Words may overstate degree of economic situation

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Is the media overusing, if not misusing charged words to describe the current economic crisis? We know things are bad, but is our rhetoric far from therapeutic?

Our economy is in a pitiful, horrifying, pathetic, catastrophic meltdown! Is this really the right kind of rhetoric, or are we unduly alarming people with words that stimulate paranoia?

NBC's "Meet The Press" raised the question whether we, in the media, are using overly descriptive words to talk about our current economic climate, words that intensify an already entrenched fear among consumers, even some investors.

Rulon Wood, with the Department of Communications at Westminster College, said, "For those of us who study language, it's frightening even knowing the baggage that's kind of attached to the word."

Wood says while trying to use words that reflect the current climate, we raise anxiety as well. Psychologists avoid certain phrases when working with anxious or fearful patients, and the whole country right now, so to speak, is on the couch hoping therapy will offer hope not despair.

Consumers are tiring of the doom and gloom, even though realistically they know the fix is difficult.

Consumer Patty Massell said, "It's becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy, and not that we should go back to the consumption level that we were at maybe 18 to 24 months ago, but we do need to keep on living and progressing."

"Meet The Press" looked at the phrase, "Economic Apocalypse."

"Financial crisis and apocalypse. Crisis versus apocalypse. There is just such a different degree of power within those two words," Wood said.

Imagine more, like: Wall Street spiraling downward, a catastrophic journey, our disintegrating 401(k)s, a tanking U.S economy, economic recovery, and hope dwindling!

Some believe how people are reacting is fragile, almost irrational. They don't want lies or rose-colored glasses, they say, but a tempering perhaps of what we say.

Since journalists are consumers and employees as well, they too anxiously await any sign that could change the rhetoric. Imagine seeing something along the lines of: market surges to new heights, consumer wallets open wide, or companies end hiring freeze.

We can all hope, and hope is really a nice word.

E-mail: eyeates@ksl.com

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