Ground Zero

Mark A Mandel mam at THEWORLD.COM
Fri Jan 25 21:45:42 UTC 2002

On Fri, 25 Jan 2002, Benjamin Fortson wrote:

#Is there no evidence of "Ground Zero" being used already during the
#pre-Hiroshima desert A-bomb tests? I vaguely recall this being the case
#from somewhere, but I could be completely wrong.

The difference for me between this Ground Zero and those Ground Zeroes
is that up till now, "ground zero" with or without caps, was a general
term for the ground location at or directly under the detonation of an
atomic bomb (fission [A-] or fusion [H-]): (1) the devastating event was
an explosion, and (2) the term was generic and needed to be
contextualized to a specific explosion in order to acquire specific
reference. Now, in the US, "Ground Zero" refers to the -- former -- site
of the World Trade Center: (1) the damage was not caused by a bomb or
other explosion, and (2) the specific reference needs no context, even
if the NY Times still refuses to capitalize the term.

To me these are good and sufficient reasons for "Ground Zero" to have
been in the WOTY running, and for this definition of it to be be given
lexical notice.

-- Mark A. Mandel
   Linguist at Large

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