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Impfneid, Vaccination Envy

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The handy German neologism Impfneid literally means “vaccine envy.” It’s one of many German words coined during the COVID-19 pandemic. Neid in German means “envy” and Impf, meaning “vaccine,” derives from the horticultural metaphor of grafting part of one plant onto another. The same idea informs our word inoculate, from Latin oculus, “eye,” the source of English ocular, or “having to do with the eyes.” In Latin, oculus also applied to small, round things that might resemble an eye. The Middle English derivative inoculate means “to graft a bud from one plant onto another,” and later extended to the idea of grafting a live vaccine into another creature. This is part of a complete episode.

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