Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Tragedy vs. Catastrophe

Ya know, it has bothered me for a long time how loosely people use the word "tragedy" these days. I saw a magazine cover yesterday in Walgreens that said something about the "tragedy" in Haiti. Now, perhaps they meant that the disaster was exacerbated by the long history of corrupt and ineffective politics and economic policies in Haiti. On the other hand, people seem to think that disasters are tout court tragedies. We actually already have a word for severe disaster--catastrophe. Maybe it is too long for headlines.

This reminds me of the seemingly ubiquitous replacement of the word "custom" with "tradition," as in, "Let's start a tradition this year!"

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