Created By: ParadiscaCorbasi on March 4, 2010
Troped

Catch Your Death of Cold

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The Cold is a very mild disease caused by a number of different virii that largely have nothing in common other than most of the symptoms they cause. It has been around as long as anyone can remember, but has yet to be stamped out mainly because it isn't dangerous enough to justify the very strict quarantine procedures necessary to do so, especially when there are much worse diseases running around.

But that's not a trope, any more than tuberculosis, lupus or cancer, in and of themselves. The trope comes from how fiction treats the disease.

Y'see, in Olden Days, long before the advent of germ theory or any understanding of how virii work, people noticed that the cold was most virulent in the winter and concluded that it must be exposure to the elements themselves that caused it. This, along with one of the symptoms being persistent chills, is how the disease got its name. A reasonable, if ultimately incorrect, guess. In truth, because the cold can only be caught from other people, you're far less likely to catch it if you go wandering through the wilderness on a cold night, although prolonged exposure may well weaken your immune system against an infection already acquired. You'd do far better to worry about the much more severe consequences of real exposure, such as hypothermia and frostbite.

But despite the fact that the actual cause of the cold has been fairly common knowledge for about a hundred years now, this fact has not seemed to permeate the public consciousness very far. Mothers still caution their children to button up when going outside lest they catch the cold, and any character in fiction, especially animation, will instantly begin to sneeze and cough after being chilled or, especially, frozen. These symptoms may go away once they've been warmed up again.

That's the trope, long since discredited but still very much alive. The idea, nigh-universal it seems, that mere exposure to low temperatures can cause symptoms equivalent to that of a cold.


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Community Feedback Replies: 25
  • January 3, 2010
    PaulRobinson
    Don't know if this is related to your item or something entirely different, but for decades, doctors would tell people who had stomach ulcers to switch to a bland diet, reduce stress, etc. Ignoring the fact that the main ingredient in every stomach is hydrochloric acid, and that the stomach lining has to regenerate every week from being dissolved by the acid. Sometime recently, it was discovered that stomach ulcers have nothing to do with what we eat or stress, they're caused by viral infections.
  • January 3, 2010
    SaraJaye
    • After getting caught in "The Storm", Katara and Sokka both come down with severe colds. Aang, who is of stronger constitution, remains healthy and has to undertake the Fetch Quest to get their cure.

    How does that work, by the way? Don't they live where it's always cold and snowy? You'd think their resistance to it would've built up over time.

    (...yeah, seems I hit the wrong button when replying to this and accidentally edited!! Sorry to whoever made this reply, I can try to fix it if there's a way.)
  • January 3, 2010
    random surfer
    A Stock Phrase since 1969 is "we can put a man on the moon, but we can't cure the common cold."
  • January 4, 2010
    Fanra
    The Cold is a very mild disease caused by a number of different virii that largely have nothing in common other than most of the symptoms they cause.

    The plural of virus is viruses, not virii.
  • January 4, 2010
    Generality
    Both plurals are correct.
  • January 4, 2010
    Generality
    Okay, I just found Freeze Sneeze, which looks like a more narrow and less elaborately (one might say excessively) described version of the trope I'm trying to get at here. Should I just expand that one, or absorb it into this one, or do something else?
  • January 4, 2010
    Vree
    That's a very nice informative article, but more of a Useful Notes page than a trope. I think you should launch it as Useful Notes about cold (without the examples), and then create aseparate YKTTW for a trope, with the definition revolving around how this is presented in fiction.
  • January 5, 2010
    Fanra
    Both plurals are correct.

    No, not they are not. Go put Virii into any dictionary on the web, or go look in a paper one. Not there.

    Wiktionary has the following:

    "The plural virii, though common, is generally considered to be incorrect, and based on a misunderstanding of Latin. There is no plural for the Latin word virus; using the native English pluralisation rules, to yield viruses, would arguably then be most correct."

    See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plural_of_virus#Virus at The Other Wiki.

    The term Virii is a Leet Lingo term. It is not correct English.
  • January 5, 2010
    Caravelle
    I get where the trope title comes from, but it sounds like it should deal with dying from some trivial cause. Maybe something more explicit like "You'll catch your death in this cold" ? Or some other title entirely.
  • January 5, 2010
    Paradisca Corbasi
    Generally speaking, though "You'll Catch Your Death" is said to people who have just come in from the cold while not dressed appropriately for it, or people who have fallen into water fully dressed (or otherwise gotten unexpectedly drenched).
  • January 9, 2010
    ParadiscaCorbasi
    To legitimize the bump: the webcomic Red Moon Rising has this in its first five pages about how if you get caught in the rain: BAM! you catch pneumonia!
  • January 10, 2010
    Ub3rD4n
    There's some legitimacy to this claim, to wit: having a rapid CHANGE in temperature (such as a home with a roaring fire to the freezing midwinter outdoors) can weaken your immune system and make you more susceptable to showing symptoms of the cold. So, not going outside unless properly protected from the cold really is good advice for avoiding virus-related unpleasantness.
  • January 10, 2010
    Lavalyte
    Kiki's Delivery Service: Kiki ends up sick in bed after getting caught in a storm doing a delivery.
  • January 10, 2010
    FreezairForALimitedTime
    In Harvest Moon: Animal Parade, if you work too hard in the rain, you'll catch a cold. The cold makes it so it takes more stamina to do work, unless you cure it. You also loose stamina faster just by working in the rain itself, but that's a somewhat more reasonable assumption to make, because doing hard work while soaking wet, in high winds, seems more difficult.
  • January 10, 2010
    LarryD
    FYI, the cold is not a trivial disease if you've never been exposed to it before, epidemics amoung isolated groups suddenly exposed often result in deaths.
  • January 10, 2010
    JAF1970
    Jack Nickscicle in The Shining.

    The Shining. Almost a Trope Codifier. Here's your Page Image should you want it.
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  • January 22, 2010
    Evalana
    In Hidamari Sketch, when Yoshinoya-sensei (and a number of students) is out sick, the principal advices the other students to take care of themselves, specifically warning them not to go out with wet hair on a cold day just because "you think it looks cool" (implying that that's how Yoshinoya-sensei got sick).
  • January 22, 2010
    melloncollie
    ^^ Dude, that's such a spoiler.

    Or does it count as It Was His Sled?
  • January 22, 2010
    ParadiscaCorbasi
    Bump?
  • January 22, 2010
    Unknown Troper
    An old British folksong "On Ilkley Moor" suggests that, from traveling on Ilkley Moor without a hat ("baht'aht"), then "thou'll catch thy de'ath of cauld!", after which there are other repercussions, leading to a somewhat cannibalistic observation!
  • February 6, 2010
    ParadiscaCorbasi

    And Sarah Jaye -- aaaagggh. I don't know if there's a way to go back and dig up all those examples I had in that post before. By the way, it works because Sokka and Katara were acclimatized to extremely cold temperatures and had moved north to a warmer climate. Their bodies hadn't acclimated yet to the warmer temps when the storm hit, so they got sick.

    Page Quote fodder: Come out of the garden, baby Youll catch your death in the fog -- Diamond Dogs, David Bowie

    The cold will in Gross Out Shows (or even shows less prone) result in horrible shots of runny, snotty noses; hankies and tissues dripping with same.

    Common methods of treating someone who has come in from the cold is to put them in a chair under a blanket with a hot water bottle on their head and their feet in hot water to warm them up.

    WesternAnimation
    • On Spongebob Squarepants the Suds are the underwater version of a cold, caught after Spongebob fell asleep in front of an open refrigerator.
    • Inversion: Year Without A Santa Claus: Vixen, who's acclimated to the frigid temps of the North Pole gets sick when she goes to warm weather Southtown.

    Film
    • Subversion: in both The Saint and in The Day After Tomorrow the girls are both bright science types who know that hypothermia is the real deadly danger coming from exposure to freezing cold water.

    Literature
    • The Hollows Series by Kim Harrison. Rachel falls into a frozen river in one of the books but does not come down with a cold.
    • Weather Wardens as well. Joanne's concerns from being in frozen temperatures are frostbite and hypothermia.

    Western Animation
    • The Spectacular Spider Man: Peter goes around in un-insulated Spidey suit in the dead of snowy winter, and the next time we see Peter Parker, he's sneezing.

    So I guess it's two sides of the trope.

    Side 1: People get sick from getting wet and/or cold.

    Side 2: People get realistic ailments from getting cold and/or wet.

    Don't want to see it time out. Anybody mind if I launch it?
  • February 13, 2010
    ParadiscaCorbasi
    bump
  • February 16, 2010
    ParadiscaCorbasi
    We never did hit consensus on this. I'll take the trope if someone else will take the "Useful Notes"...?
  • March 4, 2010
    Unknown Troper
    The plural of virus is moot as ulcers are caused by bacterial infection.

    Spicy foods and stress can still have an effect, though, by influencing stomach lining regeneration and the immune system. Antibiotics are just a whole lot more useful than attempting to make your stomach less acidic, which is futile.
  • March 4, 2010
    lalalei2001
    Almost happens to Dr. Wily in Mega Man 10.
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