Friday, June 30, 2006

A Little Something Extra

Recently, I read a newspaper article on a roadside bombing in Iraq that contained the phrase “additional death.” Like “ATM machine” and “irregardless,” “additional death” is a term that I find somewhat troubling. Foremost, it seems redundant. There’s death over here, and then way over there there’s additional death. Not that the additionally dead are any less death that the primarily dead. The “additional death” is just verbally separated from the primary unit of life-ending, if that makes any sense. Really, it shouldn’t. Death is death. I’m not even quite sure how additional death can occur as a separate entity from death, but it apparently can.

I suppose if Regis Philbin exploded on camera — instantly dying in the process — and his bone chunks struck Kelly Ripa at point-black range, Kelly would be the additional death, seeing as how she died completely as a result of Regis’ initial death. But I can’t imagine that this or other Rube Goldbergian, “Final Destination”-type accidents happen often enough to necessitate the popularity of the phrase. (If they did, life as a news writer would be infinitely more entertaining, I’m sure.)

Instead, I feel like the writers who use this phrase might do so in an effort to make the situation described seem especially tragic — and, consequently, more important. A last-ditch effort at pulling your heartstrings — or at least increasing the given story’s appeal to the reader’s morbid curiosity. For example: “Not only was there a death, but there was also an additional death” sounds way sadder than “Two people died.” Granted, it also takes more words to communicate the information, but I suppose you have to imagine that the reader is choking back sobs as they make their way through the story.

Furthermore, I feel like the phrase “additional death” cheapens the life of the newly, additionally dead. My ghost would be so pissed to read the news article about my death and find that mine was labeled an “additional death,” as if my demise — somehow lacking in innate tragedy on its own — merely decided to piggyback on the sadness of whoever died immediately before me. (Let’s say, oh, I don’t know — Kelly Ripa.) I’m a person. I’m not a subunit of somebody else, and in the end I feel like my demise should be weighted equally with that of anybody else’s, no matter how many people died immediately before me. Like during the O.J. Simpson trial, when news articles always referred to the murder of Nicole Brown Simpson and her male companion, as if Ron Goldman was some unimportant appendix to the woman and who only died as a result of being momentarily connected to her. Which is what happened, I’ll admit. But still.

It just all seems a little tasteless.
[ link: lots of additional death ]

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