Five O'Clock Somewhere

Welcome to Five O'Clock Somewhere, where it doesn't matter what time zone you're in; it's five o'clock somewhere. We'll look at rural life, especially as it happens in Rio Arriba County, New Mexico, cats, sailing (particularly Etchells racing yachts), and bits of grammar and Victorian poetry.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

“Wind event”

Semantics, euphemisms, and doublespeak

I have been told that I have made a serious mistake in my previous blog post. The weather situation that caused massive damage to marinas and boats at Elephant Butte Lake this past weekend was NOT a “storm.” It was a “non-thunderstorm-related wind event,” according to official accounts. There may have been one or two additional nouns pressed into use as adjectives to modify the phrase further.

A quick search of the Internet shows that “wind events” happen frequently on Mount Washington, in New Hampshire, and that in California, fire-fighting crews are especially wary of “Santa Ana wind events” that might aggravate wildfires.

To my mind, the term event carries positive connotations – a special occasion, a celebration, a party. Something that involves destruction, whether of boats and marinas, or of property in the path of a wildfire, shouldn’t be characterized as an “event.”

But then, my semantically inclined mind wandered farther … what’s the origin of the word “event”? It has vent in it, the Latin for “wind.” Is a “wind event” simply a “wind wind”?

Nope, it turns out that’s not the case. The vent in event comes from the Latin venire, “to come.” So it wasn’t a wind wind, it was a wind that came.

Still, the use of the term “wind event” definitely reduces the perceived severity of what happened. Imagine this in an insurance claim form: “A wind event resulted in the involuntary conversion of the watercraft.” Sure sounds better than “The storm blew my boat onto the rocks, where it got smashed to bits.”

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Blogger Lydia Manx said...

We have quite a few 'wind events' usually intermixed with 'fire events'. At times they are at the same time and we know that's not pretty.

Tue Jul 01, 05:16:00 PM MDT  
Blogger Carol Anne said...

And then California is also known for earthquake events and mudslide events.

The community college where I teach has an Events Planning Team, which works on things like graduation and special guest speakers. I guess that team should also be getting to work on natural disasters.

Wed Jul 02, 01:22:00 AM MDT  
Anonymous wedding location venue said...

I shed lots of tears during the week of our wedding over the weather. But our ceremony turned out to be the most beautiful and romantic ceremony.

Sat Jul 05, 04:37:00 AM MDT  

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