Can We Go Home Now?

I’m listening to The Roches, singing the title track of their 1995 album Can We Go Home Now. It has just popped up on my iPhone, which is playing a selection of things from my Apple Music library that it thinks I will like, based on algorithmic logic.

The Roches were three sisters from New Jersey who sang wry, insightful, folk-derived songs in close harmony, often with minimal or no accompaniment. I remember when I bought this album, their 10th, I was surprised and slightly underwhelmed. There were synthesisers, and the lyrics were plainer, less tricksy.

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It’s hard to think of a good word for something that has the potential to ruin the lives of millions of people as it multiplies and spreads around the planet. Fortunately we already have a good word: it’s “virus”. 

“Virus” is good, because it has a shared meaning. There is no need to define our terms before we discuss it to death. In medicine, a “virus” is a parcel of genetic material that invades our cells, starts to multiply, and then either gives us a bit of a sniffle or kills us. On the one hand, it might be “justavirus”, the last resort of the hard-pressed GP: on the other, Ebola.

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