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Author Topic: German flu  (Read 107 times)

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Offline lindy

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German flu
« on: March 29, 2020, 10:35:41 PM »
An appropriate time to ask this question.

I'm revisiting Tampa Red's "No Matter How She Done It," with the lyric

"I know a gal, her name is May Lou,
She shook it so much she got the German flu."

I noticed that the lyric shows up in Weenie threads for Romeo Nelson lyrics and an SOTM ("Nobody Knows You"), but that's it.

Does "German flu" simply refer to the flu pandemic of 1918 (usually referred to as the "Spanish Flu"), or does it have another meaning?

A online search located an "anti-fascist blog" containing a story about a rumor that Germany created a flu virus in 1916 as part of its WWI chemical warfare effort, to be carried to the US and spread around New York and other cities. But it looks like a one-off mention. If it was a rumor that got passed around in 1916, it might have been an item in the press that musicians picked up on.

Looks like Tampa Red recorded the tune in 1932.

Lindy
« Last Edit: March 29, 2020, 10:44:50 PM by lindy »

Offline Alexei McDonald

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Re: German flu
« Reply #1 on: Yesterday at 05:01:07 AM »
Yes, it's just another of the names given to the 1918-20 flu pandemic.

"First of all it must be said that the term 'Spanish flu' is clearly a mistake, and that the name should be 'German flu', because the investigation proves that the disease began in the Germanic trenches. Then it went on a tour of the entire civilized world, during which it exploded with particular virulence in Spain, due to certain local conditions".

Washington Times, October 6, 1918.

Offline harry

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Re: German flu
« Reply #2 on: Yesterday at 07:14:56 AM »
I'm no virologist but that's an incorrect, dated statement.
The 1918-20 flu pandemic most likely originated in the US and really exploded in a hospital camp in France according to wikipedia.

Offline lindy

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Re: German flu
« Reply #3 on: Yesterday at 04:32:13 PM »
Where did the flu strain that caused the 1918-19 pandemic originate, possibly in 1916? You can find opinions ranging from Spain to North Europe to Chinese immigrant laborers to Kansas (military base) to the German chemical warfare theory that I mentioned. Nothing ever confirmed.

In the absence of any other info, I'm willing to accept a simple answer such as someone reading or hearing about news stories such as the Washington Post article cited by Alexei, and despite its inaccuracy the info it got passed around until it fell on the ears of Romeo Nelson and Tampa Red.

That, and 'German flu' rhymes with 'May Lou.'

Lindy

Offline Stuart

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Re: German flu
« Reply #4 on: Yesterday at 05:10:17 PM »
Both Gina Kolata (Flu) and John M. Barry (The Great Influenza) wrote popular books that have been out for a while. The reviewers and experts have worked them over, but they're still sources of info.

As Lindy mentioned, it's possible the origin of "German Flu" was either in rumor or propaganda, speculating that it was a biological weapon developed and used by the Germans in WWI.

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