While posting an item late last night about South Asian support for Clinton and Obama, I wrote an aside about the use of the term "Tsunami Tuesday," for next week's election extravaganza.
Some folks in the press are calling it "Tsunami Tuesday" in reference to the huge wave of major results about to come. Something in the back of my head makes me uneasy about that term, which has gained popularity only this presidential cycle, the first since the Asian/South Asian tsunami of 2004. It seems to be a term that's in bad taste, at the very least, considering almost 300,000 people perished in that tsunami. Am I being too PC?
Having had a chance to, literally, sleep on it, I think I am not being too PC about this (a little PC, yes, but not too PC). I awoke to several e-mail messages, all in support of my questioning this wording. I'll let my friend Paul Knox sum up those messages:
No, you aren't being too PC. The usage is incredibly insensitive. It has been upsetting me for a couple of weeks now, everytime I hear it. Would we call Giuliani's drop in the polls his "Ground Zero Plummet?" I could go on, but I won't.
[A friend at lunch pointed out we'd never say, "Rudy's campaign fell like the twin towers."]
I figure that this is yet another case of people who aren't close to the historical meaning of a particular word being comfortable using it - or at best, not being aware of why it's wrong to use. The case of Kelly Tilghman, the sports anchor who suggested that Tiger Woods's opponents might want to "lynch him in a back alley" is one such example. Another is how some Americans might use "Paki" as shorthand for "Pakistani" without knowing it's a racist term (see the SAJA Stylebook on the term, with examples from President Bush, the NY Post, et al).
Because the 2004 tsunami and its aftermath happened so far away in time and distance, and so few U.S. political reporters were touched by it, I am not surprised that the term "Tsunami Tuesday" has gained credence (showing up in headline after headline and repeatedly on newscasts and talk shows). But we know that for journalists, every word counts. Why should it be different for this one?
I know the folks who use the phrase mean no ill will, and I don't want to look back about the usage in recent days and months. But I think it's time we stopped using it. The term is unlikely to come up again for four more years, but will certainly be used a lot in the next four days, unless awareness is raised.
What do you think? Post your comments below, please. I'd love to hear from dissenters, too, of course.
In the comments below, Mayank Chhaya says, in part, that "this is a non-issue" and that "we tend to emotionalize words too much." Add your own thoughts, please.