The Age of “Horrific”

It happened again—suicide bomber blows up self in a crowded venue, taking about two dozen immortal souls with him.  There’s always some extra hellish touch to these events.  This time it’s the nature of the crowd: teenagers, most of them, the vast majority girls.  Girls in swift transition, trying to figure out who they are and what they’re worth, temporarily attracted to a pop singer.  I don’t know anything about Ariana Grande, but they would have grown out of her, probably, if someone had not decided they didn’t deserve to live.  Girls–screaming, bleeding, writhing, dying.

It was a nail bomb, I hear.  The damage would have been caused by hot metal propelled at bullet-speed in random directions, each fragment taking the path of least resistance with an excellent chance of plowing into soft flesh.  Any such wound is ugly; even the non-fatal ones could cost an eye, a vertebra, a scoop of brain.

I guess horrific is as good a word as any for that.

As memory fades, the adjective drops off, the incident sinks into the historical mist and takes a number and a ranking.

The problem is, it’s become the obligatory adjective.  In editorials, commentary, news reports (as in, “Police have made another arrest in connection to Monday’s horrific attack”), the word is a necessary rider.  At least while the blood is still fresh.  As the memory fades, the adjective drops off, the incident sinks into the historical mist and takes a number and a ranking.  Such as, “Third major Jihadist attack of 2017,” or “Second deadliest incident to occur on British soil since 9/11.  Don’t check my figures.  I haven’t been keeping track, and not many others are either.  Just how many major Jihadist attacks have occurred this year?  How does the Manchester incident rank in comparison with the London subway incident, the Nice incident, the Christkindlmarkt incident, or the Orlando nightclub incident?  I forget, but they were all horrific.

However–if something happened to my kid or grandkid, if someone near to me was ripped up by flying shrapnel at a concert or a football game, I would feel like screaming every time I heard that word.  Yes, yes, this is horrific.  You have no idea how horrific it is.  But stop saying it and do something about it!

Do you ever get the feeling that words have replaced actions, at least in the Western world?  Words can be powerful, but only when backed up—by deeds, by convictions, by rational therefore’s and so that’s.  If these incidents are going to continue, what then?  What’s a reasonable response?  Anybody got a plan?

If our words are strong enough, maybe that means we don’t have to do anything.

I’m not seeing one.  If our words are strong enough, maybe that means we don’t have to do anything.  I get it.  But let’s try to come up with another word, okay?  We’re wearing the sharp edges off this one.

1 Comment


  1. // Reply

    Excellent post. The word I’m getting tired of is “Islamophobic.” I wonder how many people have to die before the knee jerk reaction will no longer be to yell “Don’t be Islamophobic about this!”

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