Sick of EnglishVarecilla-Zoster. Have you ever heard of it?
Well in plain English it’s called Chickenpox, and my son Tom’s got it. He looks like a bottle of tomato ketchup has just exploded all over him and his little sister keeps running after him with a pen trying to join up all the dots.
While reading up on this virus I discovered the following bit of cheerful news on netdoctoruk – “if exposed to an infected family member, about 80% to 90% of those in a household who haven't had chickenpox will get it”.
Therefore the odds my daughter Elli will avoid catching this highly contagious form of the herpes virus are about as slim as the Algerian downhill skier Christelle Laura Douibi’s chances of a podium finish at this year’s Winter Olympics.
Incidently, have you ever wondered why Chickenpox got its name? Thankfully it has nothing to do with the H5N1 bird flu virus, but it also has nothing to do with chickens either. It is believed the name derived from the rather odd observation that the red spots look like chickpeas on the skin.
This is not something that immediately springs to my mind when I look at my son.
In fact they look far more like small water-filled boils. Which is why the Swedish term for Chicken Pox – Vattkoppor (watery boils) - is considerably more descriptively accurate.
Indeed Swedes don’t muck about when it comes to describing medical conditions. They tell it like it is, rather than us English, who prefer to give things rather more complicated and convoluted titles.
Take urinvägsinfektion (urinal ‘way’ infection) for example. We call that Cystitus, which is more reminiscent of a Roman Emperor than an excruciatingly painful bladder complaint.
What about the remarkably straight forward Swedish lunginflammation (lung inflammation), known in English as the impossible-to-spell pneumonia.
Can anyone guess what hjärnblödning (brain bleeding) describes? Why yes, it’s a stroke – an English word that makes this sometimes fatal medical condition sound almost rather pleasant.
It all goes to prove you feel much better if you’re sick in Swedish. At least you know what’s wrong with you.