Thursday, November 17, 2005

Word Du Jour

I love how the media offers up a word that is almost never used in every day vernacular, and then the word is suddenly identifiable with a specific event.

Currently the word is pandemic, which is associated with the catastrophic bird flu that is killing fowl and humans all over the world. The last pandemic was AIDS, but back then it was considered a virus, or at most an epidemic. There’s no difference between pandemic and epidemic, etymologically speaking.

A few weeks back, everyone began using the word cabal to refer to the people involved in the Iraq War intelligence dissemination. The group of people involved with the Lincoln assassination were plotters and conspirators. They weren’t a cabal. But it all means exactly the same thing.

Somewhere, perhaps at the Post or the Times, there is some geek sitting in a windowless office who does nothing but pick words out of a thesaurus in order to associate unfamiliar words to current events to make them seem more sinister. Doesn’t cabal sound more like organized crime than just the word plotters? Doesn’t pandemic sound more cataclysmic than plague?

Last year prior to the presidential election, all we heard about Senator Kerry was his flip flop. You couldn’t turn on CNN and not either hear the words flip flop or see them in the footer on the screen. I think the media - the voice of the people - sometimes fails to recognize that there is a vast majority of the population who is illiterate and would not understand what Wolf Blitzer means when he says cabal or pandemic. And while I am all for improving vocabulary, the news needs to be for everyone, not just the educated or those with a dictionary.