Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Terms of Choice

From Slate, an important observation that is suggestive about the way language influences our perception of reality:

Almost two weeks have now passed since oil began gushing from a leak in a deepwater oil well in the Gulf of Mexico leased by the British oil conglomerate BP. As the massive slick crept toward the Louisiana wetlands, the media appear to have pretty much settled on "the Gulf Coast oil spill" as the term of choice when referring to the catastrophe. No doubt this was a welcome development to BP executives. The last major oil spill off the American coast, after all, was named after the company that spilled the oil, not the place where the oil was spilled. Otherwise we'd be referring to the "Prince William Sound" spill instead of the "Exxon Valdez" spill.

Fox News, of course, has been working to associate this disaster in Americans' minds with another phrase (italics mine):

As the massive oil slick grows worse by the day, the White House is fighting off a growing perception that the federal response to this ecological disaster is President Obama's Katrina.


Fly Paper said...

This morning as I was heading to work, listening to my usual NPR/Morning Edition, I had already read your blog post. Thus, I was particularly attuned to the subtlety of the reporter referring to this disaster as the "BP Oil Slick."

framiko said...

Glad to hear that I'm helping influence your news consumption—and that NPR is fighting the good fight.