I admit that I am afraid of the swine flu.

This is a rather unusual situation in which I now find myself as I do not often get sick nor do I believe that I am pathophobic or bacteriophobic or in any other way fearful of disease or sickness. I grew up when polio was still prevalent and I remember my mother keeping me away from crowds during the summer but I do not believe that has influenced my fear.

Heart attacks are not uncommon among friends my age although I have been fortunate in thus far avoiding one. And cancer is widespread, afflicting all ages, all races, all genders. I have myself been treated for skin cancer . Yet I am not afraid of cancer or a heart attack.

“Cancer” is probably unavoidable if one lives long enough, and to some it is accepted as a natural occurrence or even fate. You may recall that Forrest Gump’s mother died of “the cancer” and, as she, said, “it was just her time”.

And a heart attack, while undesired, seems almost honorable when one pictures the typical stressed-out executive working himself to death to support his family. And although heart disease is growing among women, one usually stills pictures the afflicted as a man with elevated levels of testosterone. An almost “manly” way to go.

Rather, I think that my fear of swine flu stems entirely from the name of the disease.

The fact is, swine flu has no “class”. I would be embarrassed if my friends found out that I had caught the disease, let alone died of it. There are just too many adages and saws in our culture that remind us of the low regard in which we hold that species of animal:

“It’s like putting lipstick on a pig” (that one got a lot of play in the last presidential election);

“Don’t cast your pearls before swine”;

“”If you lie down with pigs you get up smelling like pigs”;

“You can’t make a silk purse from a sow’s ear”;

“Don’t buy a pig in a poke”;

“Never try to teach a pig to sing”;

“In a pig’s eye”;

“When pigs fly”;

“”If you wrestle with a pig, you’ll only end up getting muddy”;

swine-flu-bacon-revengeThe list is endless without even considering the connotations of “male chauvinist pig” or the derogatory term which has been used to describe police officers.

And perhaps equally important, pigs are not kosher. So if I contracted swine flu how could I possibly explain that to my Jewish friends and relatives and to the Muslim world?

The fact is this disease simply has a bad name.

And that brings us to the “meat” of this blog (excuse the pun) – words and their meanings. The power of words is truly amazing. Yet most of us seldom take the time to be certain in advance that the words we choose to use will have the desired effect.

Over the past years I have had the opportunity to shop thousands of new home sales people and brokers around the country. And the majority of time the sales person will inadvertently say something that could create a negative impression. Using “negative” words cannot possibly enhance the sales process yet without proper thought and training those words, which naturally permeate our every-day vocabulary, will leak out at the most inopportune times during the sales process. And the only way to prevent the use of these negative words is through conscious effort and training and retraining.

If you are interested in further thoughts on that subject, take a look at an article I wrote several years ago that was published in Sales + Marketing Ideas in 2004 and reprinted in Nations Building News and several other publications – http://www.nahb.org/generic.aspx?genericContentID=38312

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© 2009 – Daniel R. Levitan, all rights reserved.  This blog site and all entries herein represent solely the opinion of the author.  No animals were harmed in the creation hereof.

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