Posts Tagged ‘language’

Can you spot the problem with this gulf oil spill article?

August 13, 2010

Can you see the problem with the following sentence from this Associated Press article about the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico?

The decision to proceed with the so-called “bottom kill” operation means a key milestone in the crisis that wreaked havoc on the Gulf Coast’s economy and ecosystem remains days off.

If you guessed that the verb used — wreaked havoc — is in the past tense, then you are correct! It might seem nit-picky to point out a verb tense problem, but these small choices in language reflect how we perceive things on a larger scale.

This one, for instance, is indicative of a larger mentality that the oil spill only “wreaked havoc” on the economy and ecosystems in the gulf while the oil was gushing, despite the fact that this environmental disaster is currently having and will have lasting effects on the gulf’s economy and ecosystems — for years to come.

Word choice matters, especially in the news.

Vegans, hegans, shegans, shenanigans …

March 24, 2010

Seriously, just read this post from Jezebel. Anna says it best when she says that coining a man-specific term for veganism — “heganism” — is ridiculous, and it unnecessary exemplifies when a man does something that people in general have been doing for years. I get that a stereotypical mark of a man is eating meat, but the gender-identifying noun is excessive.

The “he-ifying” of things that are weird and weak-minded when women do them — until men start doing them — could be endless:

Surely heganism will soon be replaced by hedonism, hecession by heconomic hecovery, while the only rational response remains a colossal he-addesk.

It’s also interesting from a language perspective, as changing root words for cleverness points distorts their meaning — vegan comes from vegetable, so what does “hegan” come from … someone who eats “he?” It reminds me of a comment I saw on a story about “femivores” — femivores are feminists who eat locally and cook food from scratch. But if you look at herbivore (herbi- = eats plants), carnivore (carni- = eats meat), or even locavore (loca- = eats locally), then femivore = someone who eats women, or eats in a feminine way?