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Keep Presidential Speeches Smart

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Medialand

Trevor Butterworth, 06.22.10

Trevor Butterworth is the editor of stats.org, an affiliate of George Mason University that looks at how numbers are used in public policy and the media. He writes a weekly column for Forbes.

If the Gulf oil spill is a national tragedy, the arguments over President Obama’s response to it have descended into a national farce. When former law professors go looking for “ass to kick,” they end up looking like the eponymous hero of Kickass, a nerdy kid copying moves he’s seen in comic books. The difference is that the fictional Kickass was ennobled by failure, which, sadly, is not the kind of outcome open to the President of the United States in matters of national importance.

Obama’s mistake was to respond to the Rock’Em Sock’Em Robots of punditry. The country didn’t want Spock at the helm during environmental armageddon, they protested; the situation demanded a theatrically-appropriate response–as if the presidency was the background music to the movie of our lives, rousing in adversity, compassionate in suffering, a boom box of linguistic effects.

If style is the image of character, you cannot go from the calmest, most judicious intellectual in the room to a Schwarzenegger character in leather trousers and expect to be perceived as authentic. This is why responding to his critics was the wrong thing to do. By following their lame advice, by trying to be someone he isn’t, Obama sounded bathetic.

All of this is an object lesson in how democracy isn’t helped by the media. Just as an analysis of the Katrina response shows that it was a complex systematic failure of government and not a simple fumble by George W. Bush and “heck of a job” Brownie, the Gulf oil spill is not really in the league of a car wreck caused by distracted texting. The very intractability of the problem demands openness, an admission of complexity and a detailed description of solutions that are being pursued. And yet, according to one manufacturer of conventional wisdom, the problem was not that Obama’s White House address on the spill was too simple or vague, it was that it wasn’t simple enough. As CNN reported:

“Obama’s speech may have gone over the heads of many in his audience, according to an analysis of the 18-minute talk released Wednesday by Paul J.J. Payack, president of Global Language Monitor. Tuesday night’s speech from the Oval Office of the White House was written to a 9.8 grade level, said Payack, who gave Obama a ‘solid B.’ His Austin, Texas-based company analyzes and catalogues trends in word usage and word choice and their impact on culture.”

The president’s 19.8 words per sentence apparently “added some difficulty for his target audience.” But 19.8 words is well within the breath of television’s cutthroat culture of political sound bites, which now stands at seven seconds. Indeed, as Elvin T. Lim notes in his brilliant historical and linguistic analysis of presidential rhetoric, The Anti-Intellectual Presidency, the average presidential sentence in recent years (as defined by speeches) has ranged from 15 to 20 words, well within the assumed attention span of the presumptive television viewer.

But now, even this is apparently too difficult for most Americans to follow. It gets worse. Take the following sentence from the President’s speech, “That is why just after the rig sank, I assembled a team of our nation’s best scientists and engineers to tackle this challenge–a team led by Dr. Steven Chu, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist and our nation’s Secretary of Energy.” According to Payack, this is the kind of phrasing that makes the President seem “aloof and out of touch.” It’s too professorial, too academic and not “ordinary enough.” Perhaps the President should just have tweeted “I got smart folks fixin’ to fix the oil spill” and let everyone go back to their regular broadcast fare or communicating with each other in grunts and clicks.

Read More

New York Magazine: Textbook Obama

Flash from the Past ( September 21, 2009) by Paul Bonanos

Which predecessor does his rhetoric most nearly echo? The data don’t lie: It’s Ronald Reagan.


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On Tuesday, President Obama spoke to schoolchildren; on Wednesday, to Congress. The easy punch line (same grade level, guys?) raises a real question: How does this president, whose comments on health care in particular had been criticized for lacking a clear take-home message, pitch his language? Does he strategically streamline his explanations for different audiences? To find out, we called upon science, in the form of Paul J. J. Payack, “president and chief word analyst” at an Austin, Texas, trend-watching outfit called the Global Language Monitor.

What Payack found when Obama’s speeches bubbled through his software was that the president didn’t treat Congress like a bunch of kids. His health-care speech clocks in at 9.0, indicating a ninth-grade reading level; the classroom speech, at 6.6. Those two figures more or less bookend the range for contemporary oration. Both Presidents Bush tended to fall around grade 7, as did Obama’s “Yes, We Can” speech. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” comes in at 8.8.

There’s plenty of room for sophisticated ideas at that level. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is sixth-grade material. So is The Hobbit. The Gettysburg Address rates a 9.1. That’s low for the nineteenth century, when florid oratory was in vogue—the Lincoln-Douglas debates took place at an eleventh-grade level, rarely heard today. “You can imagine how they’d talk—three, four hours long,” Payack says. “It really changed with the advent of radio.”

Nor is ninth-grade language too tough for a mainstream audience. Payack says that Ronald Reagan, the master of folksy explanation, is Obama’s closest match among recent presidents, with speeches that usually come in around 9 or 10. “The word was that he spoke in sound bites, but they’re very well-crafted sound bites.” The two presidents may differ in affect, content, and approach—Obama sometimes seems to develop his ideas through the very process of turning them into oratory, whereas Reagan more or less only had one idea—but not in linguistic complexity. Indeed, Obama has often expressed admiration for the Gipper’s ability to frame issues.

Payack explains that his proprietary algorithm is a variant of the standard Flesch Reading Ease Test, which is performed on many textbooks and educational materials: “It analyzes words per sentence, syllables per word, things of that nature. The theory is that the more complex the structure, the more syllables per word, the more difficult it is to understand.” Polysyllabicism and subclauses add complexity, and skew the score toward older readers. “To reach the greatest number of people, to communicate most crisply, to make sure your idea moves from your mind to someone else’s, you should speak in short sentences.” (Representative Joe Wilson’s “You lie!” achieves a prekindergarten rating.) For comparison, a Maureen Dowd column from last week was a 10.8, a Paul Krugman piece was a 12.5, and the story you’re reading now has a Flesch score of ninth grade.

Read More

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Language mavens exchange words over Obama’s speech

STORY HIGHLIGHTS

  • Nearly 2,700 words with little jargon
  • People understand spoken and written word differently
  • Payack gives Obama “Solid B”

(CNN) — Language experts weighed in Thursday after poring over the nearly 2,700 words of President Obama’s Oval Office speech on the Gulf oil disaster.

“It was straightforward and easy to understand,” said Ron Yaros, assistant professor at the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland, referring to the explanations of the crisis and its possible solutions. He divided the speech into 1,200 “idea units,” each of which represents a point the president was trying to make.

He then looked at how many of those idea units contained jargon — unexplained terms that the average person might not recognize — and found none in the 65 idea units that explained the problem.

Of the 417 idea units that discussed what Obama planned to do, “I found only one idea unit that probably would be potentially confusing to a nonexpert. That was the term ‘relief well.’ He never explained that.”

BP is digging a relief well that is expected to intersect with the blown-out well in August. At that point, BP plans to pump heavy drilling fluid into the runaway well, ending the flow.

“If you look at the entire speech, and you look at the amount of jargon, it came out to 1.5 percent,” he said.

iReporter:Obama’s speech too fuzzy on details

But Obama’s speech may have gone over the heads of many in his audience, according to an analysis of the 18-minute talk released Wednesday by Paul J.J. Payack, president of Global Language Monitor.

Tuesday night’s speech from the Oval Office of the White House was written to a 9.8 grade level, said Payack, who gave Obama a “solid B.” His Austin, Texas-based company analyzes and catalogues trends in word usage and word choice and their impact on culture.

He singled out this sentence from Obama as unfortunate: “That is why just after the rig sank, I assembled a team of our nation’s best scientists and engineers to tackle this challenge — a team led by Dr. Steven Chu, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist and our nation’s secretary of energy.”


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See “The Colbert Report’s”  Send-up of GLM’s Oval Office Analysis

“A little less professorial, less academic and more ordinary,” Payack recommended. “That’s the type of phraseology that makes you [appear] aloof and out of touch.”

Yaros disagreed, supporting the quality of the president’s explanation for spelling out the efforts under way, even if they have not succeeded in ending the flow.

“He’s just trying to be transparent,” Yaros said. “We can’t cure cancer, but I’m comforted to know that the best researchers in the nation are devoted to finding a cure.”

Payack found these three sentences insensitive: “Already, this oil spill is the worst environmental disaster America has ever faced. And unlike an earthquake or a hurricane, it is not a single event that does its damage in a matter of minutes or days. The millions of gallons of oil that have spilled into the Gulf of Mexico are more like an epidemic, one that we will be fighting for months and even years.”

“You shouldn’t be saying that in Katrina-land,” said Payack, referring to the 2005 hurricane that devastated the Gulf Coast. “New Orleans lost a third of its population [to evacuees who did not return]; it’s still recovering.”

But he praised Obama’s phrase “oil began spewing” as active and graphic.

Obama’s nearly 10th-grade-level rating was the highest of any of his major speeches and well above the grade 7.4 of his 2008 “Yes, we can” victory speech, which many consider his best effort, Payack said.

“The scores indicate that this was not Obama at his best, especially when attempting to make an emotional connection to the American people,” he added.

Though the president used slightly less than four sentences per paragraph, his 19.8 words per sentence “added some difficulty for his target audience,” Payack said.

Mark Liberman, a linguist at the University of Pennsylvania, was unimpressed with Payack’s criticism of the sentence length.

“I think we can all agree that those are shockingly long professor-style sentences for a president to be using, especially in addressing the nation after a disaster,” Liberman wrote on his blog.

“Why, they were almost as long as the ones that President George W. Bush, that notorious pointy-headed intellectual, used in his 9/15/2005 speech to the nation about Hurricane Katrina, where I count 3,283 words in 140 sentences, for an average of 23.45 words per sentence! And we all remember how upset the press corps got about the professorial character of that speech!”

Yaros challenged the value of Payack’s analysis. “There’s a tremendous amount of difference between analyzing the written word and interpreting the spoken word,” said Yaros, a former science reporter who studies how to make complex topics understandable.

Payack acknowledged Thursday in a telephone interview that his analysis is indeed based on a written version of the speech, but said that does not necessarily render it invalid. “With the internet, probably as many people read the transcript as heard it,” he said. “To think it’s not read and analyzed by tens of thousands of bloggers is looking at the old model.”

Yaros countered that he doesn’t just count words and sentences, but instead measures the audience’s comprehension of news content.

Read More

Obama Oil Spill Speech Echoes Elite, Aloof Ethos

When Obama is at his best (such as the Grant Park ‘Yes, We Can speech), the President has a direct and emotional connection with the American people.  This speech, simply, did not live up to that high standard — and the numbers reflect it.

Comparisons with previous addresses and those of other presidents

Passive Voice highest for any major presidential address this century

Surprisingly high tenth-grade reading (and hearing) level


Austin, TX, June 17, 2010 – According to an exclusive analysis by The Global Language Monitor, President Obama’s Oil Spill speech echoed his elite ethos, with a broad plan for an alternative-energy future and few specifics.  The only specifics of the address were the continuation of the off-shore drilling ban, effectively putting tens of thousands of Gulf Coast jobs in jeopardy.  The President’s first Oval Office address came in at a surprising high tenth-grade reading level, with some 13% passive constructions, the highest level measured in any major presidential address in this century.  In political speaking, the passive voice is generally used to either deflect responsibility, or to have no particular ‘doer’ of an action

GLM on Obama’s ‘Yes, We Can!’ victory speech: Ranked Among the Greatest


See “The Colbert Report’s”  Send-up of GLM’s Oval Office Analysis

A previous analysis using GLM’s NarrativeTracker™, found the president’s primary narrative arc to be that of ‘Obama as an Oil Spill Enabler’.  Nothing in the address would appear to change that narrative, though formal analysis will be forthcoming in the next week.

Kathleen Parker’s ‘Empiracally Vacuous Meme-replication’

Alternet’s Dumbing Down of Obama’s speech to the seventh-grade level.

The Readability Analysis of the Oval Office address appears below:

  • Passive Voice — With some 13% passive constructions, the highest level measured in any major presidential address this century.  In political speaking, the passive voice is generally used to either deflect responsibility, or to have no particular ‘doer’ of an action, at least when speaking about himself or his Administration.  Otherwise, BP was the clear ‘doer’.
  • Sentence Length — Obama’s spoke in long, though well-crafted, sentences about 20 words in length.
  • Sentences per Paragraphs – Just below four sentences per paragraph.  Usually four sentences in a paragraph would be quite easy to understand, but the 19.8 words per sentence, added some difficulty for his target audience.
  • Characters per words – Obama’s words had an average of 4.5 letters in them, a bit longer than typical for him.
  • Flesch Reading Ease – Reading Ease came in at 59.1. The Closer to 100, the easier to read.  This is well within the normal range for Oval Office Addresses.
  • Flesch-Kincaid Grade-Level – 9.8 Grade Level.  This is the highest of any major Obama speech.  Obama’s closest match among recent presidents is Ronald Reagan, whose speeches generally ranged from the 9th to 10th grade levels.  (President George W. Bush usually spoke at a seventh grade level.)

Grade-Level comparisons with other speeches of note include:

Kennedy Inaugural Address       10.8

Reagan ‘Tear Down This Wall”   9.8

Lincoln “Gettysburg Address”     9.1

Martin Luther King: ”I have a dream”   8.8

Obama 2004 Democrat Convention      8.3

Obama Victory Speech “Yes, we can”   7.4

“The scores indicate that this was not Obama at his best, especially when attempting make an emotional connection to the American people,” said Paul JJ Payack, president of GLM.  “For example, the numbers are significantly different than the ‘Yes, I can” speech, which many consider his best effort.”

Read More:

How Obama lost control of the oil-spill narrative (Colleen Ross, CBC)

Keep Presidential Speeches Smart (Trevor Butterworth, Forbes)

Textbook Obama (New York Magazine by Chris Bonanos)

Obama Narrative 2.0 (GLM)

The President, the Spill and the Narrative that got away (Simon Mann, The Age)

FAQs about GLM, Paul JJ Payack, and the Million Word March

Obama Narrative 2.0

Five Narratives Compete for the Title Tuesday Night


Austin, TX, June 15, 2010 – There are now five main narrative ‘arcs’ competing for the Obama Narrative 2.0 title, the underlying storyline that will largely define the president in the run-up to the Mid-term elections and, possibly, for time remaining in his term.

The ‘narrative’ refers to the stream of public opinion captured by blogs and other social media outlets on the Internet, as well as the leading print and electronic databases.

The Global Language Monitor’s NarrativeTracker™, found the primary narrative arcs in descending order of importance to be:

1.    Obama as Oil Spill Enabler – OK, he didn’t cause it, but in today’s parlance, he appears to be enabling the perpetrators (BP or British Petroleum).  It’s score was some fifteen times higher than that of No. 5, Healthcare Reform.

2.    Obama as the Big Spender – This is a good story line if your goal is to play to the left.  Independents and the right see it as far less favorable.  Spending is have ten times the impact as that of Healthcare Reform.

3.    Obama as the Chicago-style pol – Since the beginning of the year, this narrative is up 640%.  Good for Chicagoland, not so favorable for the rest of the nation.

4.    Obama as out-of-touch or aloof – Taking time to ascertain whose ‘ass to kick’ and calling in an ever growing number of academics to resolve problems usually left to Red Adair (or Bruce Willis) has resulted in a thirteen hundred percent rise in this narrative arc.

5.    Obama as HealthCare Reformer – The bloom is off this rose far more quickly than such a triumph would typically entail. It has fallen from the No. 1 position just a few months ago.

“As of this moment, Obama Narrative 2.0 will emerge far less favorable than that of 1.0:  the  Washington outsider, who will stare-down both Beltway denizens and Politics as usual,” said Paul JJ Payack, president of GLM.  “The Narratives emerging from this inexorably slowly unfolding ecological disaster are running roughshod over those earlier, far-more positive narratives the president is attempting to revive.

The rise of the narrative can render positions on the issues almost meaningless, since positions now matter less than how they fit into a particular narrative. The NarrativeTracker is more effective in capturing the true opinion of the public because it tracks unfiltered keywords in Social Media and other sources, rather than how that opinion is interpreted by the news media or by pollsters.

The NarrativeTracker is based on the GLM’s Predictive Quantities Indicator™ (PQI™). The PQI tracks the frequency of words and phrases in global print and electronic media on the Internet, throughout the Blogosphere and other social media outlets as well as accessing proprietary databases. The PQI is a weighted index that factors in long-term trends, short-term changes, momentum, and velocity.

About the Global Language Monitor

Austin-Texas-based Global Language Monitor analyzes and catalogues the latest trends in word usage and word choices, and their impact on the various aspects of culture, with a particular emphasis upon Global English. For more information, call 1.925.367.7557, send email to pjjp@post@harvard.edu, or visit www.LanguageMonitor.com.

Making ‘One Whole’ After the Spill

The Associated Press

By Cristina Silva, Saint Petersburg Times

Lambasted by charges that his response to the gulf oil spill comes across as emotionally flat, President Barack Obama has made repeated vows to stand by the victims “until they are made whole.”

His ambitious promise now stands as the rhetoric of choice among political leaders looking to sympathize with those affected by the environmental and financial crisis. Coast Guard Rear Adm. Mary Landry and Gov. Charlie Crist have made near identical pledges and a trio of Democratic congressmen demanded oil giant BP postpone $10 billion in dividend payments to stockholders until “the people of the gulf (are) made whole.”

Problem is, what does it mean?

”That is the one question I have been asking for five weeks,” said Orange Beach Mayor Tony Kennon, who fears the sheets of oil sliding toward the shores of his Alabama tourist haven will bring new financial hardships after weeks of canceled hotel reservations and half-empty seafood shacks. “That is the one question we need to know before we can move forward.”

Politicians are well aware of the power of words.

Obama, a legal scholar with a penchant for headline-grabbing speeches, hasn’t elaborated on his definition of “made whole,” but his repetition suggests he thinks it is a good message. It means he wants to help. It means he cares. But, as with many political messages, “made whole” has more than one layer.

In legal jargon, “made whole” implies full restitution. A stolen laptop is replaced. Hospital bills are paid. A cracked windshield is repaired.

But the Gulf of Mexico crisis likely won’t be so easily resolved. Some losses could be hard to prove in court or even single out, creating a complicated web of cause and effect that might not immediately produce a culprit, said economic and legal scholars.

”What (Obama) said is true. They (BP) are going to be responsible for the damage they did,” said Fred Levin, a trial lawyer in Pensacola. “The question is, what is the damage they did?”

In other words, will those indirectly hurt by the oil spill be “made whole,” too? Or does the promise only apply to the victims who can successfully make their case in court?

Consider some potential ramifications. If affected business owners can no longer afford to send their children to private schools, should the schools file a claim? If the private schools hire fewer teachers because of declining enrollment, do the unemployed teachers get help? And if those teachers then can no longer afford to buy quality meat from the local supermarket, how does the supermarket prove its losses are tied to the oil spill?

It’s simply not clear, said Peter Henning, a former federal prosecutor who teaches criminal law at Wayne State University in Detroit.

”To the extent you are talking about just the cleanup, yes, BP is on the hook, but to the extent that you are saying we are going to return these communities to what they were, the law does not appear to extend that far,” he said. “While it is couched in legal terms, this is really more of a political promise than a legal assertion.”

Wordsmiths countered “made whole” is not an abstract concept.

”To ‘make whole’ means exactly what it says, meaning not to kind of prop you up, not to give you some aid, but to put you back precisely where you were,” said Paul JJ Payack , president of the Global Language Monitor based in Austin, Texas, which analyzes speech. “It is a very precise choice of words and they know it.”

BP so far has paid $49 million to individuals or small businesses through its claims process and sent out roughly 18,000 checks, spokesman Max McGahan said.

”We have said we will compensate individuals and businesses in full for whatever damages or loss of income has resulted from the oil spill. We have made that commitment very clearly,” McGahan said.

He declined to address the “made whole” pledge.

Read More in the St Petersburg Times

The President, the Spill and the Narrative that got away

SIMON MANN, The Age, Sydney Australia

The White House lost control of the story, and now Obama is painted as the bad guy.

These days, if you hadn’t already noticed, everyone and everything is ascribed a ”narrative”, something that is to be owned and shaped, that tells a particular story in a particular fashion.

Narratives aren’t necessarily truthful accounts, but they are often powerful and persuasive. They can also be hijacked. If you neglect to write your own narrative, somebody else will write it for you. Which is why US President Barack Obama is no longer travelling to Australia and Indonesia this month. Essentially, his administration lost control of the narrative of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

Others have been its lead authors, constructing a story that reads like this: the White House allowed BP too much licence in running the operation to fix the crippled Deepwater Horizon well, too readily trusting the oil giant’s version of events; it left the US Coast Guard alone to marshal the federal response; and it was slow to pick up on the exasperated cries of Gulf communities readying for environmental and economic catastrophe. The authors dared even to suggest that the spill looms as Obama’s “Katrina”.

The President’s response to contentious issues has often been characterised as more cerebral than heartfelt. This is the guy, after all, who makes Cool Hand Luke look jumpy and uptight. And the media has long invited him to “get angry” and “get even”.

It’s not that the administration hasn’t put the hours into combating America’s worst-ever environmental mishap.

Read and See More including ‘Kick ass’ Obama slams critics video where US President Barack Obama rebuts claims that he has been slow to react to the oil spill catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico.

Media Alert!  Global Language Monitor will be releasing its latest Narrative Tracker on The Spill on June 14th


Tracking the Gulf Oil Spill Narrative


Obama vs. BP, Exxon Valdez vs. Katrina, Biblical Prophesies, etc.

The development of the Gulf Oil Spill narrative is important since he who wins control of the narrative, controls      the story in terms of political capital – for good or ill.

Austin, TX, June 02, 2010 — In an exclusive analysis by The Global Language Monitor’s NarrativeTracker™, there are now several differing story lines emerging from the Gulf Oil Spill.

The ‘narrative’ refers to the stream of public opinion captured by blogs and othersocial media outlets on the Internet, as well as the leading print and electronic databases.

The Narratives emerging from this on-going (and slow-moving) disaster include:

· Obama was Slow to Respond – 95% of the social media conversations characterize the President Obama as ‘slow to respond’.

· Obama vs. BP: who’s in charge? — 52% see BP in charge of the spill. This may or may not be a political liability. Democrats need the blame assigned to BP; at the same time, Obama needs to be seen as in overall control of the disaster.

· Worst environmental disaster ever – 42% see the current spill the worst environmental disaster ever.

· Federal Response — 57% see the Federal response using ‘poor’ or related keywords. Not a good month for the Feds; come to think of it, not a good year for the Feds.

· Katrina vs. Exxon Valdez – 61% make the comparison to the Exxon Valdez; about 39% compare the ongoing spill to the inundation of New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

· Biblical Prophecies Abound Once More — About 61% of all references involve the Bible. (Even Ted Turner has a theory how the oil spill might be a warning from God.) These are markedly different in tone than those used with Katrina where the references focused on apocalyptic imagery, End-of-the-World scenarios and doom.

· The Obama Style of Leadership – This is a close one 52% see Obama as ‘hand’s on’ leadership, 48% see ‘hand’s off’. Again, this is either positive or negative depending on your political bias. Ronald Reagan was seen as a ‘hand’s off’ president and that was considered good. Jimmy Carter was a ‘hand’s on’ type president and that was considered bad.

“The development of the Gulf Oil Spill narrative is important to track since he who wins control of the narrative, controls the story in terms of political capital – for good or ill,” said Paul JJ Payack, president and chief word analyst of GLM. “With the mid-term elections just five months away, and the prospect of the Gulf Oil Spill continuing unabated for months, control of the narrative is more important than ever.”

The rise of the narrative can render positions on the issues almost meaningless, since positions now matter less than how they fit into a particular narrative. The NarrativeTracker is more effective in capturing the true opinion of the public because it tracks unfiltered keywords in Social Media and other sources, rather than how that opinion is interpreted by the news media or by pollsters.

The term ‘narrative’ in this sense is now appearing thousands of times in the global media on the Internet and blogosphere as well as throughout the world of social media, meaning the main streams of public opinion running in the media that needs to be fed, encouraged, diverted or influenced by any means possible.

GLM recently announced The Healthcare NarrativeTracker Index™ (NTI™), in partnership with OpenConnect Systems of Dallas. The Healthcare NTI is the first product specifically designed to use social media-based monitoring to better understand the issues driving healthcare reform, providing a real-time, accurate picture of what the public is saying about any topic related to healthcare, at any point in time.

The NarrativeTracker is based on the GLM’s Predictive Quantities Indicator™ (PQI™). The PQI tracks the frequency of words and phrases in global print and electronic media on the Internet, throughout the Blogosphere and other social media outlets as well as accessing proprietary databases. The PQI is a weighted index that factors in long-term trends, short-term changes, momentum, and velocity.

Quantifying the Gulf Oil Spill

A Technical Communications Perspective


How about 50,000 Cars on the Pacific Coast Highway?

Or a 747 with 500 on board flying for 57 minutes?

Austin, Texas, May 20, 2010 — What does 5,000 (or 50,000) barrels of oil a day mean to you?  We’ve been hearing that number for almost a month now.  And there is some debate whether or not those are accurate numbers.  But what does it mean other than ‘a whole lotta oil’?  This is the question that Global Language Monitor President, Paul JJ Payack examined over the last few days in the following analysis.

Metric Conversion:  1 gallon = 3.79 liters; 1 barrel = 158.98 liters; 1 mile = 1.61 kilometers


Listen or Read: KUHF — Analyst Puts BP Gulf Oil Spill Into Perspectiveto Quantify the Oil Spill at 50,000 Barrels Per Day?

Back when I taught technical and scientific communications at the University of Massachusetts, a key function was to make physical dimensions meaningful to the audience, so we would describe a mainframe computer as the size of a washing machine (used to be an 18 wheeler), a server might be the size of a breadbox (though few have actually seen a breadbox nowadays but we all know it’s about ‘yeah big’).  In the same manner Jupiter is about the size of 80,000 Earths, the Moon’s diameter is about equal to the width of the continental US (or the distance from New York to LA), and you could stuff approximately one million Earths into the Sun.

When you describe the volume of a liquid, such as water, you make comparisons like ‘if you emptied Lake Tahoe – which is nearly 1000 feet deep — and spread about 14 inches over the entire state’.

In terms of energy usage, a common description is to equate a megawatt to the number of homes for which it supplies power.  So a one megawatt nuclear reactor, or wind farm, can power about a thousand American homes, or 10,000 homes in less-developed parts of the world.

So what does the 5,000 to 50,000 barrels a day mean?   First question is ‘what’s a barrel’?’  A barrel is filled with forty-two gallons of oil.  So 5,000 to 50,000 barrels equates to some 210,000 to 2.1 million gallons (or 16.8 million half-pints if you’re thinking in terms small milk cartons distributed in schools).

It does not help, of course, when the CEO of BP likens the spill to a drop in the bucket in relation to the capacity of the oceans.  This strikes most people as condescending but it is actually NOT true.  It is far less than a drop in the bucket when compared to the size of the seas, which contain about 321 million cubic miles of water, so even if the spill is now 1 mile deep by 1 mile wide, by 1 mile in height (USGS numbers) that would be far less than a drop (1 part oil to 321,000,000 parts water).  (Though I am definitely not using this explanation to support BP’s argument here.)

Put another way, in light sweet crude you get about 19.5 gallons of gasoline from the 42 gallons of oil.  Now if a typical car gets about 20 mpg on the highway, that would be equivalent to about 390 miles per barrel.

This is the distance from Los Angeles to San Francisco (actually 383 miles). So if the spill has been spewing 5,000 to 50,000 barrels per day since April 20; that is enough to power 5,000 to 50,000 cars a day along the Pacific Coast highway (or the I-5) from San Francisco to LA.

One more equivalency.  747 aircraft in flight with about 500 people on board are estimated to use about use about a gallon of kerosene a second. About 4.1 gallons are distilled from each barrel of oil.  So 5,000 barrels of crude oil produce 20,500 gallons of kerosene, while 50,000 barrels of oil produce 205,000 gallons of kerosene.

This means 5,000 barrels enables a 747 with 500 passengers to fly 5.7 minutes, while the amount of kerosene from 50,000 barrels of crude oil will allow the same plane to fly almost an hour (56.9 minutes).

NarrativeTracker Analysis Reveals Top Buzzwords in Healthcare Narrative

Top Buzzwords:  Rationing, Out-of-control Spending, Price Controls, Non-sustainable, and Mandate Failure

Dallas and Austin, Texas, May 13, 2010 — In what could presage mounting difficulties for the national healthcare reform roll-out, the top buzzwords associated with the Massachusetts Healthcare Reform ‘narrative’ have been found to be Rationing, Out-of-control-spending, Price Controls, Non-sustainable, and Mandate Failure.   In addition, Gaming the System was the key underlying trend that was discovered.   The results of the Healthcare NarrativeTracker Index™ (NTI™) were reported earlier today by The Global Language Monitor, the media analytics company, and OpenConnect, an innovator in defining and improving process efficiency.

The NTI focused on the unfolding narrative about the Massachusetts Healthcare Reform Law since it is frequently cited as a model for the national legislation.  The analysis was performed to better understand and help clarify the national healthcare reform discourse.

“There is a very good possibility that what we are learning from the Massachusetts Healthcare Reform can be applied directly to the national healthcare reform act,” said Edward ML Peters, CEO of OpenConnect, “And what we are seeing there is a perfect storm of ‘rationing’, out-of-control ‘spending’, ‘price controls’ and ‘unsustainability’ — that have now moved to the forefront of the Massachusetts discussion.”

The top concerns from the on-going narrative concerning Massachusetts Healthcare Reform Law in the immediate aftermath of “The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act” being signed into law include:

1.  Rationing – Along with related keywords (allocation, etc.) was a strong No.1

2.  Spending Increase – References involving increased spending up 400% for the year

3.  Price Controls — A growing concern; up 1400% for the year

4.  Non-sustainable – Scored 40% higher than ‘sustainable’

5.  Mandate Failure – Experiencing a sustained rise

The NarrativeTracker also found these key underlying trends (nTracker Arc) that are foundational to the main narrative.

1.     The question of quality is supplanted by the issue of ‘fairness’ with fairness being driven by the ‘gaming the system’ arc.

2.     Gaming has come to the fore with stories of individuals abusing (or outsmarting) the system by signing up for healthcare only when a medical procedure is looming.   (In this scenario, the average cost of a month of coverage is $600 while the procedures average about $10,000.)

3.  The mentions of ‘failure’ with the keyword ‘reform’ have been rising steeply, some 240% in the last 60 days.

The analysis was completed in early May 2010.

The NarrativeTracker Index is the first product specifically designed to use social media-based monitoring to better understand the issues driving healthcare reform.  Because the Healthcare NTI is based on the national discourse, it provides a real-time, accurate picture of what the public is saying about any topic related to healthcare, at any point in time.  In addition to the NTI, the nTracker Arc™ follows the rise and fall of sub-stories within the main narrative to provide a comprehensive overview of the opinions surrounding a single issue.

The ‘narrative’ refers to the stream of public opinion captured by blogs and other social media outlets on the Internet.   The rise of the narrative actually renders positions on the issues almost meaningless, since positions now matter less than how they fit into a particular narrative.

The NTI is based on the GLM’s Predictive Quantities Indicator™ (PQI™).  The PQI tracks the frequency of words and phrases in global print and electronic media on the Internet, throughout the Blogosphere and other social media outlets as well as accessing proprietary databases.  The PQI is a weighted index that factors in long-term trends, short-term changes, momentum, and velocity.

The Healthcare NTI will be released on a monthly basis beginning Thursday, May 13, 2010.  The first analysis details the various narratives surrounding Massachusetts Healthcare reform, a healthcare model which has been adopted in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, more commonly known as the national healthcare reform bill.

For more information, call 1.925.367.7557, send email to pauljjpayack@gmail.com, or visit www.LanguageMonitor.com.

NarrativeTracker: the First Social Media-based Tracking Tool Announced


Click here for a NarrativeTracker Overview


NarrativeTracker Index™ to provide policy-makers unbiased public opinion on Healthcare Reform

Dallas and Austin, Texas, May 12, 2010 —  Today OpenConnect Systems and The Global Language Monitor have announced the joint launch of the Healthcare NarrativeTracker Index™ (NTI™), the first product specifically designed to use social media-based monitoring to better understand the issues driving healthcare reform. Because the Healthcare NTI is based on the national discourse, it provides a real-time, accurate picture of what the public is saying about any topic related to healthcare, at any point in time. In addition to the NTI, the Narrative Tracker Arc™ follows the rise and fall of sub-stories within the main narrative to provide a comprehensive overview of the opinions surrounding a single issue.

The ‘narrative’ refers to the stream of public opinion captured by blogs and other social media outlets on the Internet. The rise of the narrative actually renders positions on the issues almost meaningless, since positions now matter less than how they fit into a particular narrative.

“Just as the OpenConnect Comprehend solution provides an unprecedented view into a company’s workflows looking for process variations that drive inefficiency and waste, NTI tracks the ‘narrative’ of a subject, as well as projecting future trajectories for the narrative,” said Edward ML Peters, CEO of OpenConnect.

The result has several advantages over traditional polls:

1) Immediacy

2) The lack of any bias that tends to creep into traditional polling, e.g., when individuals answer questions with what they think are the ‘correct’ answers rather than their true opinions.

3) NTI lets policy and decision makers focus on the true issues driving perceptions and concerns rather than being driven by false and phantom concepts.

In addition, the Narrative Tracker Arc™ follows the rise and fall of sub-stories within the main narrative.

“The goal of influencers, whether it’s the media, advertisers or politicians, is to spin news so that it resonates best with their target audience,” said Paul JJ Payack, President and Chief Word Analyst of GLM.  NTI is more effective in capturing the true opinion of the public because it tracks unfiltered keywords in Social Media and other sources, rather than how that opinion is interpreted by the news media or by pollsters.”

The NTI is based on the GLM’s Predictive Quantities Indicator™ (PQI™). The PQI tracks the frequency of words and phrases in global print and electronic media on the Internet, throughout the Blogosphere and other social media outlets as well as accessing proprietary databases. The PQI is a weighted index that factors in long-term trends, short-term changes, momentum, and velocity.

The Healthcare NTI will be released on a monthly basis beginning Thursday, May 13, 2010. The first analysis details the various narratives surrounding Massachusetts Healthcare reform, a healthcare model which has been adopted in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, more commonly known as the national healthcare reform bill.

About Open Connect

OpenConnect business process discovery and analytics deliver event-driven intelligence to automatically discover workforce, process and customer variations that hinder operational efficiency. Armed with this information, executives can make the quick and incremental improvements that will increase process efficiency, improve employee productivity, reduce cost, and raise profitability. With a rich history of developing innovative technology, OpenConnect products are distributed in more than 60 countries and used by more than 60 percent of Fortune 100 companies. For more information on OpenConnect, visit www.oc.com.

About The Global Language Monitor

Austin-Texas-based Global Language Monitor analyzes and catalogues the latest trends in word usage and word choices, and their impact on the various aspects of culture, with a particular emphasis upon Global English.

Since 2003, GLM has launched a number of innovative products and services monitoring the Internet, the Blogosphere, Social Media as well as the Top 25,000 print and electronic media sites.

Go to NarrativeTracker Page

For more information on NarrativeTracker, call 1.925.367.7557, or send email to PaulJJPayack@gmail.com , or visit www.LanguageMonitor.com.


BMW Group Award für Interkulturelles Engagement
Aktuell & Wissenswert

To read this article in German (02 27 other languages) go to our sister site, Mojofiti.

No noising, please.
Vor kurzem erzielte die englische Sprache einen Weltrekord. Mehr als eine Million Wörter umfasst das Englische nun, laut dem in Austin (Texas) ansässigen Global Language Monitor (GLM), einer Institution, die seit 1999 die Anzahl der Wörter in der englischen Sprache zählt. Zum Vergleich: Die spanische Sprache umfasst etwa 275.000 Wörter, Französisch gerade einmal 100.000.

„Englisch ist eine offene Sprache und absorbiert Wörter sehr schnell“, so der Linguist, Wortanalyst und Gründer des GLM Paul Payack. „Die Franzosen sagen nicht Computer sondern L’Ordinateur. Amerikaner haben kein Problem mit Wörtern wie ‚Kindergarten‘ oder ‚Croissant‘. Sogar ‚Ketchup‘, die Bezeichnung für ein urtypisches amerikanisches Produkt, ist eigentlich ein Wort aus dem Kantonesischen.“

Durch die weltweite Verbreitung der englischen Sprache, erst durch das britische Empire und später durch die von den USA vorangetriebene Globalisierung, hat sich die Aufnahme neuer Wörter noch beschleunigt, so Payack.

Eine noch fundamentalere Evolution erlebt die Sprache jedoch durch die Entkopplung der englischen Muttersprachler von der Verwendung „ihrer“ Sprache. „Wenn sich ein Chinese und ein Franzose unterhalten, dann höchstwahrscheinlich auf Englisch“, erklärt Payack. „Englische Muttersprachler sind daran gar nicht mehr beteiligt. Nun reden diese beiden aber natürlich kein Oxford-Englisch, sondern eine sehr regional geprägte Variante des Englischen: Der Chinese fügt vielleicht am Ende einer Frage ein typisches chinesisches Fragewort wie „ma“ ein und der Franzose benutzt französischen Satzbau.“

So entsteht beispielsweise das Phänomen des sogenannten „Chinglish“ oder „Spanglish“, Mischungen aus dem Englischen und Chinesischen oder Spanischen. Neben neuen Wörtern wie „no noising“ statt „quite please“ oder „airline pulp“ für „airline food“, entstehen so auch ganz neue Sprachstrukturen. Die pure Menge der Nichtmuttersprachler, die Englisch in ihrem täglichen Leben verwenden, ist zu einer treibenden Kraft in der Entwicklung der Sprache geworden. Dieser Prozess führt zur Entstehung einer Spielart des Englischen, die man zum Beispiel auf internationalen Tagungen oder anderen Gelegenheiten beobachten kann, bei denen viele Nichtmuttersprachler gemeinsam auf Englisch kommunizieren. „An Universitäten und in Unternehmen auf der ganzen Welt und vor allem im Internet: Überall und zu jeder Zeit wird englisch von zahllosen Nichtmuttersprachlern gesprochen. Das führt mit Sicherheit zur größten Evolution, die die englische Sprache jemals erlebt hat”, so Payack. „Auch wenn das sehr lange dauern würde, ein solcher Prozess könnte sogar zur Entstehung einer vollkommen neuen Weltsprache führen.“

Solche Szenarien, die konservative Sprachschützer in den Wahnsinn treiben würden, lassen Sprachforscher wie Paul Payack jedoch kalt. Im Gegenteil: Payack begrüßt den Wandel. „Wir haben keine Institutionen die bestimmen, so wird Englisch gesprochen und so nicht. Die englische Sprache bleibt flexibel und kann sich der Zeit anpassen. Ich denke, das ist auch besser so.“

Webseite des „Global Language Monitor“:
http://www.languagemonitor.com


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Pomona College Ranked Sixth in Media Awareness

Pomona College is currently ranked sixth out of all colleges on The Global Language Monitor’s TrendTopper MediaBuzz College and University Rankings.

The report, released biannually, ranks colleges and universities in terms of their presence in international print and electronic media. The report is meant to assess schools’ media awareness and global reputations.

Pomona rose from its position of 21 in the spring 2009 college rankings to sixth this previous fall. The top-ranked college was Wellesley College, while the University of Michigan topped the university rankings.

“During 2008-09, Pomona College was mentioned more than 2,800 times in print, broadcast, and on online news sites, a record for the nine years we’ve been tracking,” said Cynthia Peters, Director of Media Relations at Pomona College.  (Read More.)

GLM’s Top 300 Colleges and Universities Spring 2010 Edition will be released Week of May 24th.

See November Rankings here.

Read more

EC Multilingualism News — Can you say Eyjafjallajoekull?

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A Texas-based language expert group said Eyjafjallajoekull, the Icelandic volcano paralysing air traffic recently, appears 2 million times on Google but can be pronounced by only 320,000 people.

Eyjafjallajökull

Paul J.J. Payack, president and chief word analyst of the Global Language Monitor, said Eyjafjallajoekull is unlikely to appear in English-language dictionaries anytime soon.

Did you know?

There are many examples of proper names becoming common words, including caesarian section, named after Julius Caesar, who was ‘plucked from his mother’s womb’ or saxophone after its Belgian inventor Adolphe Sax. Such words are called ‘eponyms’ and are quite common in all languages. Eyjafjallajoekull, however, is unlikely to make such a career.

The Global Language Monitor in Austin, Texas, documents, analyzes and tracks trends in language the world over, with a particular emphasis upon Global English.

Find out about the correct pronunciation of Eyjafjallajoekull and many other interesting things related to the media, words and the impact of language on various aspects of culture on the website of the Global Language Monitor.

Watch this video to polish your pronunciation of Eyjafjallajoekull.

Iceland’s volcano a mouthful to say

CNN
By Tom Watkins, CNN
April 21, 2010 — Updated 0423 GMT (1223 HKT)
Click to play
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Media outlets differ on pronunciation
  • Google search finds more than 2.5 million citations for the word

(CNN) — An event as big as a volcano that disrupts transportation around the globe might be expected to have its name added to the English lexicon, perhaps meaning “to cause widespread disruption,” an English-language monitor said Tuesday.

“People talk about a ‘Krakatau,’ right?” said Paul JJ Payack, president and chief word analyst of the Global Language Monitor, in a telephone interview. He was referring to the 1883 eruption of a volcano in Indonesia that unleashed a tsunami that killed more than 34,000 people.

Payack’s Austin-Texas-based monitor analyzes and catalogues trends in word usage and word choices and their impact on culture, with an emphasis on English.

“Tsunami” itself has gained in usage since the 2004 South Asia event that left 245,000 people dead or missing across the region, said Payack.

“When prices collapsed economically, the first thing that they called it was an ‘economic tsunami,'” he said.

But what happens when that volcano’s name is Eyjafjallajokull, as in the Icelandic volcano whose ash clouds have grounded thousands of flights worldwide?

Payack was not optimistic. “I’ve never heard anybody pronounce it right yet, and I couldn’t even try,” he said.

“There are very few words that appear millions of times in print yet can be pronounced by so few.”

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–Paul J.J. Payack, president of Global Language Monitor

More

Eyjafjallajoekull: What happens if a volcano erupts and no one can pronounce its name?

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Austin, Texas, April 20, 2010 — Eyjafjallajoekull , the Icelandic volcano that has been disrupting airborne transportation systems around the globe, would ordinarily stand an excellent chance of becoming an English language word at some time in the future, perhaps meaning to cause widespread disruption.  A word that evolves from a name is called an eponym.  Eyjafjallajoekull is already cited some two million times on Google. But a larger question arises: can a word enter the English language if only 320,000 can pronounce it (and most of those are citizens of Iceland)?

“A dictionary contains the spoken words in a language and those used in the written form of the spoken language known as exposition,” said Paul JJ Payack, president and Chief Word Analyst of the Global Language Monitor.  “However, there are very few words that appear millions of times in print yet can be pronounced by so few.”

Over the course of its 1400-year old history, scores of proper names have moved into the English language.  Examples include caesarian section, named after Julius Caesar, who was ‘plucked from his mother’s womb’; cardigan sweater, worn by the 7th Earl of Cardigan (who also led the Charge of the Light Brigade); and shakespearean, a supreme literary accomplishment named after the Bard, among many others.  There are approximately 1.53 billion English speakers that can readily pronounce each of these.  Eyjafjallajoekull is another matter entirely.

For the record, Eyjafjallajoekull is pronounced ay-yah-FYAH-plah-yer-kuh-duhl.

A recession neither great nor small …


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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, carried out, in von Clausewitz’s words ‘by other means’.

Austin, Texas, April 16, 2010 — Originally alluded to as a ‘Financial Tsunami’ or ‘Financial Meltdown,’ the major global media seem to have gained a consensus as ‘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’.

“We believe the difficulty here stems from the fact that this economic crisis is difficult to express in words,” said Paul JJ Payack, president of the Global Language Monitor, “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.

By Paul JJ Payack and Edward ML Peters

What do top English words tell?

By Xiao Xiaoyan (China Daily)

Ten years ago, no one had heard of “H1N1”, “Web 2.0”, “n00b”, or talked about “de-friending” someone on “Twitter” or “Facebook”. Now these are part of people’s everyday vocabulary.

The world is changing. Inevitably, so are our words.

The English language is going through an explosion of word creation. New words are coined – some, like “n00b”, may not even look like words; old words take on new meanings – “twitter” today bears little relation to the Middle English twiteren. According to the Global Language Monitor (GLM), in 2009 the English language tipped the scales with a vocabulary of one million words. Not good news for the 250 million people acquiring English in China.

GLM, the San Diego-based language watcher, publishes annual lists of top words and phrases by tracking words in the global print and electronic media, the Internet, blogs, and social media such as Twitter and YouTube.

Each year’s list reflects major concerns and changes taking place that year. For instance, from the 2009 list, we have to acknowledge the fact that technology is reshaping our ways of living (twitter, web 2.0).

We need to face up to the after-effects of a “financial tsunami” (stimulus, foreclosure), a pandemic (H1N1), the death of revered pop icon (MJ, King of Pop) and the debates over “healthcare reform” and “climate change” that mark the year.

A quick rundown of GLM’s top words/phrases of the decade is precisely like watching clips of a documentary of the decade. From the lists we are reminded of the series of world-shaping events from 9/11(2001), tsunami (2004) to H1N1 (2009), and we see the huge impact the Internet and new technologies have made on our lives, from the burst of the “dot.com bubble” (2000) to blog (2003), Google (2007) and Twitter (2009), which represent a new trend in social interaction.

The lists are also witnesses of the influences of entertainment sector such as the film “Brokeback” (2004) a new term for gay to “Vampire” (2009), now a symbol of unrequited love. Michael Phelps’s 8-gold-medal accomplishments at the Beijing Olympics had created a Phelpsian (2008) pheat.

The Chinese equivalence of top words came in a more complex fashion. First there are lists of expressions only, not single words. Second, there exist two completely separate lists. One is the list of top expressions from mainstream print media, while the other popular Internet expressions is selected annually from netizen votes.

The mainstream list first appeared in 2002; the Internet version came out in 1999. What is most interesting is that the top expressions on the two sets of lists rarely overlap: The one being mostly concerned with what is public, official, involving macro concerns and interests; the other being private and personal, reflecting attitudes and feelings of the younger generation.

Just like the English top words lists, the Chinese mainstream lists also reflect major events, albeit with a different angle, for instance, anti-terror (2002), Saddam Hussein (2003), bird flu (2004), prisoner abuse (2004) and G20 Summit (2009). The Chinese press also seem much more concerned with the two Olympics and the two World Cups taking place during the decade.

Internet-spawned new words are also creeping into the Chinese language: texting, blog, Baidu (Google’s main competitor in China) and QQ (the Chinese social-networking site) became buzz-words in China, though somewhat later than their English counterparts.

The Chinese entertainment sector is leaving a much bigger impact on the language. Famous lines from Chinese movies or popular shows pass on to become everyday expressions. For instance, “Integrity makes the man” from Cell Phone; “You will pay for what you have done sooner or later” from the Hong Kong movie “Infernal Affairs,” which most Chinese people believe was copied by Hollywood in “The Departed.” ” Money is not a problem” a theme line from a popular skit has become the standard version to satirize certain Chinese people’s pompous attitude to money and concern over face rather than over efficiency.

Green living as a concept is becoming a focus of concern in China too, though on a delayed time schedule. Compared with the fact that “climate change” has dominated the English lists since 2000, the Chinese version didn’t become a top expression till 2009, though expressions like “energy-conservation society” and “energy conservation and emissions reduction” did make their way to the 2005 and 2008 lists.

Although Chinese top expressions demonstrate similar trends to those in English, there are a few most distinctive features. A strong political flavor is found in the Chinese list as reflected in top expressions like the Three Represents (2002), Scientific Approach to Development (2004), and Peaceful Development (2005).

Another most outstanding feature of the Chinese lists is the contrast between the mainstream print media and the Internet: The English lists represent the spread of words in both print and digital media, the Internet, blogs and social media. The Chinese Internet buzzwords are mostly used on the Internet; although many have passed on into everyday life, only a small number have crept into the mainstream media.

Unlike the mainstream media, popular Internet expressions represent what the ordinary Chinese people are actually talking about in non-official contexts. Most of the expressions are highly colloquial, living, creative, and can be cynical. Some of the expressions reveal the new values and attitudes towards current affairs. For instance, da jiang you, which literally means “on the way to get soy sauce”, speaks of a “not concerned” or “staying out of it” attitude. This attitude is also reflected in the expression: zuo fu wo cheng, which literally means “doing push-ups”, in other words not paying any attention to what’s happening.

Some Internet words have gained acceptance in the mainstream media. For instance shan zhai, which literally means “mountain village”. It has now been adapted to mean “counterfeit”, or things done in parody, as in “shanzhai mobile phones”, “shanzhai New Year’s Eve Gala”, and even “shanzhai celebrities”.

From a linguistic point of view, language is simply a tool for communication. When new ideas and concepts pop up, language needs to adapt itself to allow the communication of these ideas and concepts. If the Internet is reshaping our lives, the net-language is only reflecting such changes.

The author is associate professor at the English Department of Xiamen University.

(China Daily 04/16/2010 page9)

The Narrative: Top Political Buzzword for Midterm Elections

Austin, Texas, April 5, 2010 — “The Narrative’ is the Top Political Buzzword for the upcoming election cycle, according to a global Internet and media analysis by Austin-based Global Language Monitor.  GLM has been monitoring political buzzwords since 2003.


Read about The Narrative in Congressional Quarterly’s Political Wire.

“The Narrative” is now appearing thousands of times in the global media on the Internet and blogosphere as well as throughout the world of social media.  The current ‘sense’ of the ancient phrase is being used as the main stream of public opinion running in the media that needs to be fed, encouraged, diverted or influenced by any means possible.

Current examples include:

  • “Barack Obama, US president, has lost control of the political narrative …” Financial Times, Feb 15.
  • “The Start of a New Obama Narrative” (Huffington Post, March 26)
  • “The Obama White House has lost the narrative in the way that the Obama campaign never did” (New York Times, March 6)
  • “Ok. Has the narrative changed because of the health care success? (Washington Post, March 26)
  • “The only thing that changes is the narrative.” (CNN, March 23)

“The rise of the ‘The Narrative’ actually renders actual positions on the issues almost meaningless, since the positions now matter less than what they seem to mean.” said Paul JJ Payack, President and Chief Word Analyst of GLM. “The goal of political campaigns now is to spin a storyline that most ‘resonates’ with the electorate, or segments thereof”.

Read the discussion generated by MinnPost’s Eric Black

The word ‘narrative’ comes to us from the 16th century and traditionally means something told in the form of a story.  It is ultimately from the Latin, narrativus, meaning something told, related or revealed (as in a story).  One of the best-known examples is The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglas.

The Global Language Monitor has been tracking political buzzwords since the turn of the century.

  • Top Political Buzzword of the 2000 Presidential Election was ‘Chad’.
  • Top Political Buzzword of the 2004 Presidential Election was ‘Incivil’ as in the InCivil War, alluding to the vicious war of words between the Kerry and Bush (43) camps.
  • Top Political Buzzword of the 2008 Presidential Election was ‘Change’.

More recently, GLM has tracked the following about political buzzwords in the media:

To track political buzzwords, Global Language Monitor uses the Predictive Quantities Index, a proprietary algorithm that tracks words and phrases in print and electronic media, on the Internet and throughout the blogosphere, now including social media. The words and phrases are tracked in relation to their frequency, contextual usage and appearance in global media outlets.

Who really won in Vancouver: Ambushers

Four of the five top brands at the Winter Games


Red Bull Top Ambush Marketer at Vancouver Olympics

Proctor & Gamble, the No. 1 Olympic Sponsor of Any Type

Ambushers Pepsi and Verizon Best Sponsors Coca-Cola and AT&T

Subway Still Strong

“Gang of Five” Canadians beat all IOC sponsors except Visa


Austin, TX March 24, 2010 – The final TrendTopper Ambush Index™ of the Vancouver Winter Olympics 2010 by Austin-based Global Language Monitor, has shown, once again, how companies adept at associating themselves with an event, even though they are not ‘official’ sponsors of that event, can often outperform official sponsors.

Specifically, for the Vancouver Olympics, TrendTopper AI has found that:

  • Red Bull and the Martin Scorsese film ‘Shutter Island’ are the top Ambush Marketers.  ‘Shutter Island’ forged its Olympic linkage by running innumerable prime-time ads during NBC’s exclusive coverage of the event.
  • Ambusher Pepsi beat sponsor Coca-Cola; Ambusher Verizon beat sponsor AT&T
  • Subway, with it ongoing campaign with mega-medal winner Michael Phelps maintained strong ties to the Games
  • The ‘Gang of Five,’ the smaller Canadian Ambushers (Blenz Coffee, Howe Sound Brewing, Lululemon, Scotiabank, and Roots Canada) all beat all IOC sponsors with the exception of Visa (which was bested by four of the five).
  • Proctor & Gamble performed surprisingly well as No. 2 overall and the No. 1 Sponsor of any type.

In addition, the analysis found that past official sponsors appear to bask in the glow of their Olympic association for some time after the quadrennial event with past-sponsor Lenovo outpacing current sponsors Acer and Samsung.

“Do Olympic Sponsorships actually pay off for official sponsors?  That’s the question that has advertisers buzzing,” said Paul JJ Payack, president and chief word analyst of GLM.  “Since TrendTopper AI measures all perceived Olympic sponsors according to their presence in the global media, If they are statistically linked to the Vancouver Games, they qualify for the Ambush Index.”

The TrendTopper Ambush Index tracks brand media presence in relation to the Winter Games.  It’s based upon GLM’s Predictive Quantities Index, a proprietary algorithm that tracks words and phrases in print and electronic media, on the Internet and throughout the blogosphere, now including social media. The words and phrases are tracked in relation to their frequency, contextual usage and appearance in global media outlets.

For the 2009 – 2012 Olympic Quadrennial, there are nine Global Partners:  Coca-Cola, Acer, GE, McDonalds, Omega, Panasonic, Samsung, Visa, and AT&T.  The United States Olympic Committee (USOC) has two additional national partners:  P&G and the Budweiser unit of inBev.  The Canadian Olympic committee has a number of local partners, of which five were included:  Deloitte, Tyson Foods, United Airlines, Hilton and Nike.

For this analysis, the Ambush Marketers included:  Verizon, Subway, Pepsi, MasterCard and Adidas in the Global Category.  The National Category included Lululemon Athletica, Blenz Coffee, Roots Canada, Scotiabank and Howe Sound Brewing.  Past sponsors who continue to enjoy the glow of past Olympic associations, such as: Allstate, Bank of America, Home Depot, and Lenovo were also included in the analysis.

The Top Twenty-five marketers as measured by brand media presence in relation to the Winter Games.

` VO Partner Affiliation
Rank
1 Howe Sound Brewing Ambusher
2 P&G USOC
3 Shutter Island Ambusher
4 Scotiabank Ambusher
5 Lululemon Athletica Ambusher
6 United COC
7 Blenz Coffee Ambusher
8 Visa IOC
9 Red Bull Ambusher
10 Tyson COC
11 Roots Canada Ambusher
12 Budweiser USOC
13 McDonalds IOC
14 Pepsi Ambusher
15 Home Depot Inc Tornino USOC
16 Subway Ambusher
17 Verizon Ambusher
18 Hudson’s Bay Ambushed
19 Exxon Mobil Corp Past Sponsor
20 Deloitte COC
21 AT&T IOC
22 Bank of America Torino USOC
23 Nike COC
24 Hilton COC
25 Omega IOC

The complete study of forty brands, with numerical analysis and changes in rankings over the course of the Games is available from the Global Language Monitor by calling 925.367.7557 or visiting www.LanguageMonitor.com.

In the TrendTopper AI analysis, Marketers are ranked both by category and then overall. Rankings are calculated, normalized and cross-indexed.  For trend analysis, momentum and velocity calculations, the TrendTopper AI analysis was run at the halfway point of the Winters Games, with the final tally appearing after the Closing Ceremony.

For more information, call 1.925.367.7557.

Most Confusing High Tech Buzzwords of 2000-2009

Austin, Texas, March 17, 2010 — In conjunction with the SXSW Interactive conference held in its hometown, The Global Language Monitor has released the most confusing high tech buzzwords of the decade (2000-2009). Topping the list are HTTP, Flash, God Particle, Cloud Computing, and Plasma (as in plasma TV). Rounding out the Top Ten were IPOD/IPAD, Megapixel, Nano, Resonate and Virtualization.

The most confusing Acronym for the decade was SOA (Service Oriented Architecture).

“SXSW has long been a harbinger for future directions in popular culture and now the gathering has taken on the added dimension of technological innovation,” said Paul JJ Payack, president of the Global Language Monitor, “The words we use in high technology continue to become even more obtuse even as they move out of the realm of jargon and into the language at large.”

The Global Language Monitor uses a proprietary algorithm, the Predictive Quantities Indicator (PQI) to track the frequency of words and phrases in the global print and electronic media, on the Internet, throughout the Blogosphere, as well as accessing proprietary databases. The PQI is a weighted Index, factoring in: long-term trends, short-term changes, momentum, and velocity.

The Most Confusing High Tech Buzzwords of the decade (2000-2009) with Commentary follow:

1. HTTP — HyperText Transfer Protocol is used for HTML (HyperText Markup Language) files. Not to be confused with text on too much Starbucks.

2. Flash — As in Flash Memory. “Flash’ is easier to say than “ I brought the report on my EEPROM chip with a thin oxide layer separating a floating gate and control gate utilizing Fowler-Nordheim electron tunneling”.

3. God Particle – The Higgs boson, thought to account for mass. The God Particle has eluded discovery since its existence was first postulated some thirty years ago.

4. Cloud Computing – Distributing or accessing programs and services across the Internet. (The Internet is represented as a cloud.)

5. Plasma (as in plasma TV) — Refers less often to blood products than to a kind of television screen technology that uses matrix of gas plasma cells, which are charged by differing electrical voltages to create an image.

6. IPOD – What the Alpha Whale calls his personal pod. Actually, Apple maintains that the idea of the iPod was from the film 2001: A Space Odyssey. The origin of the word IPAD is a completely different story.

7. Megapixel – Either a really large picture element (pixel) or a whole mess of pixels. Actually, one million pixels (that’s a lotta pixels) OK, what’s a pixel? Computer-ese for picture element.

8. Nano – Widely used to describe anything small as in nanotechnology. Like the word ‘mini’ which originally referred to the red hues in Italian miniature paintings, the word nano- is ultimately derived from the ancient Greek word for ‘dwarf’.

9. Resonate – Not the tendency of a system to oscillate at maximum amplitude, but the ability to relate to (or resonate with) a customer’s desires.

10. Virtualization – Around since dinosaurs walked the planet (the late ‘70s) virtualization now applies to everything from infrastructures to I/O.

11. Solution — Ever popular yet still an amorphous description of high tech packages of hardware, software and service

12. Cookie — Without cookies with their ‘persistent state’ management mechanism the web as we know it, would cease to exist.

13. Robust — No one quite knows what it means, but it’s good for your product to demonstrate robustness

14. Emoticon A smiley with an emotional component (from emotional icon). Now, what’s a smiley? :’)

15. De-duping – Shorthand for de-duplication, that is, removing redundant data from a system.

16. Green washing – Repositioning your product so that its shortfalls are now positioned as environmental benefits: Not enough power? Just re-position as energy-saving.

17. Buzzword Compliant — To include the latest buzzwords in literature about a product or service in order to make it ‘resonate’ with the customer.

18. Petaflop — A thousand trillion (or quadrillion) floating point operations per second Often mistaken as a comment on a failed program by an animal rights’ group.

19. Hadron – A particle made of quarks bound together by the strong force; they are either mesons (made of one quark and one anti-quark) or baryons (made of three quarks).

20. Large Hadron Collider – The ‘atom smasher’ located underground outside Geneva. Primarily built to re-create the conditions of creation, 1 trillionth of a second after the Big Bang.

21. Versioning – Creating new revisions (or versions) with fewer bugs and more features.

22. VoIP – Voice Over IP, itself shorthand for Voice over Internet Protocol, which in plain English means the ability to talk on the phone over the Internet.

23. Web 2.0 – Now there’s talk of Web 3.0, just when we were finally getting used to the advances web services called Web 2.0.

24. Word Clouds – Graphic representations of the words used in a text, the more frequently used, the larger the representation.

25. WORM — Not only not a computer virus anymore, let alone a slithery creature of the soil, but “a Write Once, Read Many file system used for optical disk technology

Most Confusing High Tech Acronym of the Decade

SOA – Service Oriented Architecture. Far-and-away No. 1. If it’s so easy to understand, why are hundreds of books written trying to explain exactly what it is.

Early Candidate for Most Confusing High Tech Buzzword of the 2nd Decade of the Century (Possibly a very short decade, Indeed.)

B’ak’tuns – According to the Long-Count Mayan Calendar (high tech for the late A.D.600’s) the end of a ‘Great Cycle’ of thirteen b’ak’tuns (periods of 144,000 days each) since the Mayan creation date of August 11, 3114 BC. According to popular belief, December 21st, 2012 will be the End of the World.

Pandora from Avatar Wins Top HollyWord of 2009

Beats out ‘Hurt Locker’ from The Hurt Locker,

‘Barley Pop’ from Crazy Heart, ‘Vampire’ from Twilight and

‘‘Squeakquel’ from Alvin and the Chipmunks.

7th Annual Global Survey by the Global Language Monitor

Austin, TX. March 12, 2010.  ‘Pandora’ from James Cameron’s Avatar tops the 2009 list of words from Hollywood that most influenced the English Language in 2009 released by the Global Language Monitor.  Closely following were ‘Hurt Locker’ from The Hurt Locker, ‘Barley Pop’ from Crazy Heart, ‘Vampire’ from Twilight and ‘‘Squeakquel’ from Chipmunks.  Rounding out the Top Ten were:  ‘December 21st, 2012’ from the film 2012, ‘Vichy’ from Inglorious Basterds, ‘Her’ from Star Trek, ‘Their’s but to do or die’ from The Blind Side, and ‘Prawns’ from District 9.

Each year, GLM announces the Top Hollywords in conjunction with the annual Oscar ceremony.  The 82nd Annual Academy Awards was held last Sunday at the Kodak Theatre in Los Angeles.

“Last year the top word, ‘Jai Ho!’ was from the other side of the planet; this year it’s from across the Galaxy,” said Paul JJ Payack, President and Chief Word Analyst of the Global Language Monitor.  “In an especially rich year for language, we are also see a slang term for beer, a calendar date, perhaps, the first politically incorrect word for space aliens, and a neologism created for children.”

The Top Hollywords of the 2009 with the largest impact on the English language with commentary follow.

Rank/Word/Film/Comment

1.       Pandora (Avatar) – There are 1,000 words in Na’vi language specifically constructed for Avatar, but the name of the alien planet is originally from classical Greek meaning ‘all blessings or gifts’.  The Pandora’s Box myth has the first mortal woman opening a box that holds all the ills of the world, which inadvertently escape.  A later version has all the blessings of the world escape except for hope, which remains.

2.       Hurt Locker (The Hurt Locker) – In GI vernacular, explosions send you into the ‘hurt locker’, synonymous with ‘a world of hurt’.

3.       Barley Pop (Crazy Heart) – Bad Blake’s reference to beer; similar to ‘oat soda’ and the like.

4.       Vampire (Twilight) – The living dead are enjoying an unprecedented revival in the 21st Century.  Undoubtedly, PhD fodder for sociologists of the future.

5.       Squeakquel – Any movie that gets millions of kids (and parents) to use a neologism with two qq’s in it, should be noted in an influential word list.

6.       December 21, 2012 (2012) – According to some, the end of the world so marked by the Mayan Calendar; actually it is simply the first day of the 14th b’ak’tun in the Long Count calendar of the Maya.

7.       Vichy (Inglorious Basterds) – Shosanna Dreyfus’ suggestion to Frederick on where to find ‘girlfriends’.  Yet another generation is introduced to the seemier side of the Free France narrative.

8.       Her (Star Trek) – “These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Her ongoing mission:  to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life-forms and new civilizations; to boldly go where no one has gone before.”  Several hundred years from now, though ‘man’ is replaced by ‘no one’ in the mission statement, starships apparently proudly maintain their female gender status, ‘Her’.

9.       ‘Their’s but to do or die’  (The Blind Side) – Sean Tuohy teaches Charge of the Light Brigade to Michael.  When was the last time you recall the words of Alfred, Lord Tennyson being recited in a football movie — or anywhere else for that matter?

10.   Prawns (District 9) – Politically incorrect name for Space Aliens in District 9, since they seem to resemble crayfish, crawfish, or crawdads.

Previous Top HollyWord Winners:

2008     “Jai Ho!” Literally ‘Let there be Victory’ in Hindi from “Slumdog Millionaire”

2007     “Call it, Friendo,” from “No Country for Old Men”

2006     “High Five!!! Its sexy time!’ from “Borat!”

2005     ‘Brokeb ack’ from “Brokeback Mountain”

2004     “Pinot” from “Sideways”

2003            ‘’Wardrobe malfunction” from Super Bowl XXXVIII

The Global Language Monitor uses a proprietary algorithm, the Predictive Quantities Indicator (PQI) to track the frequency of words and phrases in the global print and electronic media, on the Internet, throughout the Blogosphere, as well as accessing proprietary databases.  The PQI is a weighted Index, factoring in: long-term trends, short-term changes, momentum, and velocity.

Ambush Marketing at the Vancouver Olympics

Ambush Marketing?

Verizon, Subway & Pepsi among top Ambush marketers at Vancouver Games

Winter Olympics tracked by the TrendTopper Ambush Index

Canadian companies Roots Canada and Lululemon lead Overall Rankings

Austin, Texas.  February 18, 2010 – Verizon, Subway, and Pepsi are among the top ‘Ambush’ marketers for the opening weekend of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games according to the TrendTopper Ambush Index (TrendTopper AI™) of Austin-based Global Language Monitor. Ambush marketers are companies that attempt to associate themselves with an event even though they are not ‘official’ sponsors of that event.  Of course, it should be noted that alleged ‘ambush’ marketers generally disagree with this designation, insisting that they are simply pursuing marketing ‘best practices’.

Naming and shaming for Olympic ambush marketers (Reuters)

The TrendTopper Ambush Index tracks brand media presence in relation to the Winter Games.  It’s based upon GLM’s Predictive Quantities Index, a proprietary algorithm that tracks words and phrases in print and electronic media, on the Internet and throughout the blogosphere, now including social media. The words and phrases are tracked in relation to their frequency, contextual usage and appearance in global media outlets.

For the 2009 – 2012 Olympic Quadrennial, there are nine Global Partners:  Coca-Cola, Acer, GE, McDonalds, Omega, Panasonic, Samsung, Visa, and AT&T.  The United States Olympic Committee (USOC) has two additional national partners:  P&G and the Budweiser unit of inBev. The Canadian Olympic committee has a number of local partners, of which five were included:  Deloitte, Tyson Foods, United Airlines, Hilton and Nike.

For this analysis, the alleged Ambush Marketers included:  Verizon, Subway, Pepsi, MasterCard and Adidas in the Global Category. The National Category included Lululemon Athletica, Blenz Coffee, Roots Canada, Scotiabank, and Howe Sound Brewing.    Past sponsors, also,  who continue to enjoy the glow of past Olympic associations, such as: Allstate, Bank of America, Home Depot, and Lenovo were also included in the analysis.

“The TrendTopper MediaBuzz Ambush Index ranks all perceived Olympic sponsors according to their presence in the global media, whether or not they see themselves as such,” said Paul JJ Payack, president and chief word analyst of GLM.  “If they are statistically linked to the Vancouver Games, they qualify for the Ambush Index”.

The IOC defines ambush marketing as leveraging the “goodwill of the Olympic/Paralympic Movement by creating a false, unauthorized association with the Olympic/Paralympic Movement.”  Whether the marketer does this intentionally or inadvertently, it allows the marketer to benefit from an association with the Olympic Brand without providing any financial support to them.

The Top Twenty-five marketers as measured by brand media presence in relation to the Winter Games follow.

Rank (1-25), Marketer, and Affiliation

1.   Roots Canada — alleged Ambush Marketer

2.   Proctor & Gamble — USOC

3.   Deloitte — Canadian

4.   Budweiser unit of inBev — USOC

5.   Lululemon — alleged Ambush Marketer

6.   NBC unit of General Electric — IOC

7.   Tyson Foods — Canada

8.    McDonalds — IOC

9.    Polo Ralph Lauren — USOC

10.  Hilton — Canada

11.   Nike — Canada

12.  Verizon — Alleged Ambushed

13.  AT&T — IOC

14.  Subway — Alleged Ambusher

15.  Pepsi — Alleged Ambusher

16.  Coca-Cola — IOC

17.  MasterCard — Alleged Ambusher

18.  Omega — IOC

19.  United Airlines — Canada

20.  Adidas — Alleged Ambusher

21.  General Electric — IOC

22.  Visa — IOC

23.  Panasonic — IOC

24.  Samsung — IOC

25.  Acer — IOC

Over the course of the last several Olympiads (or quadrennials as they are now called), the IOC has significantly tightened the reins on the use of certain words without permission.  For example, the Canadian Parliament has restricted use of some fairly common words in certain combinations without specific permission.

For example, words on Lists 1 and 2 may not be combined.

List 1: Games, 2010, Twenty-ten, 21st, XXIst, 10th, Tenth, Xth, or Medals

List 2: Winter, Gold, Silver, Bronze, Sponsor, Vancouver, or Whistler

In the TrendTopper AI analysis, Marketers are ranked both by category and then overall.  Rankings are calculated, normalized and cross-indexed.

For trend analysis, momentum and velocity calculations, the TrendTopper AI analysis will be run at the halfway point of the Winters Games, with the final tally appearing after the Closing Ceremony.

In addition, a TrendTopper AI ranking of athletes will appear early next week and at the conclusion of the Games.  For more information, call 1.925.367.7557.

More on TrendTopper


Snowmageddon & Snowpocalypse accepted into English Lexicon

Recent East Coast storms push words over qualifying criteria

Austin, Texas,  February 10, 2010 – Snowmageddon and Snowpocalypse have been accepted into English language lexicon, after an unusual string of recent East Coast blizzards pushed the words over the qualifying criteria, according to Austin-based Global Language Monitor.

“Though there is no official agency for accepting new words (or neologisms) into the English Lexicon, the Global Language Monitor since 2003 has been recognizing new words once they meet the criteria of a minimum number of citations across the breadth of the English-speaking world, with the requisite depth of usage on the Internet and in the global print and electronic media,”  said Paul J Payack, president and chief word analyst of GLM.  “Snowmageddon and Snowpocalypse both crossed those threshholds earlier today with a reference to the string of East Coast blizzards, and are currently being widely used in the global media in dozen of languages today.”

The word ‘Snowpocalypse’ is a combination of ‘portmanteau’ word linking ‘snow’ with ‘apocalypse’.  Apocalypse, itself, can be traced to the ancient Greek word apokalyptein meaning to ‘uncover, restore, reveal or disclose’ (hence the name of the final book of the New Testament).  ‘Snowpocalypse’  has hundreds of thousands of citation over the last few years, first exemplified use by Playstation gamers in early 2006.  The words apocalypse and apocalyptic are both frequent expressions of the global media especially when used in reference to any cataclysmic event such as the South Asian Tsunami or the inundation of New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina back in 2005, as GLM then noted.

‘Snowmageddon’ is another portmanteau word that ultimately can be traced to  the same source. The Greek word Harmagedōn and its Hebrew counterpart har məgiddô both refer to the ancient settlement of Megiddo, which stood astride important Middle Eastern trade routes and was subsequently the scene of many important historical battles.  The word ‘Armageddon’ has come to be associated in the popular mind with any end-of-the-world scenario, such as portrayed in the movie of the same name, starring Bruce Willis.  ‘Snowmageddon’ has hundreds of thousands of usages over the last few years, exemplified by its publication in The Oregonian in December 2006 (and recent remarks by President Obama earlier this month).