– Originally Published September 7, 2005 –
In commemoration of the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina making landfall on the city of New Orleans and environs, we are republishing our original report about the impact of the disaster on the English Language.
Media Abounds With Apocalyptic-type References in Coverage of Katrina
Disaster, Biblical, Global Warming, Hiroshima Top List
‘Refugee’ vs. ‘Evacuee’
San Diego, Calif. September 7, 2005. In an exclusive analysis by The Global Language Monitor, the worldwide media was found to abound in Apocalyptic-type terminology in its coverage of the unfolding disaster of Hurricane Katrina in the American Gulf States. Using its proprietary PQI (Predictive Quantities Indicator) algorithm, GLM found the ominous references to include: Disaster, Biblical, Global Warming, Hiroshima/Nuclear bomb, Catastrophe, Holocaust, Apocalypse, and End-of-the-World.
“These alarmist references are coming across the spectrum of print and electronic media, and the internet,” said Paul JJ Payack, president of GLM. “The world appears stunned that the only remaining super power has apparently been humbled, on its own soil, by the forces of nature.”
The global media are mesmerized by the constant bombardment of television images of apparently rampaging, out-of-control elements, apparently in control of a good part of New Orleans, as well as the inability of the authorities to keep their own people fed, sheltered, evacuated, and, even, from dying on the street.
‘Refugee vs. ‘Evacuee’
GLM’s analysis found, for example, that the term for the displaced, refugees, that is usually associated with places like the Sudan and Afghanistan, appeared 5 times more frequently in the global media than the more neutral ‘evacuees,’ which was cited as racially motivated by some of the Black leadership. Accordingly, most of the major media outlets in the U.S. eliminated the usage of the word ‘refugees’ with a few exceptions, most notably, the New York Times.
The September 3 edition of The Times (London) has a story to illustrate the current state of affairs. The head: “Devastation that could send an area the size of England back to the Stone Age.”
The first 100 words sum up the pervasive mood found in the GLMs analysis of the Global Media.
“AMERICA comes to an end in Montgomery, Alabama.For the next 265 miles to the Gulf Coast, it has been replaced by a dangerous and paranoid post-apocalyptic landscape, short of all the things fuel, phones, water and electricity needed to keep the 21st century switched on.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. “
According to GLM’s analysis, the most frequently used terms associated with Hurricane Katrina in the global media with examples follow. The terms are listed in order of relative frequency.
Disaster — The most common, and perhaps neutral, description. Literally ‘against the stars’ in Latin. Example: ” Disaster bares divisions of race and class across the Gulf states”. Toronto Globe and Mail.
Biblical — Used as an adjective. Referring to the scenes of death, destruction and mayhem chronicled in the Bible. ” …a town of 6,800 where corpses lie amid a scene of Biblical devastation”. (The Times, London)
Global Warming — The idea that the hand of man was directly responsible for the catastrophe, as opposed to the more neutral climate change. “…German Environmental Minister Jrgen Trittin remains stolid in his assertion that Hurricane Katrina is linked to global warming and America’s refusal to reduce emissions.” (Der Spiegel)
Hiroshima/Nuclear Destruction — Fresh in the mind of the media, following the 60th anniversary of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings. “Struggling with what he calls Hurricane Katrina’s nuclear destruction, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour shows the emotional strain of leading a state through a disaster of biblical proportions”. (Associated Press).
Catastrophe — Sudden, often disastrous overturning, ruin, or undoing of a system. “In the Face of Catastrophe, Sites Offer Helping Hands”. (Washington Post)
Holocaust — Because of historical association, the word is seldom used to refer to death brought about by natural causes. ” December’s Asian catastrophe should have elevated “tsunami” practically to the level of “holocaust” in the world vocabulary, implying a loss of life beyond compare and as callous as this might make us seem, Katrina was many things, but “our tsunami” she wasn’t. (Henderson [NC] Dispatch)
Apocalypse — Referring to the prophetic visions of the imminent destruction of the world, as found in the Book of Revelations. ” Call it apocalyptic. Whatever you want to call it, take your pick. There were bodies floating past my front door. ” said Robert Lewis, who was rescued as floodwaters invaded his home. (Reuters)
End of the World — End-time scenarios which presage the Apocalypse. ” “This is like time has stopped Its like the end of the world.” (Columbus Dispatch)
Then there are those in the media linking Katrina with the direct intervention of the hand of an angry or vengeful God, though not necessarily aligned with Americas enemies. “The Terrorist Katrina is One of the Soldiers of Allah, But Not an Adherent of Al-Qaeda,” was written by a high-ranking Kuwaiti official, Muhammad Yousef Al-Mlaifi, director of the Kuwaiti Ministry of Endowment’s research center. It was published in Al-Siyassa. (Kuwait).
Etymology of the Name Katrina > Catriona > Katherine
Note: Hurricane Alpha has now been named marking the busiest Atlantic Hurricane season on record … therefore the tropical ‘events’ were named beta, then gamma, delta … and it seemed they would go on through the Greek Alphabet. Here’s the entire Greek Alphabet:
Katrina Disaster Buzzword Explainer
San Diego, Calif. September 2, 2005. MetaNewswire. The Global Language Monitorin response to worldwide demand, has created this Hurricane Disaster Buzzword Explainer to help readers understand the many buzzwords, acronyms, and odd turns of phrase that are being employed in relation to the Hurricane Katrina disaster in New Orleans as it unfolds.
GLM’s List is an ongoing compilation, updated daily; we welcome contributions from around the globe.
The current list with associated commentary follows:
Acadians — French-speaking people who were expelled from Nova Scotia exactly 250 years ago and settled in the bayou. Subject of the epic poem, Evangeline, by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. See Cajun.
Army Corps of Engineers — The USACE is responsible for investigating, developing and maintaining the nation’s water and related environmental resources.
Astrodome — The first enclosed stadium in the US; refugees from the SuperDome will be transported 350 miles to the Astrodome.
Bayou — A slow moving stream or river that runs through the marshlands surrounding New Orleans; home of Cajun Culture.
Big Easy — The nickname for the city of New Orleans, from the laidback lifestyle one finds there.
Breach — Sudden overpowering of a levee, or a floodwall, that allows water to seep or rush in.
Cajun — Literally, Louisianan who descends from French-speaking Acadians, who in 1755 were expelled from Nova Scotia.
Category — The intensity of a hurricane using various measurements including velocity of sustained wind. Categoies range from 1 (weakest) to 5 (strongest). Katrina peaked at Category 5.
Climate Change — The warming of the Earths atmosphere due to natural cycles (politically sensitive; believed to be primarily outside the control of man.) See Global Warming.
Creole — Derives from the Latin creare, meaning “to create.” By the nineteenth century, black, white, and mixed-race Louisianans used the term to distinguish themselves from foreign-born and Anglo-American settlers.
Cyclone — A developing tropical storm, rotating counterclockwise in the Northern Hemisphere and clockwise in the Southern Hemisphere. Often confused with but NOT a tornado.
Eye — The center of the hurricane where the skies are clear and the wind is nearly calm.
FEMA — Federal Emergency Management Agency, branch of the US Homeland Security Department. FEMA coordinates the US Federal government’s response to national disasters.
Floating Casinos — Casinos located along the Mississippi coast bringing an annual average revenue of $2.7 billion a year to that state.
Flood Control — The building of levees, pumping stations, sea walls, etc. to keep a city safe from flooding.
Flood Stage — Flood stage is reached when the water in a stream or river over-tops the banks or levees along the banks.
Flood Wall — Narrow, steel and concrete barrier erected to keep the Mississippi River out of New Orleans.
French Quarter — The original living area of the city, now known for Jazz, Cajun cuisine, and Carnival. Located at the highest point of the city.
Global Warming — In theory, the warming of the Earths atmosphere caused primarily by human use of fossil fuels (Politically sensitive; believed to be primarily in the control of man.) See Climate Change.
Hurricane Names — Hurricanes have been named since 1953. Currently, the World Meteorological Organization maintains the alphabetically sorted list of 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.
Hurricane — A tropical cyclone with a sustained surface wind is 74 mph (118 kmh) or more. A hurricane is called a typhoon in the Pacific Ocean.
Hurricane Scale — See Categories.
Hurricane Season — The hurricane season in the Atlantic runs from June 1 to November 30; in the Eastern Pacific, the season begins on May 15 and ends on November 30.
Hurricane Watch/Warning — An official warning that a hurricane is expected to hit a specific area of the coast with 36 hours (watch) or within 24 hours (warning).
Isobar — Isobars around a cyclone are lines on a map that signify the same barometric pressure.
Katrina — The 11th tropical storm of the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season.
Knot — Wind speed equal to 1.15 Miles Per Hour (MPH) or 1.9 Kilometers Per Hour (KM/HR).
Lake Pontchatrain — Actually, an arm of the sea that borders on New Orleans. Lake Pontchatrain is half the size of the state of Rhode Island.
Levee — Colossal earthen barriers erected to keep water out of the city. Once breeched, levees hinder relief efforts by holding the water inside the city. New Orleans has 350 miles of hurricane levees; they were built to withstand a fast-moving Category 3 storm. Katrina was a Category 4+ storm.
National Guard — Military units organized at the state level to protect the citizens of an individual state.
Norlins — Local pronunciation of the name of the city of New Orleans.
Public Health Emergency — Cholera and typhoid are among the concerns caused by contaminated water.
Pumping Stations — Massive, yet old and inefficient pump houses that would keep any seepage out of New Orleans.
Recovery — To recover the dead after search and rescue operations are complete.
Relief and Response Effort — To provide food, medical supplies and shelter to refuges of a disaster.
Sandbag — Three- to twenty-thousand pound burlap-type containers dropped from Chinook helicopters to plug breaches in levee.
Saffir-Simpson Scale — Used to give an estimate of potential damage and flooding along the coast. Wind speed is the determining factor in the scale. See Category.
Search and Rescue — To search for survivors.
Storm Surge — Sudden rising of the sea over its usual level, preceding the arrival of a hurricane. The Thirty-foot surge on the Mississippi coastline was the highest ever recorded for North America.
Superdome — Home to the New Orleans Saints football team, the Sugar Bowl and numerous professional football championships (Super Bowls).
Tropical Depression — An area of intense thunderstorms becomes organized into a cyclone. Maximun sustained winds reach 34 knots. There is at least one ‘closed’ isobar with a decrease in barometric pressure in the center of the storm.
Tropical Storm — Sustained winds increase to up to 64 knots and the storm begins to look like a hurricane.
Vertical Evac — Vertical evacuation, taking refuge in the top floors of a high-rise building. In this case, this sort of evacuation often proved fatal.
For more information, call 1.512.815.8836, email info@LanguageMonitor.com, or visit www.LanguageMonitor.com.