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Word Watch

January 14, 2007|SWATI PANDEY

President Bush didn't use the word "surge" in his Wednesday address, but it's still the word of choice to describe the troop increase in Iraq.

"Surge" comes from the Late Middle English word for "fountain" and from the Latin for "spring up." Originally found mostly in a nautical context, "surge" has marched into a chiefly military one. Webster's New World Dictionary defines "surge" as "a large mass of or as of moving water" and "any sudden, strong increase, as of energy, enthusiasm." The word shares a root with a militaristic term -- insurgency.

Until the Iraq Study Group supported "a short-term redeployment or surge" in early December, "surge" usually turned up in descriptions of Hurricane Katrina's rains or Baghdad's bursts of violence. A Lexis/Nexis search of newspapers, magazines and news services revealed that the phrase "surge in violence" appeared 86 times in conjunction with Iraq in November and another 86 times in December. "Surge in troops," turned up four times in November but 297 times in December. In all, The Times, Washington Post and New York Times used "surge" to describe troop increases 120 times in the month leading up to Bush's speech.

--SWATI PANDEY

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