semantic shift: "shrapnel"

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Mon Jan 18 19:26:18 UTC 2010

CNN reported this morning that Dr. Sanjay Gupta, in Haiti, operated on a
"12-year-old girl with shrapnel in her brain."

Much later CNN identified the "shrapnel" as "a small piece of concrete."

Usage note: OED 1989 defines shrapnel (in the broad and now usual sense) as
"fragments from shells or bomb."  The extension to bits of metal hurled out
in any kind of explosion (say, that of a grain elevator) would also seem
normal to me, though clearly "literary."  CNN, however,  is using the
word with no suggestion of metal or explosion, and this seems to me very


"If the truth is half as bad as I think it is, you can't handle the truth."

The American Dialect Society -

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