Krimfarang and common colds
In the sense of «contagion, infection», influenza has been known in Italy since the early 16th century, but the term increased in usage only after an epidemic in that country in 1743 (2, 3). German and English adopted the Italian spelling influenza, and so did Danish and Norwegian. The term debuted in our languages in the early 19th century, but did not come into widespread use until the 20th (1). Following the spelling reform of 1907, Norwegians started writing influensa with an s (4), although several years would pass before this form of writing gained full acceptance (5). The Danes still stick to the z.
In Norwegian, influensa is thus a loanword. It is common for such words to be adapted to the language into which they are loaned. In the Norsk Ordbok [Dictionary of Norwegian], we find a number of local variants: From Klæbu (Sør-Trøndelag County) we find innflæns, from Valdres innfluense and innfruense, from Modum (Buskerud County) innfelennsa and from Stor-Elvdal (in the Østerdalen valley) florensa. In Western Norway we find flunse and flonse (6).
The indefatigable language reformer Knud Knudsen (1812 – 95) wanted to replace the foreign word influensa with something more Norwegian. He suggested krimfarang, omgangssnue, forkjølelsesfeber and grippe (7), but none of these caught on. Krimfarang is my personal favourite. It is composed of krim = common cold, coryza, and farang = local epidemic, i.e. a common-cold epidemic. This corresponds to the popular use of the word influensa, a severe case of the common cold (8).