Top Trending Words of 2012 Mid-year Update

Obesogenic, Derecho (and gender-neutral ‘hen’) take on Apocalypse, Kate and Debt

Number of Words in the English Language:  1,016,672 (July 6 estimate)


AUSTIN, Texas July 10 – Trending 2012 Update: Obesogenic, Derecho (and the gender neutral ‘hen’) are taking on the Mayan Apocalypse, Kate, and Debt as candidates for the Top Word of the Year according to a mid-year update by the Global Language Monitor. Each year, GLM produces the top trending words for the following year just before the new year begins.  In 2011, it announced 12 possible candidates; mid-way through the year  the three new terms have been added to the list.

  • Obesogenic — An environment that tends to encourage obesity.  Lately it has been used to describe television advertisement that promote sugary and high-calorie snacks to kids.
  • Derecho — A ‘land hurricane,’ a sudden storm with extremely strong one-directional winds, such as occurred in the Eastern states earlier this month.
  • Hen — The Swedish attempt to create a gender-neutral pronoun to replace him or her or combinations therefore: hen.

“The new words are taken from an intensifying debate on obesity as a major societal health crisis, a ‘land Hurricane’ that some link to global warming. and a move sometimes viewed as political correctness to end gender distinction among pronouns,”  said Paul JJ Payack, the president and chief word analyst of the Global Language Monitor.  “At 2012’s mid-point, there has been considerable movement among the top trending words, and that trend will no doubt continue as it has during the entire life of our 1400-year old language.”

 

To see the Top Words of 2012, go here.

 

The words are culled from throughout the English-speaking world, which now numbers more than 1.83 billion speakers (January 2012 estimate).

The Trending Top Words of 2012 in revised order:

Rank/ Previous Rank/ Word / Comments

1.  China (3) — Middle Kingdom – There is little indication that China’s continuing economic surge will fade from the global media spotlight –or abate.

2. Europe (12) — United, breaking apart, saving the Euro, abandoning the Euro, with the UK again as an ‘interested onlooker’.  Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

3.  The Election (6) —  No Obama-mania this time around, more of an Obama-ennui for the November 6 elections.

4.  Kate (2) — There are seven billion humans on the planet but sometimes it seems that it’s all about Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, the former Kate Middleton in terms of fashion, celebrity, and the royal line. (And most definitely not Katie, the future ex-Mrs. Tom Cruise.)

5.  Deficit (7) — Looks like deficit-spending will plague Western democracies for at least the next decade.

6.  Global Warming (10)— The earth has been warming since New York was covered under a mountain of ice; what makes 2012 any different?

7.  Derecho (New) — A ‘land hurricane,’ a sudden storm with extremely strong one-directional winds, such as occurred in the Eastern states earlier this month.

8. Olympiad (2) — The Greeks measured time by the four-year interval between the Games.  Moderns measure it by medal counts, rights fees and billions of eyeballs.

9. CERN (9) — Neutrons traveling faster than light?  The ‘God Particle’? The world ending in a mini-black hole? All these somehow revolve around CERN (The European Center for Nuclear Research). One CERN scientist calculated that the chance of a mini-Black Hole swallowing the Earth is less than 1 in 50,000,000.  Somewhat comforting until you realize this is about ten times more likely than winning a national lottery.)

10.  Rogue nukes (8)—  Iran and North Korea will be the focus of attention here.

11.  Near-Earth Asteroid (11) —  Yet another year, another asteroid, another near-miss. (However, one does strike the Earth every one hundred million years or so.)

12.  Arab Spring (13) — the successor term for ‘Arab Spring’, whatever that might be.

13.  Bak’tun (4) — A cycle of  144,000 days in the Maya ‘Long Count’ Calendar. This bak’tun ends on December 21, 2012, also being called the Mayan Apocalypse.  (Actually Maya ‘long-count’ calendars stretch hundreds of millions of years into the future, December 21st merely marks the beginning of a new cycle.)

14. Solar max (5)—  The peak of the 11-year sunspot cycle;  in 1854 solar storms melted telegraph wires; what’s in store for our all-pervasive electronic infrastructure?

15. Hen (New) — The Swedish attempt to create a gender-neutral pronoun to replace him or her or combinations thereof: hen.

16. Obesogenic (New) — An environment that tends to encourage obesity.  Lately it has been used to describe television advertisement that promote sugary and high-calorie snacks to kids.

The Top Words for 2011:  ‘Occupy’ was the Top Word, ‘Arab Spring’ the Top Phrase and ‘Steve Jobs’ the Top Name of 2011 in its twelfth annual global survey of the English language.

GLM employs its NarrativeTracker technologies for global Internet and social media analysis. NarrativeTracker is based on global discourse, providing a real-time, accurate picture about any topic, at any point in time.

NarrativeTracker analyzes the Internet, blogosphere, the top 250,000 print and electronic global media, as well as new social media sources as they emerge.



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How 9/11 Changed the Way We Talk

Attention:  Any part of article may be used as a quote, or as a story or a segment within a larger story.
No permissions necessary.

By Paul JJ Payack

AUSTIN, Texas.  September 11, 2011.  For the decade, The Global Language Monitor, and its predecessors have been keeping track of the manner in which the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 have changed the way Americans Talk.  We have updated our findings several times since, as the language has evolved with the ensuing events of the decade, most tragic (Iraq, 7/7, Afghanistan, the Global Economic Restructuring), others seemingly beyond surreal  (the Southeast Asian Tsunami, the inundation of New Orleans) a welcome few comforting.

We have found subtle yet profound differences in our everyday speech since that day when terrorist attacks unfolded   on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the pending targets in Washington, D.C., widely suspected to be the White House or the Capitol Building.  The changes we have tracked include the way Americans speak in terms of subject matter, vernacular, word choice and tone.

9/11

The first case is the use of 9/11, itself, as a shorthand for the 2001 terrorist attacks.  Using various web metrics, 9/11 outpaces any other name, including the spelled out ‘September 11th” by 7:1 margin. This designation, in itself, is quite interesting. It is true that Franklin D. Roosevelt proclaimed the Pearl Harbor attack as “December 7th, 1941 as a day which will live in infamy”.   But there were no “12/7″ rallying cries thereafter. Neither were the dates immortalized of the original battles of the Korean War, the Gulf of Tonkin Incident which preceded the major escalation of the Vietnam War, the Persian Gulf War, the siege of Afghanistan siege, or the invasion of Iraq.  Only the 7/7 attacks on the London  transportation system are recorded in common memory by their date (and primarily in the UK).  .

 

Ground Zero

The name Ground Zero now evokes a sacred place, where the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers once stood. It is also revered as a burial ground since thousands of bodies literally vaporized in the ensuing collapse with no remains found whatsoever.

Almost universally, it is capitalized as any other proper name, with a few exceptions, most notably the New York Times (and later legitimized in the AP Style Guide).

In fact, the Times continues to insist on referring to Ground Zero in the lower case, calling it, for example, ‘the area known as ground zero’.   Admittedly, ground zero also refers to the epicenter of a nuclear blast.  In the minds of this generation, this is a close as they have ever gotten to such an event (or ever expect to).

Names are officially bestowed in a number of ways, most often by bureaucratic committees following arcane sets of rules, answering to few. In this case, we kindly request those nameless bureaucrats to follow the lead of hundreds of millions around the world who have formally bestowed upon that special place, the formal name: Ground Zero.

 

 

Heroes

In mythology, heroes were men and women often of divine ancestry endowed with the gifts of courage and strength.  In reality, everyday heroes of the late 20th and early 21st centuries were sports figures (‘Be like Mike’ and ‘Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio’), comic book and cartoon characters ala

Superman and Spiderman, and all too frequently ‘anti-heroes’ known for the colossal damage they might inflict upon a helpless (and often hapless) world.

Into this tableaux, came the heroes of 9/11, very real men and women, rushing into and up the Towers as everyone else was rushing down and out; rushing the cockpit of Flight 93, with plastic knives and forks and  hot coffee, forcing the startled highjackers to abandon their plans of crashing into the Capitol or White House rather than the previously unheralded soil of Swanksville, PA; and the men and women who quietly stood their posts at the Pentagon, just doing their duty, not knowing if they would be subjected to another horrific, and more deadly, attack at any moment.

In the post-9/11 world, the term has now come to apply to any who place their lives in danger to foster the common good, especially ‘first-responders’ such as: firefighters, EMTs, and police, who quietly place their lives on the line every day.

Another historic change is the treatment of American soldiers with the respect they have been unaccustomed to since the days of the Vietnam War.  The public has evidently been able to separate the politics of the wars from the all-too-human participants.

-stan

The suffix in Persian and related languages that means, literally, ‘land of,’ hence, Afghanistan or Land of the Afghans, or Kurdistan (or Kurdish Territories), or even this relatively new moniker: Londonistan.  Talibanistan, referring to Afghanistan and the ‘tribal lands’ in Pakistan.  The suffix has been appropriated in various, often humorous, ways such as the famous New Yorker cover that referred to the various ‘-stans’ one encounters in post-Modern life.

The Demarcation of Time

The date 9/11 now has a special place as a time marker or time stamp; we now  frequently delineate time periods as either pre-9/11 or post 9/11.

 

The unCivil (or inCivil) War

Since 9/11, the political discourse of American politics has, arguably, descended to its lowest level since the Civil-War era when Lincoln was typically depicted as a know-nothing, Bible-spouting Baboon. Even speech of the Watergate era was spared the hyperbole commonly heard today, as respect for the institution of the presidency remained high, even though the President was widely disdained.

Today, political opponents are routinely called ‘liars,’ are typically compared to Hitler, Nazis and Fascists by those who evidently know little of either history or political theory.

When tragedies do occur (the inundation of New Orleans, the Gulf Oil Spill, the Global Economic Restructuring), no opportunities are overlooked to demonize the sitting president by the ‘loyal’ opposition.  And the vitriol has steadily increased throughout the decade as measured by various longitudinal indices of GLM.  In fact, much of the frustration with President Obama now associated with liberals and progressives has been trending upward since his inauguration, though it was overlooked by the conventional media and polling organizations because traditional polling and information gathering often finds itself at a disadvantage when compared to Internet and social-media based trend-tracking organizations.

It is very difficult to pinpoint the exact cause of this debasement of political speech and rhetoric, but it has been suggested that in the face of a nearly invisible, constantly morphing, enemy, we have turned the attack inward, upon ourselves, and our institutions.

Apocalyptic-type Terminology

In an exclusive of the worldwide media, GLM has also found a decided rise in apocalyptic-type terminology in the description of tragedies but even with events of inconvenience (such as Washington’s Snowmageddon of last winter or the recent Carpocalypse  in Los Angeles).  After all it does snow in Washington, D.C. every winter and freeways are frequently closed the world over for repairs.

This trend town alarming references include:   Biblical, Hiroshima-type references, Catastrophe, Holocaust, Apocalypse, decimation, and End-of-the-World scenarios.  These alarmist references are recorded across the full spectrum of print and electronic media.  It appears as if the world is stunned the string of early 21st catastrophes.  (By the way, the world still has to deal with the so-called end of the Mayan calendar extinction event that is scheduled to occur on December 22nd of next year.)

The global media appear mesmerized by the constant bombardment of television images of apparently rampaging, out-of-control elements, such as

the truly catastrophic  combination of earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear meltdown in Japan, where authorities encounter vast difficulties in keeping  their own people fed, sheltered, evacuated, and, even, from dying on the street.

During the inundation of New Orleans, the Sunday Times (London) stated, “Devastation that could send an area the size of England back to the Stone Age”.  The story continues, “AMERICA comes to an end in Montgomery, Alabama … it has been replaced by a dangerous and paranoid post-apocalyptic landscape, short of all the things fuel, phones, water and electricity needed to keep the 21st century switched on. By the time you reach Waveland, Mississippi, the coastal town of 6,800 where corpses lie amid a scene of Biblical devastation, any semblance of modern society has gone. “

Everyday language changes with 9/11

Some ten years on, we now speak of terror levels (since obsoleted), duct tape, Homeland Security, Full-body scanners, shoe-bombs and shoe-bombers, the Freedom Tower (since renamed), Shanksville, the Ground Zero Mosque, Imans, drones, high-value targets, Ramadan, Burquas, face veils, Sharia Law, and scores of other 9/11-related terms that now inhabit the English Linguasphere.


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Danger of long-term effects Fukushima fallout little discussed in media


Prevailing view ‘harmless,’ Opposing views called ‘laced with hysteria’

AUSTIN, Texas. March 23, 2011. With radioactive elements from Japan’s Fukushima Daiiachi disaster finally reaching the continental US this week, the Global Language Monitor’s NarrativeTracker has found that the possible long-term dangers of Fukushima Daiiachi’s radioactive fallout has been little discussed in the media. In fact, there has been little or no discussion of the ongoing debate about assessing the long-term risks associated with Cesium-137 and Iodine-131, etc.

The prevailing view of the global print and electronic media is to pronounce the radioactive elements ‘harmless,’ which is in direct contract to the accepted view of the National Academy of Sciences, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and many others. In fact, the discussion that does appear, labels opposing views as ‘irrational’ or ‘laced with hysteria’, as in a recent article in the New York Times.

According the the Global Language Monitor’s NarrativeTracker there have been only two references to the controversy in the past week in the major global media, or even to the fact that the analysis of the heath impact of the escaped radiation could be far off base. An article in the Malaysian Star was the most insightful. Even on the web news side, NarrativeTracker picked up fewer that half a dozen references to the controversy in the last week.

On the Internet and in Social Media, there were some 10,000 references to the controversy, which pales in comparison to news about, say Charlie Sheen (who has hundreds of million citations). In addition, there were about three million references to the ‘harmless’ effects of the Fukushima fallout, with about 7,000,000 references to its ‘dangers’.

Therefore, the prevailing and accepted view of the National Academy of Sciences, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and, for that matter, the US Congress has been overlooked in the global media discussion. This is the view that holds sway in legislation ranging from the regulation of cigarettes, CT scans and the Hanford Reservation cleanup. In addition to the risk to human life, billions of dollars in government are at stake.

The controversy concerns Linear No Threshold (LNT) methodology to calculate risk from exposure to radioactive elements. The LNT dose-response relationship is used to describe the relationship between radiation dose and the occurrence of cancer. This dose-response model suggests that any increase in dose, no matter how small, results in an incremental increase in risk. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) accepts the LNT hypothesis as a conservative model for estimating radiation risk.

There are two competing theories here.

1.   There is no lower-level threshold to the threat from radioactive exposure. Basically this means that even a small exposure to radioactivity will increase the chance of cancer occurring in a corresponding small percentage of the population. The smaller the exposure, the smaller the risk, but the risk never falls to zero.

2.   There is a lower-level threshold to the threat from radioactive exposure. This is model that the media has adopted in claims that the fallout is ‘harmless’ while still recognizing that it is harmful in large doses. Some scientists adhere to the radiation hormesis model that radiation might even be beneficial in very low doses

The LNT model is generally accepted by most governments and scientific agencies and predicts higher risks than the threshold model. Because the current data is inconclusive, scientists disagree on which methodology should be used.

However, the fact that there has been little or no discussion of the topic in the media is cause for concern.



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Japanese Disasters Need-to-Know Glossary Update

Added: Chest x rays, Black swans, Dinosaur extinction event, Two packs-a-day

AUSTIN, Texas, March 21,  2011 — (Updated Daily) The Global Language Monitor has assembled the Japanese Disasters Need-to-Know Glossary to help understand the sometimes obtuse and ofter obscure terminology used in describing the concurrent Japanese Disasters that we are now witnessing.

We will add to the document as events continue to unfold.

“This is a tragedy of unprecedented proportions.  We believe it is our responsibility to help people around the globe more fully understand the depth of the destruction and the nature of the circumstances that have already have and continue to unfold,” said Paul JJ Payack, President and Chief Word Analyst of the Global Language Monitor.

Can Your Family or Business Survive a Disaster for Three Days? Click Here!

Term Definition
1.6 microseconds Number of microseconds the Earth’s spin was increased by the Sendai earthquake
9.0 magnitude The Japanese quake was 9.0 on the Richter Scale. This makes it about 700,000 times more powerful than last year’s Haitian earthquake. (See Richter Scale.)
12.5 magnitude Theoretical magnitude of the Chicxulub asteroid impact 65,000,000,000 years ago that led to the extinction of the dinosaurs. (However, mammals live through it.)
900 kph The waves of the tsunami traveled traveled about as fast as of typical passenger jetliner (About 560 mph/900 kph)
Black Swan Black Swan: rare but Nation-destroying disasters: an asteroid hitting the earth; a super volcano (Yellowstone Caldera) rending half a continent lifeless; a solar flare that destroys all modern communication systems. The Japanese Tri-Crisis qualifies as a Black Swab.
Cesium-137 Metal of the Alkali group that can signal the presence of a nuclear reaction. The half-life of Cesium 137 is 30 years. This means it would take about 200 years for something contaminated with it to lose all signs of radioactivity. Its name is derived from the Latin for a bluish-gray color
Chernobyl The Chernobyl incident in Ukraine in 1986 was considered the world’s worst nuclear accident until now. A carbon-fed fire sent the radioactive elements high into the atmosphere affecting every country in Europe.
Chest X Ray Each chest x ray exposes you to about .04 mSv. A major surgery might require 1,000 x rays, which would result in 40 mSv. A single CT heart scan results in a 12 mSv exposure.
China Syndrome Theory that a molten nuclear core breeches its containment vessel (in the US) and proceeds through the Earth’s core all the way to China. This is not actually possible. (See Tierra del Fuego syndrome.)
Containment Building (or vessel) Reinforced concrete structure made to serve as final barrier to entrap radioactive gases
Earthquake Shaking of Earth’s crust due to underlying tectonic forces
Epicenter The center of the earthquake, ofter miles underground.
Fuel Rods The affected Japanese reactors have thousands of 12-foot long, zirconium-alloy fuel rods. Each contain thousands of uranium-oxide ceramic pellets. The fuel rods are densely packed into the reactor.
Fukushima 50 The fifty workers serving as the final defense against a catastrophic meltdown at Fukushima Daiichi.
Fukushima Daiichi The nuclear reactors site with six boiling water reactors. 1, 2 and 6 were built by General Electric. 3, 4 and 5 were built by Toshiba. Fukushima Daiichi is 241 km (150 miles) from Tokyo.
Half-Life The time it takes radioactive material to expend one half of its radioactivity. The longer the half-life, the more dangerous the material.
Hiroshima Bomb The Hiroshima atomic bomb was detonated on August 6, 1945. It’s yield was estimated between 13 and 18 kilotons of TNT. It was set equivalent to a 6.2 magnitude quake.
IAEA International Atomic Energy Agency is headquartered in Vienna.
Indian Ocean Tsunami The Indian Ocean Tsunami on Boxing Day in 2004 resulted in waves over 18 meters (50 feet) high. Over 250,000 people were killed, some 5,000 km (3000 m) away.
International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale (INES) The INES, introduced in1990 by the IAEA, has seven levels, with 1-3 considered incidents and 4-7, accidents. The Fukushima incident was recently moved from Level 4 to 5 (equivalent to Three Mile Island). Chernobyl is the only Level 7 accident on record.). The French Nuclear Agency suggests Fukushima to be a Level 6.
Iodine-131 Iodine-131 is a highly radioactive element that signifies at least a partial meltdown. The half-life of Iodine-131 is about 8 days, which means that it decays far faster than Cesium-137. The radioactive iodine is concentrated in the thyroid, however taking iodine potassium tablets fill the thyroid to capacity so the radioactive Iodine -131 is more likely to be excreted.
Krakatoa Indonesian Volcano that exploded in 1883 with a force equivalent to 8.5 magnitude (and some 200 megatons). Purported to be the loudest sound ever heard up to 5,000 km (or about 3,000 miles). The sound waves were measured to circle the earth seven times.
Linear No Threshold Model LNT basically it means that even a small exposure to radioactivity will increase the chance of cancer occurring in a corresponding small percentage of the population. The smaller the exposure, the smaller the risk, but the risk never falls to zero. The LNT model is generally accepted by most governments and scientific agencies, but is considered controversial in some scientific circles. This is why you hear conflicting views from experts on the cancer risk.
Meltdown When a core meltdown catastrophic melting of the core of a nuclear reactor due to a loss of cooling
No. 5 The earthquake was the fifth strongest since 1900.
Nuclear reactor Devices that use chain reactions of fissionable materials to boil water to create steam. The steam runs through turbines to create power.
Plate tectonics Theory that the continents rest on plates that drift into each other, causing earthquakes and mountain building
Prefecture States or Provinces of Japan. There are 47 prefectures.
Richter scale The logarithmic scale that measures the strength of an earthquake named after Charles Richter. It is a base-10 logarithmic scale. This means that an earthquake that measures 3.0 is 10 times more powerful that one measuring 2.0. The scale is open-ended, though the 1960 Chile quake measured at 9.6.
Sendai Earthquake At 9.0 the Sendai earthquake was the fifth largest since 1900. The Sendai quake was equivalent to about 100,000 Hiroshima-class bombs.
Sievert and millisievert (and millisievert) A unit of measurement for radiation dosage. According to the World Health Organization, the average person is exposed to about 3 millisieverts a year from natural sources and 3 mSv from human-made sources.
Three Mile Island In 1979 Unit No. 2 of the Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania experienced a partial meltdown. Later it was found that the molten radioactive material penetrated within 1 centimeter of breaking through the containment barrier. Because of its location and the prevailing wind patterns, the fallout could have traveled over the heavily populated Eastern Seaboard, passing over Philadelphia, New York and possibly Boston with a population of more than 30,000,000.
Tierra del Fuego Syndrome The China Syndrome when applied to the Far East (See China Syndrome.)
Tokyo Capital of Japan with more than 30,000,000 people in its metropolitan area.
Tsar Bomba The largest hydrogen bomb ever detonated, by the Soviet Union in 1961. It was about equal to a 7.8 magnitude quake in the general range of the San Francisco earthquake 0f 1908 and the Mount Saint Helen’s volcanic explosion in 1981.
Tsunami From the Japanese tsu (harbor) and nami (wave); waves caused by undersea land movement; usually caused by earthquakes. A tsunami gathers destructive force as it nears land. Depending on the configuration of the shoreline, wave rise over ten-times in height.
Two Packs a Day Smoking two packs of cigarettes a day exposes you to about 17 mSv per year. Smoke for a lifetime that’s 850 mSv.



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Casualties in Japan Disasters could reach 25,000 or more

AUSTIN, Texas, March 14, 2011 — According to Global Language Monitor’s NarrativeTracker Technology the ultimate number of casualties resulting from the Japanese Quake and Tsunami could ultimately climb to over 25,000 and possibly reaching 50,000, or more.

“The depth of this tragedy is even deeper than what we had already imagined it to be” said Paul JJ Payack, President and Chief Word Analyst of the Global Language Monitor. “Only our understanding of the true magnitude of the tragedy, will enable us to move beyond it, to rebuild what needs to be rebuilt and renew what needs to be renewed. Our hearts and prayers go out to the families of those who were struck down – and the survivors who carry on.”

The analysis is based on NarrativeTracker’s analytical methodologies.  Statements by public, corporate and military officials as well as outside agencies and various experts were complied and examined with appropriate trendlines extrapolated.   The progression has been noted from the earliest reports where casualties were said to be ‘several hundred’, then ‘nearly a thousand’ and now in the ‘tens of thousands’..  At the same time, GLM noted the many reports of still-missing trains, ships, and good-sized villages where fewer than half the population has as not yet been accounted for.

The analysis compared trends in casualty-reporting with several  disasters including the Haitian earthquake, Hurricane Katrina’s inundation of New Orleans, and the Southeast Asia Tsunami.

The analysis assumes that there are no deaths associated with the partial meltdowns of a number of nuclear reactors.  GLM notes that this is an analysis is an estimate that is based on trending factors and should be considered as such.



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Updates on the Japanese Disasters

For updates and analysis go to our DisasterTrack pages, where:

  • You can help name the disaster (and see what others are thinking).   Send nominations to disastertracking@gmail.com.
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<h4><strong>The Tsunami Rushes to Shore</strong></h4>
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The Tsunami Rushes to Shore

  • You can download a Japanese publication called Earthquake Disaster Prevention Guidebook

 

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  • You can track  current earthquakes in California and around the planet.

 

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  • You can follow the latest disaster-related updates from our DisasterTrack Twitter feed.


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Not a Recession but a Global Economic Restructuring …

Summary:  What we are experiencing is not a recession, neither great nor small, but rather a global transference of wealth, power and prestige on an unprecedented level.  (This article, which appeared in a slightly differing form earlier this year, is written by Paul JJ Payack and Edward ML Peters.)

Austin, Texas, September 7, 2010 — Originally alluded to as a ‘Financial Tsunami’ or ‘Financial Meltdown,’ the major global media continue to call our current economic condition  ‘The Great Recession’.  In the beginning, most comparisons were being made to the Great Economic Depression of the 1930s, more familiarly known, simply, as ‘The Depression’ in the same way that many still refer to World War II as ‘The War’.  But even these comparisons frequently ended up referring to the recession of 1982, yet another so-called ‘Great Recession’.

The difficulty here stems from the fact that this economic crisis is difficult to express in words because it does not resemble any economic crisis of the past — but rather a crisis of another sort.

In On War, one of the most influential books on military strategy of all time, the Prussian career soldier Carl von Clausewitz (1780 – 1831) stated one of his most respected tenets, “War is not merely a political act, but also a real political instrument, a continuation of political commerce, a carrying out of the same by other means,” which is frequently abbreviated to “War is diplomacy carried out by other means’ and by other rules than those of the political and financial norm of the recent past.

We believe that the reason the “Great Recession” label doesn’t fit now is because what we are experiencing is not a recession, neither great nor small, but rather a global transference of wealth, power and prestige on an unprecedented level, carried out ‘by other means’ and by other rules than those of the political and financial norm of the recent past.

This fact is entrapping two US presidents, from radically diverging political viewpoints, in the same dilemma:  describing an economic phenomenon, that doesn’t play by the old rules.  Therefore the difficulty experienced by President Bush as he struggled to describe how the US economy was not in a recession since the GDP had not declined for two consecutive quarters, the traditional definition of a recession, even though jobs were being shed by the millions and the global banking system teetered on the brink of collapse.  Now we have President Obama, attempting to describe how the US economy is emerging out of a recession, though the collateral damage in terms of the evaporation of wealth, mortgages, and jobs remains apparently undaunted and unabated.

The regional or global transfer of wealth, power and influence, the destruction of entire industries and the so-called collateral (or human) damage are all hallmarks of what is now being experienced in the West.

If you carefully disassemble the events of the last decade or two, one can see them as the almost inevitable conclusion of a nameless war that began with the collapse of the Soviet Union, the embrace of a form of the free-market system by China, India and the other rising states, an almost unprecedented transfer of wealth from the Western Economies to the Middle East (Energy) and South and East Asia (manufactured good and services), and the substantial transfer of political power and influence that  inevitably follows.

It currently appears that the Western Powers most affected by these transfers cannot adequately understand, or even explain, their present circumstances in a way that makes sense to the citizenry, let alone actually reverse (or even impede) the course of history.  In fact the larger realities are playing out while the affected societies seemingly default to the hope that they ultimately can exert some sort of control over a reality that is out of their grasp and control.

The good news here is that the transfers of wealth, power and influence has proven relatively bloodless but nonetheless destructive for the hundreds of millions of those on the front lines of the economic dislocations.

And it is in this context that the perceived resentment of the Islamic and Arab states should be more clearly viewed.  This is especially so as they watch helplessly as the new global reality and re-alignments unfold.

In conclusion, it can be argued that the difficulty in naming the current economic crisis is the fact that is not an economic crisis at all but rather a transformational event involving the global transfer of wealth, power and influence, the destruction of entire industries along with the associated collateral (or human) damage.

[Read More.]



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Evacuee, Apocalypse & Hiroshima: Katrina Continues to Impact Language

Katrina Continues to Impact Language, Media and Politics

 

AUSTIN, Texas.   (August 30, 2010) – Katrina had a deep and lasting impact on how America looks at catastrophes and crises in the early 21st century.  And Katrina’s influence is becoming all the more pervasive as the effects of the crisis linger and the reality of the magnitude of the destruction continues to come to light.  An exclusive analysis by the Global Language Monitor (GLM) using it analytical resources, underscores how some five years after the event, Katrina continues to have an out-sized impact on our cultural landscape.  Last year, GLM ranked the Top Stories in the Global Media during the first decade of the 21st century.  Katrina ranked No. 8.

Background:  It is often said that the war in Viet Nam was the first war to be broadcast directly into American living rooms (back when people still gathered for dinner together and watched network news broadcasts).  We watched in horror at the mass destruction of the Towers falling a quarter of a century later, many of us on our computer screens.  But it was the unfolding of the inundation of New Orleans after the levees gave way that provided us with any number of up-close-and personal tragedies that would unfold (and float) before our disbelieving eyes.

Among the most prominent example of Katrina’s continuing cultural impact include:

  1. Refugee vs. Evacuee – At the time GLM’s analysis found that the term for the displaced, refugees, appeared 5 times more frequently in the global media than the more neutral, evacuees.  At the term, refugee was cited as racially insensitive.  Never endorsed by the AP Stylebook, currently the word refugee is used in the media some fifty times more than evacuee.
  2. “Heckova job, Brownie!” – GLM named this paraphrase of President Bush’s actual remark, “Brownie, you’re doing a heckuva job” as the most memorable phrase of 2005.  The phrase, according to a Reuter’s report at the time, “became a national punch line for countless jokes and pointed comments about the administration’s handling of the Hurricane Katrina disaster”.  Even now variations of the phrase are used to criticize less-than-stellar efforts, such as when New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd wrote, “Heck of a job, Barry” (her nickname for President Obama) in her Dec. 29th, 2009 column.
  3. Apocalyptic Imagery — The Southeast Asia Tsunami that killed over 200,000 people occurred nine months before Katrina, so audiences were somewhat familiar with horrific images of exotic locales as scenes of mass destruction.  However, the thought of the devastation unfolding in a major, revered US city, with the world watching the only remaining superpower, apparently unable to mobilize the necessary resources to stop the ongoing destruction and loss of life proved more than the press could handle.  Immediately, the global press echoed with apocalyptic imagery.  The Times in London led with: “Devastation that could send an area the size of England back to the Stone Age” and continued describing “a paranoid post-apocalyptic landscape … where corpses lie amid a scene of Biblical devastation, any semblance of modern society has gone.”
  4. The Hiroshima Analogy – Katrina hit landfall shortly after the 60th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.   AP cited Mississippi governor Haley Barbour “Struggling with what he calls Hurricane Katrina’s nuclear destruction … [showing] the emotional strain of leading a state through a disaster of biblical proportions”.  However, the analogy continues to be used in light of the lingering effects of a drawn-out and, some would argue, less-than-successful recovery effort.  There are still 55,000 uninhabitable buildings half of which the new mayor has pledged to remove by 2014; many still lack essential services; the levees remain in questionable condition, and most importantly, some 20-to-25% of the population has failed to return.

5.  Storm and Scientific Terminology — The public has a much better understanding of the specific terminology surrounding hurricanes and tropical storms.  This would include:

  • Saffir-Simpson Scale, which predicts the destructive power of a hurricane,
  • Category or Hurricane Scale that measures the strength of a hurricane’s strength, from low to high (1 to 5).  Katrina peaked at Category 5 but at landfall fell to Category 3.
  • Storm Surge, the wall of water pushed in from of a hurricane.  Katrina’s was about 30 feet, the highest on record.
  • Levee, the massive, supposedly impermeable earthen walls, meant to hold back storm surges.  New Orleans has some 350 miles of levees.  An unfortunate fact about levees, once they let water in, they can actually prevent it from going out.
  • Naming System for Hurricanes, which has been in place for some fifty years.   They names are alphabetically sorted, alternating men’s and women’s names. The list was exclusively female until 1979. Names are recycled every 6 years. Influential hurricanes have their names retired.  Katrina was obviously retired.

6.  The name Katrina, according to the Social Security Administration, has fallen sharply in popularity.  In 2004 Katrina was the 274th most popular names for girls born in the US; in 2009 it ranked at 815.

For historical coverage of Hurricane Katrina from the Global Language Monitor, go here.

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How to Describe the Disaster? (LOE)

How to Describe the Disaster?
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Air Date: Week of July 2, 2010
The BP oil disaster is a failure of technology and lexicology. The words that we use to describe the Gulf of Mexico disaster don’t begin to define the scope of the catastrophe. Is it a spill? A gusher? Host Jeff Young tracks the flow of words with Paul Payak from the Global Language Monitor.
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YOUNG: Millions – maybe billions – of words have been written about BP’s runaway oil well. Yet words still fail us—we still lack the right term for what’s happening in the Gulf. So we turn to Paul JJ Payack for guidance. He’s President of the Global Language Monitor in Austin, Texas, where he tracks changes in the language, including the words most often used to describe the oil in the Gulf.PAYACK: Overwhelmingly, overwhelmingly, the top word is oil spill, which is sort of a disappointment. Many times when you have new events in a language, the language leads the event. You can actually… there are new words that pop up in profusion.YOUNG: Uh huh.

PAYACK: And, in this case, we haven’t seen that many new words. What we’ve seen is the old way to describe an oil spill. The Exxon Valdez has a crash, spills the oil out, and that’s a spill. But this is different; this is a lot different than a spill.

YOUNG: Because a spill connotes a fixed amount that spilled from a container into where you don’t want it. That’s not what’s happening here at all.

PAYACK: In our case, we’re not talking about a spill, we’re talking about an oil field that’s estimated at 3, 4, 5 billion barrels erupting, but we still refer to it as a spill.

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The Internet’s Fury Scorned

Obama Oval Office speech analysis provokes unprecedented response


Austin, Texas, July 2, 2010.  The first decade of the 21st century has witnessed a great many terrible, sad and historical events, with a few, unfortunately fleeting moments of great joy sprinkled between the dirges.  We have done our best to analyze the impact of these events on the global print and electronic media as well as on the Internet, throughout the blogosphere, and now the emerging social media.

After analyzing political speeches for a decade now, as well as all 55 Presidential Inaugural Addresses and transcripts of historical interest (including Washington’s Farewell Address, the Lincoln-Douglas Debates, FDR’s ‘Live in Infamy’ radio address, Martin Luther King’s ‘I have a Dream’ speech) you would think that we had seen and heard everything by now.

However, it wasn’t until our analysis of the President’s Gulf Spill Oval Office address, that we experienced the full force of the Internet’s fury scorned.

And this for an analysis that we considered basically non-newsworthy.

President Obama had given yet another address to the nation.  GLM used the same standardized, widely available, language tools that we used to name Obama’s Grant Park  “Yes, we can!” victory address as one that ranked with the greatest of presidential orations.  Now these same standardized, time-tested tools are being conveniently criticized as of questionable repute.

We were told that our analysis was either ‘bashing Obama’ or ‘excusing Obama’. At the same time, we were either ‘insulting the people’ or ‘insulting the President’. Finally, it was suggested that we were rather transparently calling for the President to ‘dumb down the rhetoric’ so that one and all might understand  the superior intelligence of ‘his highness’.  Whoa!

Apparently, many readers never got over the headline, missing the actual analysis and what the numbers told us about the speech. Our concern was that our initial headline, Obama Oil Spill Speech Echoes Elite, Aloof Ethos might be considered demeaning to the President.  Wrong.  It was considered demeaning to everyone on the Left and the Right.

For general information on the readability tests used by GLM, click here.

For scientific literature about readability tests, enter Flesch or readability into the ERIC database.

We were surprised to learn that offense was, apparently,  taken in equal proportions by both the Right (Language Expert: If You Didn’t Like Obama’s Oil Spill Speech, It’s Probably Because You’re Stupid) and the Left (Obama Oil Spill Speech Criticized By CNN’s Language Analyst For Not Being Moronic Enough) of the political spectrum.   Nevertheless, we were quite amused by The ColbertReport’s send-up of our (and CNN’s) report, which somehow struck a middle chord.

It was also enlightening to see a significant proportion of this criticism to be ad hominem attacks, focusing on ourselves rather than our analysis.  (Read FAQ about GLM and Paul JJ Payack here.)

This past December, we encountered fierce criticism from the Chinese government dailies because  we named ‘The Rise of China” as the No. 1 news story of the decade.  (You can follow the narrative arc of this controversy here. )  But the criticism that accompanied the Obama Gulf Spill speech, was a good bit nastier, indeed.

Our analyses of the three preceding US Presidential elections were praised from many quarters from the New York Times to Nicholas Kristof to NPR to the worldwide media.  During the preceding ten years, few alleged political motivation, or denounced the standard language-measurement tools as inherently flawed. In fact, as long as readers basically agreed with the more predictable outcomes, there were few complaints.  Here were some of those results:  Ross Perot scored the lowest we’ve ever recorded, John F, Kennedy and Ronald Reagan were stars, both Bushes settled in the middle of the middle school years, and Obama’s ‘Yes, we can!’ speech had nearly equivalent numbers to Martin Luther King’s “I have a Dream’ speech and Lincoln’s ‘Gettysburg Address’.   So far, so good.  We did have a few outliers, such as Sarah Palin achieving quite a high score during her debate with Joe Biden, which was duly noted by New York Magazine and quite easy to explain.

Here’s what we attempted to communicate:

1.  Obama’s speech, though deserving a ‘solid B’ did not live up to his past efforts.

2.  Obama’s most well-regarded speech came in a at 7.4 grade level.  This is not talking down to the American people.  This is communicating clear and concisely to his audience.  This is Obama at his best, communicating with a deft combination of vision, passion and rhetoric.

In fact, our headline for that effort read: Obama’s “Yes, We Can” Speech Ranked with “I have a Dream,” “Tear Down this Wall,” and JFK Inaugural. Rather high praise, indeed.

Our commentary read:

Obama’s “Yes, We Can” speech delivered Tuesday night in Chicago’s Grant Park ranked favorably in tone, tenor and rhetorical flourishes with memorable political addresses of the recent past including Martin Luther King, Jr.’s   “I have a Dream” speech, “Tear Down this Wall,” by Ronald  Reagan and John F. Kennedy’s Inaugural Address.

“As is appropriate for a forward-looking message of hope and reconciliation, words of change and hope, as well as future-related constructions dominated the address,” said Paul JJ Payack President and Chief Word Analyst of the Global Language Monitor.  “Evidently, Obama is at his best at connecting with people at the 7th to 8th grade range, communicating directly to his audience using simple yet powerful rhetorical devices, such as the repetition of the cadenced phrase ‘Yes, we can’, which built to a powerful conclusion.”

Well-regarded, indeed (and well-deserved).

3.   GLM and our predecessor site, yourDictionary.com have analyzed every presidential inaugural since that of George Washington.  The idea was, and continues to be, to look at the presidents’ words in the total historical context of the American presidency.

In 2001, we were quoted as saying,

Our goal was to spot trends that are all to easily overlooked in the political (and all too partisan) passions of the moment” [and continued that our] analysis included patterns of word usage choices, the use of such grammatical constructions as passive voice, the length of words and sentences, the number of paragraphs, and other parameters of language to gauge the content [including] the well-regarded Flesch-Kincaid Reading Scale.

4.  The use of Industry-standard language analytics.  The Fogg Index, the Flesch Test, the Flesch-Kinkaid Reading Scale, and many others, are used in all forms of publishing from technical manuals to ensuring proper comprehension levels for textbooks used for various ages and classes.  This has been true for more than fifty years.

The reason we choose to use the standard tests and analytical tools was a simple one:  to enable the same set of measurements over any period of time.  And also that these analyses could be replicated by scholars and historians and journalists the world over.

5.  We use our proprietary tool, the Predictive Quantities Indicator or PQI to measure media analytics, narrative tracking, and TrendTopper Media Buzz, as such we do not use the PQI for this task.

By the Way, here are a few historical precedents;

  • Washington’s Farewell Address of 1796 — 12.0.
  • Lincoln-Douglas debates, 1858 — Stephen Douglas’ seven speeches averaged a 12th-grade level 11.9; Lincoln’s averaged 11.2.
  • President Franklin Roosevelt’s declaration of war in December 1941 — 11.5.
  • Nixon-Kennedy Debates, 1960 — The first nationally televised debates:  Kennedy, 9.6 ; Nixon, 9.1.
  • Carter-Ford Debates, 1976 — Carter, 10.4; Ford, 11.0.
  • Carter-Reagan debate  — Carter, 12.0; Reagan, 10.7.
  • Reagan-Mondale debates — Reagan, 9.8;  Mondale, 8.7.
  • Dukakis-Bush debates of 1988 — Dukakis, 8.9; Bush, 6.7 grade.
  • Bush-Clinton-Perot debates of 1992 — Carter, 8.5, Bush, 6.5, Perot, 6.3.
  • Bush-Gore debate of 2000 — Bush, 7.1, Gore, 8.4.
  • Cheney-Lieberman, V.P. Debate — Lieberman, 9.9; Dick Cheney, 9.1.

And for good measure, Hamlet’s ‘To Be or Not to Be Soliloquy’, Shakespeare, c. 1600, comes in at 10.6.

Now Kathleen Parker has considerably upped the ante when applied readability statistics in her premise about Barack Obama as the first ‘feminine president’ ….

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