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This blog is about the fascinating, fun, and challenging things about the English language. I hope to entertain you and to help you with problems or just questions you might have with spelling and usage. I go beyond just stating what is right and what is wrong, and provide some history or some tips to help you remember. Is something puzzling you? Feel free to email me at wordlady.barber@gmail.com.
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Friday, December 2, 2011

Don't have a cow...

Flu vaccine clinics are up and running again. Where does the word “vaccination” come from? In 1796, the British scientist Edward Jenner discovered that immunity to smallpox could be achieved by inoculating people with the milder virus of a disease called cowpox. But, being an 18th-century guy, Jenner gave the virus a Latin name: variolae vaccinae, from the Latin for “cow”, vacca. A cowpox shot was called a “vaccine inoculation”, quickly replaced by the snappier “vaccination”, which was subsequently applied to inoculations against any disease, not just smallpox.
For more on whether "flu" can be used in the plural, and if so, what that plural is, visit this post

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About Me

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Canada's Word Lady, Katherine Barber is an expert on the English language and a frequent guest on radio and television. She was Editor-in-Chief of the Canadian Oxford Dictionary. Her witty and informative talks on the stories behind our words are very popular. Contact her at wordlady.barber@gmail.com to book her for speaking engagements; she can tailor her talks to almost any subject. She is also available as an expert witness for lawsuits.