Everything that happens in the Amazon, happens “deep in the Amazon.”
I got that advice from Herb Lash, a colleague who was once a foreign correspondent in Brazil.
It was his way of joking about the cliches that plague modern journalism.
“Nothing,” Herb insisted, “ever happens on the edge of the Amazon.”
There are lots of these adjectives attached to otherwise sturdy nouns.
People have heart attacks, of course, but if they die its because it was a “massive heart attack.”
Plenty of people are depressed, especially during the pandemic.
But you know its serious when a journalist writes someone is “clinically depressed.”
According to the Mayo Clinic, there is a technical definition of clinical depression. But I doubt reporters know it.
Likewise, no one would take a “deployment force” seriously.
It has to be a “rapid deployment force.”
All disasters are “unmitigated.”
“I would one day like to read about a mitigated disaster,” Gerard tells me.
These days I spend a lot of time on news analytics, which can help provide some precision.
Based on Bloomberg analytics, it turns out that somewhere between 3 percent and 5 percent of heart attacks mentioned in the press are described as “massive.”
That’s actually fewer than I expected, but plenty to be deadly.
The data shows a spike in the percentage of heart attacks described as “massive” at the end of 2016.
It was due entirely to the death of one person: Carrie Fisher.
Wikipedia, which isn’t written by journalists and is therefore less susceptible to inflated language, cited the cause as simply “cardiac arrest.”