Naming is Framing: Swine Flu, New Flu, and A(H1N1)

Orla Vigsø


When the flu known as swine flu became pandemic, a war of names broke out. This article analyses why the debate became so intense. All of the names - swine flu, Mexican flu, new flu, and A(H1N1) - affected some stakeholders negatively. The stakeholders' attempts at influencing the naming can be seen as strategic reputation management, or as an initial stage in crisis communication.
In order to understand the naming controversies, Coombs' crisis management theory as well as framing theory and rhetoric is used. One of the major findings is the presence of political and economical issues underneath what is claimed to be health or safety issues. The analysis shows the need for a multi-layered theory in order to grasp the interplay between stakeholders and stakes.


flu, rhetoric, crisis, pandemic, stakeholders

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