[Ads-l] patient zero

Neal Whitman nwhitman at AMERITECH.NET
Sat Nov 8 04:02:38 UTC 2014

I wonder if this extension was influenced by Monica Lewinsky's recent 
claim to have been "patient zero" in the non-contagious case of 

Also, why not "patient one"? Metaphorical extension of "ground zero"?


On 11/7/2014 1:11 PM, ADSGarson O'Toole wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       ADSGarson O'Toole <adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM>
> Subject:      Re: patient zero
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Jonathan Lighter wrote:
>> Originally (at least in news culture) the first guy known to have (and
>> spread) AIDS.
>> But now (Yahoo! News):
>> "Brooklyn Reiff is patient zero in a massive Internet meme that millions of
>> people have read or heard about."
>> Apparently "the source" (of an Internet meme).
> In the excerpt below the author primed the reader by using the term
> "viral-ness" in describing the meme. The term "Patient Zero" was a
> form of wordplay or a metaphorical extension based on "virus", I
> think. (Apologies to all who think this is too obvious to state.) It
> may be hard for this usage to gain traction because the connotations
> are discordant.
> Title: A Conversation with the Teen Who Took That Photo of 'Alex from Target'
> Author: Alyssa Bereznak (Tech Columnist)
> Date: November 7, 2014
> http://yhoo.it/13S5L9n
> https://www.yahoo.com/tech/a-conversation-with-the-teen-who-took-that-photo-of-101970340239.html
> [Begin excerpt]
> By Monday morning this week, an otherwise normal kid who worked at
> Target discovered that he had become an unwitting Internet meme,
> amassing thousands of new Twitter followers and sparking coverage from
> every major media outlet (including Yahoo Tech). By Tuesday, a
> previously unknown company tried to piggyback on his viral-ness. As
> the week wore on, a slew of think pieces came out about fandom and
> modern fame.
> The source of all this madness: a 15-year-old high-schooler named
> Brooklyn Reiff.
> Reiff is a junior at Prosper High School in Prosper, Texas. She's on
> the softball team there, where she plays left field, sometimes center.
> When asked if she's interested in any particular subject at school,
> she replied "not really."
> In other words, she's a typical teen who just happens to be Patient
> Zero in a massive Internet meme that millions of people have read or
> heard about. I caught up with her in the car, as her mother was
> driving her to an orthodontist's appointment.
> [End excerpt]
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

Dr. Neal Whitman
Lecturer, ESL Composition
School of Teaching and Learning
College of Education and Human Ecology
Arps Hall
1945 North High Street
whitman.11 at osu.edu
(614) 260-1622

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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