Colorful language from the American South
January 12, 2006 12:17 AM   Subscribe

My grandfather was from the Deep South, and his speech was very colorful. He used the word "epizootics" to describe any kind of flu-like illness. I realize this is a real word, used to describe epidemics in the animal world. But he pronounced it differently, "eppa-zoo-tiks." Or sometimes he said "eppa-zoo-ti-kus." Has anyone else heard this before? Would this be considered slang, or an idiom, etc?

It's used in the film "Ramblin Rose," starring Laura Dern and Robert Duvall. Duvall's character speaks of "catching the epizootics," if I remember correctly.

Odd question, I know. It's come up recently because I've been illin' with the flu. My grandpa's word came to me out of nowhere, after years of having forgotten it. I miss the wonderful way he had of describing things.
posted by shifafa to Writing & Language (12 answers total)
This seems to indicate it's a word that them vet'naries use. Someone else, (maybe you?) posted a similar question over here. Don't know whether these answer your question specifically, but love that crazy Google
posted by Jofus at 2:53 AM on January 12, 2006

A friend of mine, who once lived in the mountainous parts of North Carolina, still calls it the "epizootie."
posted by nebulawindphone at 4:34 AM on January 12, 2006

nebula's got my response -- growing up in Georgia, I've heard many people refer to "havin' tha epizootie," which as I child I chalked up to grown-ups talking stupid to kids. Hey! Learn something every day.
posted by Medieval Maven at 5:56 AM on January 12, 2006

As I said in the Wordorigins thread Jofus linked to, it's in the Cassell Dictionary of Slang:

oopizootics/ooperzootics n. [late 19C+] a fit of eccentricity, craziness. [? SE the disease epizootic, a plague among cattle]

Apparently a lot of people say epi- instead of oopi-, but in any case it's a slang word only historically (if that) related to the scientific term.
posted by languagehat at 6:49 AM on January 12, 2006

Response by poster: Australians! Whaddya know.

It would seem that the slang term came from the scientific term. I just wish we knew when and where. My take on my grandpa's usage is that he was not alone - that it was a somewhat common slang word for illness in people (not animals) in the South.

My grandfather's people were all from the boonies in northern Georgia.
posted by shifafa at 7:47 AM on January 12, 2006

My mother who did't get south of Philadelphia until after getting married used to say "epizootic" indicating a low grade, unidentified human illness. She was so none southern she pronounced tomato "tomahtoe"

"You have the epizootic today so I'm not going to send you to school."
posted by leafwoman at 7:56 AM on January 12, 2006

My southern (Louisiana) family still uses this. His usage usually means a nasty illness, like the flu, that is incapacitating.
posted by renyoj at 8:52 AM on January 12, 2006

Backed up by languagehat! /secretly chuffed.
posted by Jofus at 9:40 AM on January 12, 2006

I have also heard "I got the epidudus."
posted by Divine_Wino at 9:52 AM on January 12, 2006

Is that anything like having oldtimers disease?
posted by fixedgear at 12:34 PM on January 12, 2006

My Dad's family came from Tennessee and Kentucky and they used "epizootic" as a vague term for infectious illness in humans. Even as a youngun, I recognized that its usage (at least in my family) was intentionally ironic.

I try discourage the use of "oldtimer's disease" since (1) some people acquire Alzheimer's disease in their 50s and (2) Alzheimer's disease is far from universal in the elderly.

Now if only I could do something about these piles....
posted by neuron at 8:30 PM on January 13, 2006

My mother's family is from Abeline, Texas. I've grown up in Houston calling any 24 hour bug the epizoody. It was always for the type of bug that isn't a cold or the flu, but a day of terrible illness (often stomach-related, but not always). She's about to turn 60. It's used in the "I must have the epizoody" or "She's just got the epizoody" sense.
posted by cynthia_rose at 8:47 PM on January 16, 2006

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