The Vocabulary Of The News
I’ve always found it humorous, that certain words and phrases emerge out of nowhere and enter common parlance overnight, as a result of usage in the media. The seemingly innocuous usage of an esoteric word by one journalist can capture the imagination of others (or perhaps it’s just lazy plagiarism?), and before long the word has entered the modern lexicon.
The current North Korea situation has spawned not one, but two new superstars. So grab your pens folks – you’re going to need these at your next dinner party in order to sound completely au-fait with the current affairs of the day!
The first term is “bellicose” – a marvellous little word that we had almost forgotten. It means “demonstrating aggression and willingness to fight.” and is being used with gay abandon to describe Kim Jong Un in the media. I’m wondering if journalists have subconsciously pounced upon the word because the “belli” part seems to suit the rotund Jong Un so well? Looking at the Google News SERPS today for “bellicose”, Syria, Iran and Mozambique get a mention, but North Korea dominates. Google Trends says it best. Look at the image below – the word has been in disuse since 2004, but in the last couple of weeks has shot to popularity.
Our next superstar is the phrase “sabre rattling”, which means “threatening behaviour which is intended to frighten someone” and is again being applied to Jong Un and the North Korean regime by pretty much every journalist who has written a sentence on the Korean situation in the last fortnight. Outside of the literary defintion sites, you’ll struggle to find a mention of sabre rattling that doesn’t involve North Korea. Google Trends shows that the term has had some brief spikes in popularity in the past decade, but nothing to match the current popularity.
We’re not sure which journalist started either trend, as our Google Fu is not strong enough to give us conclusive results that we can trust. Perhaps you think you know? Have you spotted any other examples of this phenomenon in the news lately? Email us.