Off the Record
June 25, 2008 · Updated 1:27 PM
"Whoever started using the phrase foot and mouth disease should be quarantined. It's driving me crazy. As far as I'm concerned, it's always been and always will be hoof and mouth disease. Cows have hooves, not feet.I don't want to detract from the seriousness of this deadly disease. According to an article in The Boston Globe, more than one million animals have been slaughtered (or soon will be) since its detection in England two months ago. And although it's not harmful to humans, hoof and mouth disease is highly contagious to animals and can be carried on shoes, cars and even in the air.I learned about hoof and mouth disease as a kid in school. It was during the 1950s era of teaching wide-eyed students about all sorts of horrendous afflictions and diseases: leprosy, elephantiasis, scurvy, rickets, trichinosis. Looking back, I think the teachers got off on it, and they had a captive audience. For years, when I poked my fork into a piece of pork, I imagined I would die at our dinner table following the last bite of uncooked meat. I worried about botulism, too...maybe that's why I never ventured into the home canning craze.But back to hoof and mouth disease. According to the 1977 edition of the Illustrated World Encyclopedia, which I somehow inherited from former neighbor Joan Tellini, it is in fact hoof and mouth disease...not foot and mouth disease. How do I know? The disease is listed under hoof and mouth, not foot and mouth, with this description:Hoof and mouth disease occurs among all animals with hoofs. It is also called foot and mouth disease. It raises blisters on the mouth and other parts of the body. It is usually so painful for the animal to eat that it may starve to death. If one animal in a herd catches the disease, this animal must be killed and buried immediately, for the disease spreads very rapidly. Hoof and mouth disease was brought to the United States by cattle imported from Canada and England in 1870. The disease spread among American cattle and horses. Rigid laws were passed controlling animals coming into this country, and also controlling animals that came down with the disease in this country. These laws have been successful, and there has been almost no hoof and mouth disease in the United States since 1929.OK, my case is somewhat weakened by the sentence, It is also called foot and mouth disease. But I'll say it again: cows don't have feet, they have hooves. None of this has anything to do with a common childhood virus called hand, foot and mouth disease. Officially known as the coxsackievirus disease, it primarily affects young children. A rash appears as ulcers in the mouth, inner cheeks, gums and tongue; and as bumps or blisters on the hands, feet and other parts of the skin. Not attractive in the least, and it spreads quickly among large groups of small children. Then there's foot in mouth disease, something that I have been known to suffer from on numerous occasions. This is not to be confused with foot and mouth disease, the new term for hoof and mouth disease. Putting your foot in your mouth is an English idiom and simply means that you say something that causes somebody pain or embarrassment. For instance, if you run into a female friend you haven't seen in awhile and notice that she is looking particularly chunkular or wearing extra circular clothes, you may make the mistake of saying: Congratulations...when's the baby due? This is a life threatening case of foot and mouth disease...I used it once and vowed to never reiterate it. Fortunately, it's not contagious, and seems to be more of a personality disorder.As for foot and mouth disease...I mean hoof and mouth disease... mad cow disease?To be idiomatic about the whole thing, I think it's time for me to put up or shut up.Moo!NEWS FROM ANOTHER PLANET: I gleaned this item of local interest from the April 6, 2001 edition of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer: Howdy Doody tonight debuts in his new, permanent home, the Detroit Institute of Arts. It marks the end of a two-year battle between the museum and the family of the late Rufus Rose, the puppeteer of Howdy Doody. The 18-inch puppet will be on view until May 13. 'After that, we'll check him into our conservation lab for some R&R and then make some long-term plans about how to display him,' said Larry Baranski, curator of the museum's 850-puppet collection. 'He was there for the birth of network television and nothing much from that early era survives,' Baranski said. The museum had claimed that Rose, who took the puppet to his Waterford, Conn., studio after the show went off the air in 1960, promised to donate it. Rose's family argued that there was no promise.Sue Frause can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com. "