Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Blaming Syphilis On the Other Guy

In the early part of the sixteenth century, a new disease spread like wildfire in Europe.  This was syphilis, a sexually-transmitted disease.  It was especially virulent, and was sometimes called the Great Pox, a distinction from smallpox.

Europeans blamed neighboring peoples as the source of the disease: the French disease, the English disease, etc.

And, of course, condoms were referred to later as 'French letters.' 

If condoms were not used, the offspring were called 'bastards.'


  1. So it looks like (acording to Wiki) that it most likely came from the Americas to Europe. The Europeans gave the Americas small pox, they gave them syphilis in return.

  2. Isn't that like calling the flu the 'Hong Kong flu," "the Asian flu," and so forth?

  3. A consequence of distant peoples coming into contact with each other is that both groups get exposed to a new assortment of possible diseases.

  4. Similar to expressions to describe people you can't understand. Where we might say, "It's all Greek to me," the Greeks say, "I'm listening to a Turkish sermon." I have heard condoms described as "French letters," too. Clever!