For most of the country, the financial crises of the last few weeks have offered an education in economics. For journalists, they have been a lesson in semantics.
Each day presents new evidence that finance companies are uniquely vulnerable to a loss of confidence among creditors, trading partners, investors or customers. As a result, rumor, speculation and fear can cripple a bank with shocking speed. That has reporters and editors, so often accused of hyperbole and sowing alarm, parsing their words with unusual care.
So in most of the news, stocks have "slid" and markets "gyrated" but not "crashed." Companies have "tottered" and "struggled" rather than moved toward failure and bankruptcy.
"We're very careful not to throw words around like 'meltdown' and 'free fall,' " said Ali Velshi, senior business correspondent at CNN. "If someone wants to say the markets are in free fall, we'll discuss it first," he said, and the outcome is most likely to be a change in wording.