The Deliberate Discarding Of Plain English
by P Atkinson (January 2005)

On Monday December 27th 2004, under the front page headlines 'Killer waves swamp Asia', readers were told by The Courier-Mail that:

"The most powerful earthquake in 40 years triggered massive tidal waves that slammed into coastlines across Asia yesterday.."

On Tuesday 28th under the front page headlines 'Killer waves sweep away 23,000 lives' readers were told that:

"..the death toll from the Boxing Day tsunami continued to soar."

In keeping with all the other media, The Courier-Mail replaced the term 'Tidal Wave' (defined by the Concise Oxford English Dictionary (1938 edition as: "any extraordinary ocean wave, e.g. one attributed to an earthquake") with 'Tsunami', a rarely used word, which few people knew how to pronounce or spell, derived from the Japanese term for "Storm Wave".

This action was a direct contradiction of the requirements of plain English, which is to prefer the familiar word to the far fetched.