The Daily Beast, “Breaking: Trend Stories Are Bullsh*t”

April 8, 2014

Bonnie Bertram, “Breaking: Trend Stories Are Bullsh*t” (The Daily Beast, Apr. 8, 2014)

“We see this happen in cases where there’s this moral panic, where there’s a concern that plays on social anxieties,” says Ben Zimmer, a linguist who writes a language column for The Wall Street Journal. In essence, something can be talked into being. “It may be phrased in very evocative or scary language. And by giving something a new term, the media then wants to report on it.”

On April 19, 1989, a jogger was brutally assaulted and raped in New York City’s Central Park. The police rounded up a group of black and Latino boys for questioning—the media would later quote police who referred to them as a “wolf pack” that was randomly attacking people in the park.

“The term ‘wilding’ came out of that,” says Zimmer, referring to the attack in Central Park. “That word served to concretize the way people might have been anxious about crime involving urban youths. And often there was a racial component to that as well.”

Read the rest here.

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