(Originally broadcast on Oct. 2, 2009, on The Frank Show, here.)
When I was growing up, there was one thing I heard as much as anything else. Say what you mean and mean what you say. My father was a newsman and to him, words were simple.
And his advice sounds simple. But it’s not. We all get stuck over-using, mis-using, even ill-using, the same words over and over. There are more than half a million words in an English dictionary. When we speak, it’s estimated we use about 2,000, less than half of one tenth of one percent.
So maybe it’s in our nature to pick words and overuse them.
I’ve been thinking about this because every day, in discussions, in headlines, on TV, I to see the word crisis. Crisis. Fix the crisis. End of the crisis. Anticrisis.
I know this has been feeling like a crisis. Especially to those who’ve lost their jobs. But to my mind, the economy is not in crisis. Not yet. And it hasn’t been. This is still just a recession. In the words of the IMF, a “severe recession.” Quite honestly, overusing the word crisis sounds a bit like an adolescent overreaction. If my daughter comes home and says she’s having a crisis, she had a fight with her girlfriend, the first thing I think is well, wait until you grow up. She’ll look back and laugh. By then, like most of us, she will have had to survive a real crisis. Because in a true crisis, you simply look to survive. In a recession, you look to manage.
Of course, given what’s happened this week in the government, we may well be on our way to a true crisis. Look at Argentina in 2002, or any of a number of countries who had the ability, but not the political will, to fix their budgets.
So I suggest we wait and save the word crisis for when we really mean it. Hopefully, we won’t need it soon. Until then, the word crisis will not be used casually on this program. Yes, it sells newspapers, makes a good headline, gets your attention.
But for the rest of us, I offer my father’s simple recommendation. It won’t fix the economy, but at least we’ll be meaning what we say.