Ground zero

Bob Haas highbob at MINDSPRING.COM
Wed Nov 8 17:19:08 UTC 2000

I don't believe that the use of "ground zero" in these instances necessarily
means that an explosion is imminent so much as that area or locale has
become a target of great concern--that all eyes and expectations are focused
on that spot.  The explosion, in terms of political fallout, etc., would of
course in this use be metaphoric.


> From: "Peter A. McGraw" <pmcgraw at LINFIELD.EDU>
> Reply-To: American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Date: Wed, 8 Nov 2000 09:01:26 -0800
> Subject: Ground zero
> A question for the word sleuths on the list.
> "Ground zero" has been around a long time, but until this election I heard
> it only as the designation of the exact point where a nuclear bomb actually
> lands.  (O.k., I wouldn't swear that I never heard it extended to refer to
> a conventional bomb, maybe even other kinds of explosions, such as the
> eruption of Mt. St. Helens.)
> In this election, a new meaning has suddenly (at least for me) sprung up,
> with all the media using "ground zero" to indicate a geographical entity
> (state, county, region, whatever) whose votes are crucial to the outcome of
> the election, or which is the focus of intense media and party attention
> because its votes are seen to be crucial.  I don't quite understand the
> connection with an explosion: has there been some intermediate stage in
> this development that I've missed?  Has anybody heard or seen this latest
> usage before the current election?
> Peter Mc.
> (Writing from Oregon, which didn't turn out to be "ground zero" after all.)
> ****************************************************************************
> Peter A. McGraw
> Linfield College   *   McMinnville, OR
> pmcgraw at

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