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Who decided on the name “Mexico”?

Who decided on the name “Mexico”?


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New Spain's independence struggle led to adopting the national identity of "México", the name of its major city and the Mexica society there. In referring to a specific indigenous group, Mexico seems to be unique among the independence names of former Spanish viceroyalties. I got interested in what this meant for centralism and exclusion; here's what I've learned about the adoption of the name:

  • In 1730 the principal newspaper Gaceta de México used the phrase "Imperio Mexicano" to refer to the Aztec Empire, but in 1785 and afterwards it innocently used the same name for the viceroyalty ("… algunas provincias del Imperio Mexicano con motivo del extrañamiento de los Jesuitas… ").

  • In 1810-1811, the father of Mexican independence Miguel Hidalgo consistently called his country "América", not using the term "México", at least in the documents available on WikiSource. Similarly, the Lista del juramento de los habitantes de San Blas al cura Mercado contains the demonym "americano" but not "mexicano".

  • From 1810 to 1821 there was an official newspaper called Gaceta del Gobierno de México, referring to the seat of power, if not the territory it governed. This transitioned after independence into the Gaceta del Gobierno del Imperio de México.

  • In 1821, the Plan de Iguala and the Declaration of Independence both called the new state the "Imperio Mexicano".

None of the principal revolutionaries were Mexica, but at some point they apparently reached a consensus to use the meronym "México" for their new country. It would have begun to describe areas never subjugated by the Mexica, like Sinaloa, Guatemala, and New Mexico. Understandably, some Apaches and Mayans proceeded to resist the authority of a country whose name excluded them.

Prior to 1821, who supported or opposed the adoption of the name "Mexico"? How seriously were alternatives like "America" considered?


Your question appears to be based upon a false assumption:

As far back as 1590, the Theatrum Orbis Terrarum showed that the northern part of the New World was known as "America Mexicana" (Mexican America), as México City was the seat for the New Spain viceroyalty. New Spain is mistaken as the old name for México, rather than the name of a large of expanse of land which covered much of North America and included the Caribbean and the Philippines. Since New Spain wasn't actually a state or a contiguous part of land, in modern times we would thought of it as a Jurisdiction under the command of the authorities in modern Mexico City. Under the Spaniards, Mexico was both the name of the capital and its sphere of influence, most of which exists as Greater Mexico City and the State of Mexico. Some parts of Puebla, Morelos and Hidalgo were also part of Spanish-era Mexico.

A bit of research shows even earlier references to Mexico, as in Historia de las cosas mas notables, rites y costumbres, del gran Reyno de la… (1585) (Mirror).


Mexica is the Nahuatl or "Aztec" name for the original group of "Aztecs." Over the course of several centuries, these "Mexicans" conquered the whole Central Valley of what we now call "Mexico," thereby creating the "Aztec" empire. "Mexica" is the core of this empire.

The Spanish added chunks of modern Mexico (and central America) to the Aztec empire, which is why today's "Mexico" is larger than the original Mexica. Other names for the country like "America" were considered, but the "USA" had beaten "Mexico" to the punch. Even Spanish-speaking "South" American nations might have disputed that name.


I finally found this question addressed in Timothy Anna's Forging Mexico (Nebraska, 1998), pp. 36-40.

Tenochtitlán dominated the center of Mesoamerica for a century before the arrival of Spaniards, who chose the same location for their own capital. In Mexico "the hegemony of the metropolitan, urban center existed all through the colonial period."

Over time creoles developed a national identity based on the fusion of European and indigenous elements. These elites still preferred wheat to corn, but appropriated and paid lip service to native culture by revering the Virgen de Guadalupe and the eagle on a cactus devouring a snake.

David Brading named this constructed origin myth Neo-Aztecism. In it, "the identity of the nation came to be vested in the Valley of Mexico, the capital city, the political center". To this end "nationalist mythologizers" represented the whole body politic as "subsumed under the single identity of the center". That the nation then acquired a synecdochal name referring to its capital is unsurprising.

While "América" on its own was too broad, the 1814 Constitution of Apatzingán referred to "Mexican America". Both the declaration of the Congreso de Anáhuac and the 1821 Plan de Iguala called the place "Northern America". This name was accurate but failed to serve the Neo-Aztec project.

Another name at least considered was "Anáhuac", referred to in the name of the 1813 Congreso de Anáhuac. This was another Aztec term, a broader name for the known world, thematically related but not as suited to romantic mythmaking as demonyms like "Mexico".

The Plan de Iguala also called for a "new empire" (I think the question is inaccurate on this point). This was the one soon called "the Mexican Empire" that enthroned and deposed Iturbide. The eventual republic was created with the name "United Mexican States". The short-form national name "Mexico" took longer to gain currency.


Origin of Day Names

Where did the names of the days of the week come from? The names originated with the ancient Romans, who used the Latin words for the Sun, the Moon, and the five known planets! Our English names also reflect the influence of the Anglo-Saxons (and other Germanic peoples). Learn all about the days of the week origins.

In naming the seven days of the week as checkpoints in time, the ancient Romans choose seven celestial bodies that could be seen with the naked eye: the Sun, the Moon, Mars, Mercury, Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn. For example, “Sunday” is the Sun’s day and “Monday” is the Moon’s day.

When it comes to the English names that we use today for days of the week, we can also see the influence of the Anglo-Saxons and the old German gods. For example, “Wednesday ” comes from Woden, the Anglo-Saxon king of the gods in Saxon, the name is “Wodnesdaeg.” (Now you know why Wednesday is spelled that way!)

See the complete days of the week origins across multiple languages.

Days of the Week Origins

(Sol’s day. Sol was an ancient Roman sun god.)

(from the Latin for “Lord’s day”)

(from the Latin for “Lord’s day”)

(from the Latin for “Lord’s day”)

(Luna’s day. Luna was an ancient Roman moon goddess.)

lundi lunedì lunes Monandaeg

(Mars’s day. Mars was an ancient Roman god of war.)

(Tiw’s day. Tiw was an Anglo-Saxon god of war.)

(Mercury’s day. Mercury was a messenger of the ancient Roman gods, and a god of commerce.)

(Woden was the Anglo-Saxon king of the gods.)

(Jupiter’s, or Jove’s, day. Jupiter, or Jove, was the king of the ancient Roman gods, and a god of sky and thunder.)

jeudi giovedì jueves Thursdaeg

(Thor’s day. Thor was a Norse god of thunder, lightning, and storms.)

(Venus’s day. Venus was the ancient Roman goddess of love.)

vendredi venerdì viernes Frigedaeg

(Frigga’s day. Frigg was a Norse goddess of home, marriage, and fertility.)

(from the Latin for “Sabbath”)

(from the Latin for “Sabbath”)

(from the Latin for “Sabbath”)

(Saturn’s day. Saturn was an ancient Roman god of fun and feasting.)

If you enjoyed this article, check out some more calendar facts from the Almanac:


HSBC has developed a number of traditions over its years in business and employed people who would later find fame in other fields. For example:

  • The bank’s name is derived from the initials of The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited, the founding member of HSBC
  • HSBC’s red and white hexagon symbol was developed from the bank’s original house flag which was in turn based on the cross of St Andrew
  • The HSBC lions are nicknamed Stephen and Stitt after senior managers from the 1920s
  • The comic author P G Wodehouse, creator of Jeeves and Wooster, spent two years working at HSBC’s London office. He was recorded as being late for work 20 times in his first year


I Have Decided to Follow Jesus

"I Have Decided to Follow Jesus" is a Christian hymn that originated in Assam, India.

According to P. Job, the lyrics are based on the last words of Nokseng, a Garo man, a tribe from Meghalaya which then was in Assam, who converted to Christianity in the middle of the 19th century through the efforts of an American Baptist missionary. He is said to have recited verses from the twelfth chapter of the book of John as he and his family were killed. An alternative tradition attributes the hymn to Simon K Marak, from Jorhat, Assam. [1]

The formation of these words into a hymn is attributed to the Indian missionary Sadhu Sundar Singh. [2] The melody is also Indian, and entitled "Assam" after the region where the text originated. [3]

An American hymn editor, William Jensen Reynolds, composed an arrangement which was included in the 1959 Assembly Songbook. His version became a regular feature of Billy Graham's evangelistic meetings in America and elsewhere, spreading its popularity. [4]

Due to the lyrics' explicit focus on the believer's own commitment, the hymn is cited as a prime example of decision theology, emphasizing the human response rather than the action of God in giving faith. [5] This has led to its exclusion from some hymnals. [5] A Lutheran writer noted, "It definitely has a different meaning when we sing it than it did for the person who composed it." [6]

The 2006 film Though None Go with Me uses a line from the song as its title.

Two lines of the hymn are used as a bridge in the worship song "Christ is enough" (from the album "Glorious Ruins" by Hillsong Church).


How did the White House get its name?

There is a popular misconception that the White House was first painted white to cover the scorch marks left by British soldiers who burned the house on August 24, 1814. In fact, the White House first received a lime-based whitewash in 1798 to protect its sandstone exterior from moisture and cracking during winter freezes. The term “White House” was occasionally used in newspapers and periodicals throughout the nineteenth century, but most journalists, citizens, and visitors referred to it as either the “President’s House” or the “Executive Mansion.”

On October 17, 1901, President Theodore Roosevelt’s secretary George B. Cortelyou sent a letter to Secretary of State John Hay. At Roosevelt’s direction, Cortelyou asked Secretary Hay and his staff to change “the headings, or date lines, of all official papers and documents requiring his [Roosevelt’s] signature, from ‘Executive Mansion’ to ‘White House.’” Similar directives were sent to other cabinet secretaries, and Roosevelt changed the presidential stationary shortly thereafter as well.


Roe v. Wade Was Decided By A Republican-Nominated Supreme Court

One of the major issues in this presidential election concerns the nomination and subsequent appointment of at least one Supreme Court justice and possibly two or more justices.

It seems that among evangelical Christians, two issues in particular are driving support for Donald Trump: the nomination/appointment of Supreme Court justices, and the fact that he is Republican.

Moreover, at the center of the Supreme Court discussion is the 1973 Court decision on Roe vs. Wade.

During the final debate between Clinton and Trump, held at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, on October 19, 2016, and moderated by Chris Wallace of Fox News, Wallace opened the debate with discussion of the Supreme Court. Below are the excerpted responses from Clinton and Trump on the issue of nominating Supreme Court justices, especially as such concerns Roe vs. Wade. (The full transcript can be read here.)

So, we have the Republican presidential candidate opposed to Roe vs. Wade and wanting to appoint justices to overturn it, and we have the Democratic presidential candidate supporting Roe vs. Wade and wanting to nominate justices that will support it.

In the remainder of this post, I address two assumptions/generalizations that evangelical Christians I have interacted with appear to possess: 1) The president has free rein in appointing Supreme Court justices 2) filling the Supreme Court with Republican-nominated/appointed justices will lead to reversal of Roe vs. Wade.

To begin, if the president had free reign in appointing Supreme Court justices, then there would be no current vacancy. President Obama’s March 16, 2016, nomination of Merrick Garland to replace Antonin Scalia, who died on February 13, 2016, is unprecedented in that the Senate simply refused to consider the nomination.

However, the reality is that the president must work with the Senate when nominating a justice because the president’s nomination must first go before the Senate Judiciary Committee then to the full Senate, where a majority vote of Senators present is required to confirm the nomination. (To read about the nomination and confirmation processes, see here and here.)

Thus, no matter the intentions of Trump or Clinton to nominate potential justices with a particular view on Roe vs. Wade (to overturn or not), any nomination must gain approval of the majority of Senators present on the day of a vote to confirm. Currently,Republicans hold a majority in the Senate however, there is no guarantee that such will be the case after November 08th, and what the Senate majority will be when future seats become open on the Court is unknown.

Indeed, some Republican US senators are formulating plans to prevent confirming any Supreme Court nomination from Clinton should she become president.

But let us consider the assumption that justices nominated by Republican presidents will lead to overturning Roe vs. Wade.

If a Supreme Court dominated by nominations by Republican presidents were a guarantee of overturning Roe vs. Wade, then the outcome of Roe vs. Wade would have been different from the outset.

The reality is that in 1973, Roe vs. Wade was decided by a Court that was comprised of a majority of justices who were nominated by Republican presidents.

The vote on Roe vs. Wade was 7-2. Those justices supporting the case’s pro-choice outcome were as follows, including the president nominating each and the president’s party affiliation:

  • Harry Blackmun (Nixon, R)
  • Warren Burger (Nixon, R)
  • William Douglas (FDR, D)
  • William Brennan (Eisenhower, R)
  • Potter Stewart (Eisenhower, R)
  • Thurgood Marshall (LBJ, D)
  • Lewis Powell (Nixon, R)

Those dissenting on Roe vs. Wade — only two – and both were not Republican-president-nominated to the Court:

Nixon nominated four justices. Three concurred on Roe vs. Wade— arguably a decisive factor in the outcome of the case.

The bottom line is that Democratic presidents did not nominate the Supreme Court that produced the Roe vs. Wade outcome that many evangelical Christians believe a Trump/Republican presidency will reverse.

Reality: A Supreme Court dominated by Republican-nominated justices produced Roe vs. Wade.


The true story behind Google's hilarious first name: BackRub

A perfect example of this is when Go ogle rolled out its new operating structure, Alphabet, earlier this summer. Page explained the name in an exclamation-laden blog post:

But this certainly wasn’t the first time the duo had experimented with language. Back in 1996, before Google even existed as an entity, Page and Brin were already making up nerdy names for search engines.

According to Stanford’s David Koller, and Google’s own website, Page and Brin’s 1996 foray into the world of search engines was initially called “BackRub.”

They called it this because the program analyzed the web’s “back links” to understand how important a website was, and what other sites it related to. BackRub operated on Stanford’s servers until it eventually took up too much bandwidth.

But by 1997, Page seems to have decided that the BackRub name just wasn’t good enough. According to Koller, Page and his officemates at Stanford began to workshop different names for the search engine technology, names that would evoke just how much data they were indexing.

The name “Google” actually came from a graduate student at Stanford named Sean Anderson, Koller writes. Anderson suggested the word “googolplex” during a brainstorming session, and Page countered with the shorter “googol.” Googol is the digit 1 followed by 100 zeroes, while googolplex is 1 followed by a googol zeros.


Alexander VI

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Alexander VI, original Spanish name in full Rodrigo de Borja y Doms, Italian Rodrigo Borgia, (born 1431, Játiva, near Valencia [Spain]—died August 18, 1503, Rome), corrupt, worldly, and ambitious pope (1492–1503), whose neglect of the spiritual inheritance of the church contributed to the development of the Protestant Reformation.

What was Alexander VI’s childhood like?

Alexander VI was born into the Borgia family just as that noble house was expanding its influence into Italy. While still a teenager, Alexander was granted a title and income from the Roman Catholic Church by his uncle Alonso (later Pope Calixtus III).

How did Alexander VI change the world?

Alexander VI openly used the church to advance his family’s fortunes, and his tenure as pope is widely seen as one of the sparks that ignited the Reformation. He also issued bulls that led to the Treaty of Tordesillas, theoretically dividing the New World into Spanish and Portuguese spheres.

What was Alexander VI’s family like?

Alexander VI fathered many children by a number of mistresses, but four were legitimized: Juan, Cesare, Jofré, and Lucrezia. Juan was murdered Cesare's ruthlessness inspired Machiavelli's The Prince Jofré was wed to an Aragonese princess who reportedly carried on affairs with his brothers and Lucrezia was a central figure in Italian court intrigues.

How did Alexander VI die?

Alexander’s cause of death remains a mystery. Contemporary chroniclers suggested that he may have been poisoned, either intentionally or accidentally. After Alexander's death, Cesare dispatched a gang of dagger-wielding henchmen to loot the papal residence. Alexander's rapidly decomposing body was shuttled around Rome before a team of workers pummeled his corpse into a too-small coffin.

Rodrigo was born into the Spanish branch of the prominent and powerful Borgia family. His uncle Alonso de Borgia, bishop of Valencia (later cardinal), supervised his education and endowed him with ecclesiastical benefices while still in his teens. Rodrigo studied law at Bologna, and on February 22, 1456, he was created a cardinal by his uncle, now Pope Calixtus III. As vice chancellor of the Roman Catholic Church, Rodrigo amassed enormous wealth and, despite a severe rebuke from Pope Pius II, lived as a Renaissance prince. He patronized the arts and fathered a number of children for whom he provided livings, mainly in Spain. By a Roman noblewoman, Vannozza Catanei, he had four subsequently legitimized offspring—Juan, Cesare, Jofré, and Lucrezia—whose complicated careers troubled his pontificate.

Despite the shadow of simony that surrounded the disposal of his benefices among the papal electors, Rodrigo emerged from a tumultuous conclave on the night of August 10–11, 1492, as Pope Alexander VI and received the acclaim of the Roman populace. He embarked upon a reform of papal finances and a vigorous pursuit of the war against the Ottoman Turks. His position was menaced by the French king Charles VIII, who invaded Italy in 1494 to vindicate his claim to the Kingdom of Naples. Charles, at the instigation of a rival cardinal of the influential della Rovere family, threatened the pope with deposition and the convocation of a reform council. Politically isolated, Alexander sought assistance from the Turkish sovereign, Bayezid II. In the course of the pope’s meeting with King Charles in Rome in early 1495, however, he received the traditional obeisance from the French monarch. He still refused to support the king’s claim to Naples and, by an alliance with Milan, Venice, and the Holy Roman emperor, eventually forced the French to withdraw from Italy.

In September 1493 Alexander created his teenaged son Cesare a cardinal, along with Alessandro Farnese (the brother of the papal favourite Giulia la Bella and the future pope Paul III). In the course of his pontificate Alexander appointed 47 cardinals to further his complicated dynastic, ecclesiastical, and political policies. His son Juan was made duke of Gandía (Spain) and was married to Maria Enriquez, the cousin of King Ferdinand IV of Castile Jofré was married to Sancia, the granddaughter of the king of Naples and Lucrezia was given first to Giovanni Sforza of Milan, and, when that marriage was annulled by papal decree on the grounds of impotence, she was married to Alfonso of Aragon. Upon his assassination Lucrezia received as a third husband Alfonso I d’Este, duke of Ferrara.

Tragedy struck the papal household on June 14, 1497, when Alexander’s favourite son, Juan, was murdered. Gravely afflicted, Alexander announced a reform program and called for measures to restrain the luxury of the papal court, reorganize the Apostolic Chancery, and repress simony and concubinage. Alexander had shown great forbearance in dealing with the Dominican friar Girolamo Savonarola, who usurped political control in Florence in 1494, condemned the evils of the papal court, and called for the pope’s deposition, and, even before the friar’s downfall in May 1498, theologians and men of affairs had expressed support for the papacy. Meanwhile, however, Alexander had returned to a policy of political intrigue.

Cesare resigned the cardinalate in 1498 and married Charlotte d’Albret in order to cement the Borgia alliance with the French king Louis XII, whose request for a marriage annulment was granted by the pope. By a ruthless policy of siege and assassination, Cesare brought the north of Italy under his control he conquered the duchies of Romagna, Umbria, and Emilia and earned the admiration of Niccolò Machiavelli, who used Cesare as the model for his classic on politics, The Prince. In Rome, Alexander destroyed the power of the Orsini and Colonna families and concluded an alliance with Spain, granting Isabella and Ferdinand the title of Catholic Monarchs. In 1493, in the wake of Christopher Columbus’s epochal discoveries, and at the request of Ferdinand and Isabella, Alexander issued a bull granting Spain the exclusive right to explore the seas and claim all New World lands lying west of a north-south line 100 leagues (about 320 miles) west of the Cape Verde Islands. Portugal was granted similar rights of exploration east of the demarcation line. This papal disposition, which was never subsequently recognized by any other European power, was jointly amended by Spain and Portugal in the Treaty of Tordesillas in 1494.

As a patron of the arts, Alexander erected a centre for the University of Rome, restored the Castel Sant’Angelo, built the monumental mansion of the Apostolic Chancery, embellished the Vatican palaces, and persuaded Michelangelo to draw plans for the rebuilding of St. Peter’s Basilica. He proclaimed the year 1500 a Holy Year of Jubilee and authorized its celebration with great pomp. He also promoted the evangelization of the New World.

Attempts to whitewash Alexander’s private conduct have proved abortive. While his religious convictions cannot be challenged, scandal accompanied his activities throughout his career. Even from a Renaissance viewpoint, his relentless pursuit of political goals and unremitting efforts to aggrandize his family were seen as excessive. Neither as corrupt as depicted by Machiavelli and by gossip nor as useful to the church’s expansion as apologists would make him, Alexander VI holds a high place on the list of the so-called bad popes.


Writing the Name of God

Jews do not casually write any Name of God. This practice does not come from the commandment not to take the Lord's Name in vain, as many suppose. In Jewish thought, that commandment refers solely to oath-taking, and is a prohibition against swearing by God's Name falsely or frivolously (the word normally translated as "in vain" literally means "for falsehood").

Judaism does not prohibit writing the Name of God per se it prohibits only erasing or defacing a Name of God. However, observant Jews avoid writing any Name of God casually because of the risk that the written Name might later be defaced, obliterated or destroyed accidentally or by one who does not know better.

The commandment not to erase or deface the name of God comes from Deut. 12:3. In that passage, the people are commanded that when they take over the promised land, they should destroy all things related to the idolatrous religions of that region, and should utterly destroy the names of the local deities. Immediately afterwards, we are commanded not to do the same to our God. From this, the rabbis inferred that we are commanded not to destroy any holy thing, and not to erase or deface a Name of God.

It is worth noting that this prohibition against erasing or defacing Names of God applies only to Names that are written in some kind of permanent form. Orthodox rabbis have held that writing on a computer is not a permanent form, thus it is not a violation to type God's Name into a computer and then backspace over it or cut and paste it, or copy and delete files with God's Name in them. However, once you print the document out, it becomes a permanent form. That is why observant Jews avoid writing a Name of God online: because there is a risk that someone else will print it out and deface it. See a 1998 discussion of the issue at The Sanctity of God's Name, Part 1: Erasing Sacred Texts from a Computer Screen if you're interested, but be aware that the lengthy article is thick with technical religious jargon, not always explained.

Normally, we avoid writing the Name by substituting letters or syllables, for example, writing "G-d" instead of "God." In addition, the number 15, which would ordinarily be written in Hebrew as Yod-Hei (10-5), is normally written as Teit-Vav (9-6), because Yod-Hei is a Name. See Hebrew Alphabet for more information about using letters as numerals.


The Hot-Person Vaccine

The internet has decided that Pfizer is significantly cooler than Moderna—but why?

I hope we can all agree that “vaccine culture” is a bit depressing. The idea of wearing an evening gown to a COVID-19-vaccine appointment is objectively sad, and speaking from personal experience, taking an hour-long bus ride to a CVS at the dead center of Staten Island, New York, for medical treatment is not fun or exciting except by dramatic contrast to events prior.

And when vaccine culture isn’t dismal, it can get extremely weird. At the moment, the internet is full of jokes about all the things you still can’t do after you’ve gotten vaccinated—like taking my hand and dragging me headfirst, which is part of a Taylor Swift song from 2008 removing the green ribbon from around your neck, a reference to a disturbing children’s story in which a woman named Jenny does that and then her head falls off or emerging “from the soil after 17 years to shed your outer cuticular layer & scream into the ether in unison,” which is a subtweet of cicadas. I’m laughing, but what are we talking about?

Weirder still, one vaccine in particular—from Pfizer—has somehow become the cool vaccine, as well as the vaccine for the rich and stylish. Slate’s Heather Schwedel recently discussed the “Pfizer superiority complex” at length. As one source told her: “One of my cousins got Moderna, and I was like, ‘That’s OK. We need a strong middle class.’” On Twitter, the vaccinated are changing their usernames to reflect their new personal identities: There are Pfizer Princesses and Pfizer Floozies and Pfizer Pfairies and at least one Portrait of a Lady on Pfizer. “Pfizer is what was available when I signed up,” Jagger Blaec, a 33-year-old podcast host told me, “but it’s no coincidence every baddie I know has Pfizer and not Moderna.” Isn’t it a coincidence, though?

Of course, Pfizer did report a 95 percent efficacy rate for its vaccine in clinical trials, versus 94 percent for Moderna, and people do have to wait only three weeks for Pfizer’s second dose, instead of four for Moderna’s, but neither of those facts explains the pure drama and nonsense of a statement like “We need a strong middle class.” On TikTok, hundreds of videos use a soundtrack of a woman explaining—slowly, voice full of disdain, like the rudest preschool teacher on Earth—“Only hot people get the Pfizer vaccine.” In another clip, a young pharmacy technician tells the viewer that one of the side effects of the Pfizer shot is “feeling like a bad bitch.” (He’s very cute!) It follows that anyone who gets the other mRNA vaccine, comparable in almost every way, is, as one woman puts it, a “peasant.”

There has been some pushback on this narrative from Dolly Parton fans, who prefer the Moderna vaccine that she helped fund last year. Jon Ossoff, who is widely regarded online as the “hot senator,” has also made his own TikTok portraying all three of the vaccines available in the U.S. as equally cool and fun—a solid message in the interest of public health. Still, the general consensus is that Pfizer is elite the general consensus is that Pfizer’s elitism is funny.

“Of course it’s tongue-in-cheek,” Trevor Boffone, the author of an upcoming book about TikTok culture, told me. “No one thinks that the Pfizer vaccine makes you hot or that only hot people get it.”

I understand that, and I agree with that, but my college friends still changed the name of our iMessage group chat to “Pfizer Gang.” And when I watched a video of Joshua Holmes, an NYU drama student who posted that he was hoping to get “the bougiest vaccine” and nothing less, and that “Pfizer just sounds expensive,” it didn’t seem like he was totally joking. When I messaged him on Instagram, he said the silent P gave the word Pfizer a luxurious feel, reminiscent of the silent H in Hermès.

I asked Anthony Shore, a linguist who develops brand names—perfect job—to help me better understand the Pfizer shot’s appeal. At first, he said, “I have no idea.” Then, two days later, when I called him and asked again, he had some thoughts, which generally aligned with Holmes’s impression. First of all, he said, Pfizer is the name of a person—Charles Pfizer, born in 1824 in a kingdom that is now part of Germany—which could contribute to its “sounding expensive.” Many high-end fashion brands are named after people, like Pfizer (Fendi, Prada, Kenzo), and many are two syllables, like Pfizer (Fendi, Prada, Kenzo). Second, he said, Pfizer is a “cool word” because of the F and Z sounds, which are what linguists call “fricatives.” Fricatives “are really fast-sounding,” which is why you might want to include them in the names of cars, or drugs that are marketed as fast-acting—or vaccines that don’t require you to wait a full month between doses.

Moderna, meanwhile, has a lot of sounds called “stops”—the M, the D, the N—which make the word seem “slow and plodding,” Shore told me. It’s also very literal, like a budget brand would be. “Do you really have to call yourself modern if you’re selling pharmaceuticals that are in fact based on cutting-edge technologies?” he asked. “No, you’d be more cool about it.”

I was a little embarrassed to ask, but I had to: What about my personal theory of the hot-people vaccine, which is that young people prefer Pfizer because of their familiarity with the 2010 movie Love and Other Drugs, in which Jake Gyllenhaal plays a Pfizer sales rep at the height of the 1990s Viagra craze (and does a lot of kissing!)? “Pfizer is a better-known brand, to be sure,” Shore acknowledged, and “Viagra is one of the best-known drugs of all time.” But as far as the movie goes, and Jake Gyllenhaal’s role specifically, “That’s giving that movie and Jake Gyllenhaal a lot of credit.” I laughed a bit to prove I wasn’t upset and he kept going. “That seems like a stretch.” Okay, fine!

I admit it’s a stretch (though I don’t think I’m totally out of line when I imagine that Jake Gyllenhaal would get Pfizer). Shore did leave me with a faint feeling of satisfaction, though. He said that although he was happy to have gotten the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, he’d “coveted” the Pfizer or Moderna shots because of their groundbreaking mRNA technology. “I wanted the cool thing,” he said. I did not tell him that I’m a Pfizer girl, but I did sit with the knowledge.

Pfizer elitism seems to have originated on TikTok, where the vaccine hierarchy has been most concretely outlined. I wondered if it might have something to do with the particulars of that platform, so I reached out to Shauna Pomerantz, a TikTok scholar and an associate professor at Brock University, in Ontario. She suggested a much simpler explanation: The idea of a rich-hot-bougie-elite-status vaccine comes out of American culture, she said, in which everything is extremely competitive and organized around “winners and losers rather than support and kindness.” Yikes.

Certainly some TikTok clips are more explicit than others about the “winners and losers,” and what having a “rich” vaccine really means. One video in my feed, soundtracked by Nicki Minaj rapping about a “bum-ass” person who can’t afford their rent, posited that there is no rivalry between Moderna and Pfizer—rather, “it’s us vs. Johnson & Johnson.” There is some truth, or perceived truth, to this formulation—not just because of the clear differences between the mRNA vaccines and other options, but also because these vaccines have been distributed to different people. The CDC reported last week that many public-health departments have been using Johnson & Johnson specifically for homeless people, as well as those who are homebound or incarcerated. Meanwhile, public-health leaders have struggled to avoid portraying the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which is also targeted to rural and migrant populations, as a second-class option.

Large differences in access aren’t limited to certain brands, and some degree of “us versus them” applies across all of the available shots. White Americans continue to have higher vaccination rates than Black and Hispanic Americans, for example. And according to a vaccine-equity project run out of Duke University’s Global Health Innovation Center, high-income countries have already purchased more than half of the world’s available vaccine doses.

Seen in that context, ironic Pfizer elitism may feel uncomfortably close to actual elitism. Another vaccine-culture TikTok that went viral paired each brand with its equivalent cellphone—the iPhone for Pfizer, a recent-looking Android model for Moderna, an early 2010s pay-as-you-go Firefly phone for Johnson & Johnson, and a truly ancient Nokia for AstraZeneca. The video compared the slim but tangible differences between Pfizer and Moderna to the silly, perennial debate over whether iPhone users are snobby and judgmental toward people whose texts show up as “green bubbles.” For some commenters, this was a step too far. “Classism is disgusting,” one responded. “Not westerners fighting over which vaccine is best,” another wrote with a sobbing emoji.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that the Pfizer jokes are thoughtless it’s more like they’re directionless. TikTok is a place where a largely Gen Z and Millennial user base riffs near-constantly on the notion of class and perceived class differences. The idea of a vaccine only for rich, hot people reminded me of TikTok’s fascination, a few years ago, with Apple’s AirPods, and a clip in which a boy approaches a girl on the street and offers her $100 for dinner—he assumed she was homeless, because she was using regular earbuds with wires. This is a joke, but on first watch it’s not totally clear whether the joke is aimed at people who can’t afford AirPods or at people who think owning AirPods signifies something substantial. In either case, it’s really the knowing tone that scores the creator points with an audience.

When TikTok isn’t about earnest dance moves, it favors ironic detachment. It rewards users’ ability to point at, and lampoon, something specific and recognizable—class-based perceptions of different vaccine brands, for example—without demanding any further comment. Yes, TikToks about the vaccine for hot, rich people might call attention to the ways in which the pandemic has laid bare our society’s vast inequalities. Or they could be totally silly! Either way, they leave us swimming in the strange, foundational sadness of vaccine culture, wherein a trip to CVS can be as thrilling as the prom.


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