scribe is trying to find more info for his project.

“Fears came scurrying out from their hiding places like mice.”

—Paige Mitchell

“There is now a feeling of foreboding like a chill wind blowing through the window presenting an ominous threat of illness followed by death.”

SARSphobia, a panic about a potential pandemic

With all the news in the media, SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) is rapidly becoming a phobia that is spreading panic around the world. Consider the following headlines:

1. SARS Alarmism, When Fear Is A Virus: First there was denial, then sluggish response›and now irrational fear.

2. Fear Aiding Spread of Sickness, Health Officials Say: The care of many patients with a mysterious respiratory illness is being seriously jeopardized because nurses and other health care workers are staying home and refusing to treat them, officials at the World Health Organization said.

3. SARS: From China’s Secret to A Worldwide Alarm: Last November in Foshan, a small industrial city in Guangdong province in southern China, a businessman became desperately ill with an unusual type of pneumonia. Doctors could not identify the germ that was making him sick. Omniously, although pneumonia is not usually very contagious, the four health workers who treated him also fell gravely ill with the same disease.

4. In Hong Kong, Fast-moving SARS sets off alarms: A fast-growing cluster of killer pneumonia infections in a Hong Kong housing estate fueled fears that the disease known as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS, may be more contagious than experts believed.

5. Fear of Respiratory Disease Stymies Swiss Jewelry Fair—Many Exhibitors Barred by Medical Authorities: When Swiss health officials decided last week, just before the show was to begin, that exhibitors and buyers from places affected by SARS would not be allowed to attend because of concerns about spreading the virus, the show became a debacle.

6. SARS Could Slow Asia Industry—Fall in Business Trips Threatens China’s Computer Sector: In Hong Kong, companies and consumers bought every desktop, laptop and notebook computer theY could find as more and more people worked from home often with their employers’ encouragement, for fear of becoming infected if they showed up at their work stations.

7. Fear of War and Illness Hurt Asia Travel: The war in Iraq and the outbreak of a mysterious respiratory ailment that began in China are combining to wreak havoc on tourism in Asia. “This has definitely affected the city,” said Tina Liu, communication manager at the Grand Hyatt in Shanghai. “We’re experiencing cancellations›more from the virus than the war.”

8. Thousands Quarantined in Beijing to Curb SARS: China implemented a sweeping quarantine on thousands of Beijing residents who have had contact with suspected carriers of a highly infectious respiratory illness, as the Communist government began using its massive police powers to combat a national health crisis. Dense crowds of temporary laborers descended on major train stations seeking emergency passage out of the city.

9. Fear of SARS and Fear Itself: We’re all within the reach of fear; fear of the unknown and the half known. Every day brings news of the spread of the killer virus. You could say that this is all alarmist nonsense. More people die from diarrhea or flu than SARS, and the risk to any particular individual is small; but one person taking the disease into Hong Kong practically crippled the health system there. One person brought SARS into Toronto and shut down two hospitals. More devastating than the human cost of the virus is the damage it is inflicting on fragile economies of all kinds.

There is much more that could be presented here, but it should be sufficient to convince you that there is a SARSphobia which has spread throughout the world.

Can you translate the following sesquipedalians into "common English"?

Here is an old proverb: While bryophytic plants are typically encountered as substrata of earthly or mineral matter in concreted state, discrete substrata elements occasionally display a roughly spherical configuration which, in the presence of suitable gravitational and other effects, lends itself to a combined translatory and rotational motion. One notices in such cases an absence of the otherwise typical accretion of bryophyta.

The proverb means: “A rolling stone gathers no moss.”

What was a young man saying to a young woman in the following sesquipedalian?

They shine more rutilent than ligulin—those labial components that surround thy pericranial orifice, wherein denticulations niveous abound!

Commingle them with my equivalents! Let like with like nectareously converge! From the predestined confluence some sempiternal rapture must emerge!

As Willard Espy put it, “After all, he was only asking her for a kiss. Jargon may be useful to hide one’s real thinking, or lack of it, but it can be downright self-defeating if you are trying to persuade someone to do something. A young man learned that when he addressed these words to the maiden he loved, only to be shown the door.”

Both of the foregoing were compiled by Willard R. Espy.

The letters MS refer to two things: One is a debilitating and surprisingly widespread affliction that renders the sufferer barely able to perform the simplest task; the other is a disease. In other words, MS stands for the name of a well-known software company or for the disease Multiple Sclerosis.

"The true men of action in our time, those who transform the world, are not the politicians and statesmen, but the scientists."

—W.H. Auden

"We have genuflected before the god of science only to find that it has given us the atomic bomb, producing fears and anxieties that science can never mitigate."

—Martin Luther King, Jr.

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