Was there ever such an ugly word as ‘jab’? (Yes; ‘gibbous’ but that’s another story). In recent weeks I have had to endure listening to dozens of people jabbering-on about their jabs:
“– I’ve had both my jabs!”
– “I’m still waiting for my second jab.”
– “I had to stand around for hours when I went for my jab”
– “I had my jab in just a jiffy.”
– “I need a jab because of my job.”
And so on. The word ‘jab’ really gets my goat; it’s worse than the Americans’ “shots” (“have you had your shots, bud?”). It’s not a jab, it’s not a shot, it’s a vaccination – no, I tell a lie; it’s not a vaccination because, as any latin buff or Francophone will tell you, a vaccine is etymologically something that comes from a cow, which was the case when the first smallpox vaccine was trialled in the late 18th Century. But none of these current anti-Covid concoctions are cow-related; not the Pfizer, the Astra Zeneca, the Heinz 58 or the John Innes Number 17 or whatever, so how can they be vaccines?
I know I’m being a pedant and that it is entirely reasonable that the word ‘vaccine’ should now embrace all those serums that cleverly confer immunity against a whole host of nasty contagions. One could of course use the term ‘inoculation’ as in introducing an innocuous substance, but I’ve got an even better idea: the name of Edward Jenner is revered in immunological circles for his having developed the first ever smallpox vaccine.
But it was no sudden serendipitous discovery; Jenner was building on the work of several others. Indeed in 1765, a full 30 years before Jenner began to experiment with cowpox serum, a Dr Fewster presented a paper to the Medical Society of London entitled “Cowpox and its ability to prevent smallpox” and Gloucester physician Dr Rolph is reported to have said that “all experienced physicians of the time were aware of this”. Then in 1774, (still 20 years before Jenner) a Dorset farmer, Benjamin Jesty, inoculated his wife and two sons with cowpox during a smallpox epidemic so really, the good Dr Jenner was a Johnny-come-lately and I think the name of farmer Ben Jesty, who is buried in the quiet churchyard of Worth Matravers on Dorset’s south coast, should be the name to which we should doff our caps.
I say we should banish all mention of jabs, shots and vaccinations. We shouldn’t even inoculate – how much better it would be if instead, we all talked about having had our ‘jesticulations’!
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