In French-speaking Québec, even the common flu takes on a different accent, becoming contested ground in the battle between the sexes. When Quebecers start to sniffle and sneeze, you will hear a term that would seem to mean both one thing and its opposite at the same time. The term: une grippe d’homme – a man flu!
To my English-thinking mind, a man flu would be a severe flu, a flu that has the stereotypically masculine qualities of strength, virulence, and endurance. And that is what it means…sometimes. With that definition, this recent newspaper article in the Journal de Québec informs its readers on how to tell the difference between a simple cold and a real flu. A cold is a mere inconvenience, the article tells us, whereas the flu will put you out of commission for several days.
Ask a Québec woman though, and you will get an entirely different definition. Your inquiry into the veritable meaning of this expression will invite a lecture on the inability of the male sex to endure pain and discomfort. The slightest congestion, she will say, causes a man to put on his pajamas and huddle up in bed in an unproductive and noisy pile of self-pity. Une grippe d’homme, in this case, is thus an insignificant flu, one that women work through uncomplainingly every day, one that stops men in their tracks.
Sniff…I think I’m coming down with something…