How did Spain feel about the name "Spanish Flu"?

I’ve seen people post things along the lines of “Well Spain wasn’t offended by the name ‘Spanish Flu’”, as an argument that there’s nothing wrong with calling COVID19 the “Chinese Virus”. Putting the whole Chinese virus argument aside, it seems to me like the people making the claim about Spain have done zero research as to whether or not Spain was “offended”. Rather, they just assume they must not have been because they haven’t heard otherwise.

So, are there any contemporary news articles, official statements from Spanish diplomats or other government officials, accounts from ordinary Spaniards, or other documents from 1918 that would show how people in Spain felt about being the namesake for the deadly influenza pandemic? I’d be interesting in both whether the Spanish government had an official position, as well as anything that might show how ordinary people felt.

That it was called Spanish flu was not because it originated in Spain (it didn’t) but rather because it was debilitating soldiers on both sides in WWI. All of the governments involved censored the news for fear that their soldiers were the only ones suffering and the other side might mount a quick attack if it figured resistance would be light.

As a non-belligerent Spain had no such fear, so the early stories about the disease were all from Spain, giving the impression it had originated there.


I have heard from multiple sources now that one should call it the 1918 flu. So now there’s not necessarily any inconsistency about it. Whether Spain objected at the time seems irrelevant to me.

I meant to specify “On social media” in that sentence, but I seem to have omitted it. I just want to be clear that I’m not talking about anyone on this board.

What has been their stance on Spanish Fly?

Well, syphilis was initially called the “French disease” even though it’s thought to have been first spread by Spanish mercenaries, so Spain couldn’t really gripe about being saddled with the name “Spanish flu”. :slight_smile:

This is exactly right but does not answer the OP.

I have no idea how Spain felt about the name “Spanish Flu”. Who/what would be the authority for how Spain felt about it?

Personally I doubt they gave a shit. Call it what you want. No one back then felt “Spanish Flu” meant it was the Spanish who infected everyone. A pandemic started and no one thought to blame someone for it.

My impression is no one cares.

In 1918 I doubt if one in a hundred Spaniards had any idea what people were calling the flu in English-speaking countries.

Now I’m wondering what they actually called it in Spain

Paging @Nava:grin:

This historian’s article is giving “Prevailing Epedemic”, “Naples Soldier” and “French Flu” as alternatives.

The History Channel article I linked to in my citation also mentioned “French Flu” being used in Spain.

“Naples Soldier” was a popular operatic song of the day. It was catchy, you see, just like the flu.

They could follow what stable geniuses do and call it the Kansas Flu.

¿Qué tal la Pandemia de Influenza?

¿Qué es eso de “influenza”? En mi pueblo se llama gripe…

The inmense majority of us didn’t even know there was such a thing as the “Spanish flu” until very recently. The general reaction has been “uh?” followed by very old people saying “oh, they refer to la gran gripe as the Spanish flu?” (the great flu, which took place just after the great war) followed by “but why?” followed by “oh, ok” once we heard why.

Most people don’t particularly give a shit and in fact are ok with calling it la gripe española. The name isn’t offensive by itself, and even less once you know the reason for it.

Fully concur.