Friday, September 26, 2008

Things I Hate #2

The word "Crisis" is being thrown around an awful lot these days (even by me - if slightly tongue in cheek), and I have become increasingly interested in the true meaning of this word. Largely this interest has been driven by the fact that I am becoming increasingly aware of how my word choice, written or verbal, can shade the way people feel about not only what I am saying, but about me as a person. I find it genuinely interesting how a single word choice can sway a large group of people from panicked to reassured and back again. I have always had a clear sense of what I felt crisis meant based on the context in which it is most typically used, but I have never actually looked the word up in the dictionary. I still have never technically looked the word up in a dictionary, but I did use to read up on the definition of this word. The definition that I think most consistently is used by the many dictionary sources that feed is the following:

crisis - An unstable condition, as in political, social, or economic affairs, involving an impending abrupt or decisive change

Based on this definition, I have grown hateful of the way the word crisis has been used in the news over the past year. Again, I understand that the news must do things to capture our attention and the "crisis" has a certain morbidly romantic allure, but imagine if all the CNBC headlines declared "The Financial Unstable Condition" or "Wall St. Decisive Change". Not quite as captivating or terrifying. A crisis sounds like imminent implosion, and using the word in this way, as opposed to a time of instability, contributes to one freaked out consumer and emotionally-based decisions like making a run on a bank.

I don't want to become one of those people who is always harping on responsible journalism and on small decisions like diction, but right now everyone needs to calm the hell down, and everyone has a responsibility to contribute to the level-headed thinking we require to move past this difficult time. This applies to Michigan and to the United States. Advertising and promoting chaos never helped to fix anything.


Alex said...

this seems an interesting entry right after your blog about the credit "crisis"

Ken said...

I hope you're not claiming I'm being contradictory (though that is always possible). I think that through the first post, I'm trying to indicate that credit may not be as impossible to gain as is being indicated. For the second post - I think that the series of events we are experiencing, while difficult and important, are being sensationalized to a point that is resulting in more panic than solution.

Dave said...

Team Big Ten back in action tonight with a huge double-header! Tonight you better kick for the cycle!

I refuse to comment something worthwile until you write about my trains!