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Tsunami Cascades in Worldwide Media

Tsunami-related product names undergo intense scrutiny; sporting organizations reassess tsunami-related team names

Danville, California (Fenruary 10, 2005) MetaNewsWire The recent tragedy unfolding insouth Asia has had a profound impact on the usage of the word tsunami in the worldwide media, according to an analysis released earlier today by The Global language Monitor (GLM).

Read: Disaster dominates world focus (The Australian)

According to The GLM’s PQ Index, the word peaked at some 27,000,000 media appearances (a rise of some 800% over what one would find in a typical year). When limited to tracking the major global news media, there were some 155,000 stories involving the tsunami since December 26th, compared compared to 15,000 stories mentioning the word tsunami over the prior two years. The PQ Index is a proprietary algorithm that tracks words in the global print and electronic media, and on the internet.

“This provides a measure of both the scope of the tragedy and the manner in which the entire world community has responded to this unprecedented series of events,” said Paul JJ Payack, President, The Global Language Monitor.The word tsunami is unusual in that it has been directly incorporated into hundreds of languages worldwide without translation since it is a technical term. Since first appearing in English around 1905, tsunami has been used to describe the phenomenon of long-sequence ocean waves usually resulting from undersea seismic activity.

Other descriptions are considered technically incorrect, such as the English tidal wave, since tsunamis have nothing to do with the ebbing and flowing of tides or tidal currents. The word is of Japanese origin meaning harbor (tsu) wave (nami). As caught on video throughout the region, immediately preceding a tsunami strike, water is often drawn out of harbors and bays, before it comes rushing back in with devastating force.

“Before September 11th (2001) the term, ground zero, was a common business cliche meaning to go back to the starting point, especially when beginning a project over again as in going back to ground zero. Since Ground Zero now represents what many consider to be hallowed ground, such usage is rarely employed,” said Payack, “In the same manner, we envision that the word tsunami, will be the subject of considerable discretion before being used in anything other than a most serious manner.”

Of course, in its original context, the term ‘ground zero’ meant the blast epicenter of a nuclear device, such as that dropped on Hiroshima in August 1945.

In the world of sports there appear to be thousands of teams worldwide that incorporate the word tsunami into their names. These range from the Tsunami Aquatics Swim team of Livermore, California to the Hampshire Tsunami Paintball Team (UK) to the Pearl Harbor (Hawaii) Swim Club.

The world of consumer packaged goods is also sure to be impacted by the disaster. GLM’s analysis shows that there are some 10,000 products thatincorporate tsunami into their names. These include everything from Tsunami Point-to-Point Wireless Bridges, Tsunami Multimedia Speakers, and Tsunami Image Processors.

Read: Toyota drops ‘Tsunami’ name for sports car

Read: FEMA Yanks Tsunami Game in Disaster’s Wake

News organizations will also have to think twice before leading with headlines such as these:

  • ”A Tsunami of Silliness” — The London Telegraph’s review of Michael Crichton’s new State of Fear thriller (December 19, 2004)

  • ”A Tsunami of Japanese Pop Culture Cartoon- and Comic-related Products are Flooding into the US” — BusinessWeek (April 30, 2004)

  • “Ford Releases a Tsunami of New Products” — Detroit News (April 2004)

However, this hasn’t stopped headline writers from incorporating the newly-heightened emotionally and psychologically freighted word into headlines of the last week:

  • “A Tsunami of Debt” — San Francisco Chronicle
  • “A Tsunami of Scandal” — Minneapolis Star-Tribune
  • “A Tsunami of Greed” — Village Voice (New York)

Read: The World Learns to Choose it Words Carefully (Time)

Read: Disaster Changes Use of Word ‘Tsunami’ (China Daily)

Read: AlertNet (Reuters)

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