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Author Topic: Does the use of "Super" superlatives in reporting create a bias?  (Read 2186 times)

Offline CliffordK

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It seems as if we are hearing more use of the "super" superlative with respect to reporting natural phenomena. 

Last year, the east coast of the USA was pounded by "Superstorm Sandy".  Unlike the category 5 hurricanes that periodically hit the southeast, but the time the hurricane made landfall, it barely ranked as a category 1 hurricane.  Big, but not particularly powerful, relatively speaking.

In 2011, the eastern USA was also hit by a super tornado outbreak.

Apparently I missed Super Comet ISON (which is now all but destroyed).

Of course, the Philippines were recently hit by Super Typhoon Haiyan (which apparently is a new typhoon classification). 

Are these Once a Century storms (which, of course, occur about once a century), or something different?

The use of the word seems to imply worsening of the storms and natural phenomena.  Politically Motivated?


 

Offline RD

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The use of the word seems to imply worsening of the storms and natural phenomena.  Politically Motivated?

Journalistically more like : add a superlative and some people are more likely to want read the news story [and see the associated adverti$ement$ ].
« Last Edit: 09/12/2013 03:26:25 by RD »
 

Offline Don_1

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The use of the word seems to imply worsening of the storms and natural phenomena.  Politically Motivated?

Journalistically more like : add a superlative and some people are more likely to want read the news story [and see the associated adverti$ement$ ].

I think there is more than an element of truth in your a$$e$$ment RD.

I also think that superlatives have been bandied about by journalists to the point where they no longer have the desired impact. A hurricane, a huge hurricane, a super hurricane. Where to next? A super huge hurricane? Where superlatives are used too often, they become the norm, so to catch the eye and imagination, multiple superlatives are used.

The natural phenominon of the tidal wave seems to be a thing of the past. Perhaps this is because they ran out of superlatives to accentuate the term. Today we do not have tidal waves, we have tsunamis. For now this seems to be adequate, but I'm sure the future will bring huge tsunamis, then massive tsunamis and super tsunamis.

I'm quite surprised that we still have forest fires. Surely someone, somewhere, sooner or later will decide the day of the forest fire is over. Then, enter the forest inferno.
 

Offline CliffordK

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Today we do not have tidal waves, we have tsunamis. For now this seems to be adequate, but I'm sure the future will bring huge tsunamis, then massive tsunamis and super tsunamis.

I think the point with the word "tsunami" is that the Japanese had experience with both earthquakes and tsunamis, and made the connection between the two.

The term tidal wave doesn't connotate a wave caused by an earthquake, and may be a misnomer since tides are caused by the sun and moon.

However, if all tsunamis are tidal waves, and all tidal waves are tsunamis, then there would be no need to make the distinction.

I've never actually witnessed a tsunami, but as I understand it, the phenomenon is a wave that acts somewhat like a tide, and can take hours to dissipate, and thus the derivation of the term.

I do think the term tsunami is here to stay, and the term tidal wave may go away in a few generations.
 

Offline grizelda

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I think McLuhan pointed out that papers concentrate on bad news because the eye will then be drawn for relief to good news - Sonys - 20% off - fits the bill nicely. This would explain why there are few advertisements in the sports pages - everyone loves a winner, no need to seek relief in the ads.
 

Offline David Cooper

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I do think the term tsunami is here to stay, and the term tidal wave may go away in a few generations.

The Japanese really need to change their word for it too though, because "tsunami" means "harbour wave". Maybe they could use "taidaru weibu" instead.
 

Offline David Cooper

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I'm sure the future will bring huge tsunamis, then massive tsunamis and super tsunamis.

They've already used mega-tsunami.
 

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