Posted by: Jack Henry | April 9, 2020

Editor’s Corner: (Not) Going Viral

Hello, my fellow English lovers and homebodies!

As we all try to decide whether we should make a face mask out of an old T-shirt, a shopping bag, or a coffee filter to best combat danger at the grocery store, I thought I’d finally do more than share jokes about viruses with you.

First, a little about the name coronavirus. The name comes from the Latin, corona, which means “crown.” And, as many things from Rome, this was borrowed from the Greek word for garland or wreath: κορώνη (korónee). So why name it after a crown? Apparently if you had an electron microscope in your pocket, you’d be able to see little crown-like protuberances on the virus—or, if you prefer the Wikipedia definition “the club-shaped viral spike peplomers, create the look of a corona surrounding the virion.” (Yeah, good luck with that.)

Next, I’d like to mention that I noticed some of you breaking the six-foot social distancing rule by getting too close to this virus and nicknaming it “Rona.” Don’t do it! Being that familiar with her is a chance you don’t want to take. How about getting familiar with Grammar Girl, instead? She’s much kinder.

In one of her recent articles, Grammar Girl explains why some disease names are capitalized and others aren’t. Here is the information in a nutshell:

  • Most disease names are not capitalized, such as influenza, diabetes, and cancer. Coronavirus should be lowercase, except that I started the sentence with it. COVID-19, on the other hand, is all caps, because it an abbreviation for COronaVIrus Disease-2019.
  • Diseases named after regions are capitalized. Remember Ebola and West Nile? Well, those were named after the regions where the viruses were first found: the Ebola river in Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo) and the West Nile district in Uganda.
  • Diseases named after people are capitalized. So, sometimes diseases are named after the discoverer and other times they are named after a person who got the disease. Alois Alzheimer was the doctor who identified Alzheimer’s disease, but Grammar Girl explains that people don’t like the apostrophe “s” because the disease doesn’t belong to Alois. Lou Gehrig’s disease, on the other hand, was a disease he had, and it has an official name of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or ALS.

On that note, if you’re still with me, I will now reward you with some more humor. These are difficult times, and difficult times call for a nice margarita, or if you aren’t in Mexico—humor.

Enjoy your day!

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

Symitar Documentation Services

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