[Ads-l] patient zero

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Sun Nov 9 22:55:20 UTC 2014

Thanks for your response, Neal. The phrase "patient zero" referred to
Gaetan Dugas who died from AIDS related complications in 1984, I
believe. Randy Shilts's book "And the Band Played On" had a chapter
titled 'Patient Zero", and his reporting helped to popularize the
term. The Wikipedia article for "Index Case" has an image of a contact
graph that apparently came from an influential scientific paper that
traced early cases of AIDS. The nodes of the graph were labeled with
numbers, and the key origin node was numbered zero and highlighted in
red. This zero node corresponded to Dugas, although I do not think his
name was given in the scientific paper.

The numbers apparently referred to the chronology of the onset of
illness. Zero was used as a starting benchmark. As an aside,  the
analysis in the paper concerning the spread of AIDS was later
determined to be flawed.


The sometimes reliable Wikipedia has some citations that illustrate
the broadening application of the term "patient zero":

[Begin excerpt]
The phrase "patient zero" is now used in the media to refer to the
index case for infectious disease outbreaks, as well as for computer
virus outbreaks, and, more broadly, as the source of ideas or actions
that have far-reaching consequences.[11][12][13][14][15]
[End excerpt]


On Fri, Nov 7, 2014 at 11:02 PM, Neal Whitman <nwhitman at ameritech.net> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Neal Whitman <nwhitman at AMERITECH.NET>
> Subject:      Re: patient zero
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> I wonder if this extension was influenced by Monica Lewinsky's recent
> claim to have been "patient zero" in the non-contagious case of
> cyberbullying.
> Also, why not "patient one"? Metaphorical extension of "ground zero"?
> Neal
> 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

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

More information about the Ads-l mailing list