Thursday, October 8, 2009

Weasel Words

There are a few words that are indispensible to the media and others because they allow them to imply things that they cannot ethically say. King of them all is "amid."

Suspect a correlation between the Afghan war debate and a sudden increase in the president's approval ratings? Just say, as Yahoo! News did in introducing an AP story yesterday: "Obama's job approval rises amid concerns."

Financial news sites would lost without the word "amid." Like "Stocks plummet amid interest rate fears."

Are interest rate fears causing the stocks to plummet? Are war concerns directly causing the spike in the president's approval rating? The news agencies don't know. They didn't research cause and effect. They only know there's a correlation.

But they suspect cause and effect. All they have to do is say one occurrence took place "amid" another.

I'm not saying this is bad, by the way. It's probably more often good than bad. The news agencies want to show that there probably is a cause-and-effect relationship at work. Just they didn't have the time or resources to prove it.

Still, even if they're using it honorably, "amid" still ranks as the ultimate weasel word.

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