Colours that define history in recent times

About Words - Cambridge Dictionaries Online blog

by Hugh Rawson

The world has been blessed lately with a number of relatively nonviolent demonstrations by citizens of different nations that have led to the overthrow of authoritarianregimes. Some of these protests – in Tunisia and Egypt, for example – have amounted to revolutions.  But this has created a problem for the media: The word “revolution” implies violent, usually bloody change. Therefore, reporters and pundits have cast around for ways to qualify, or soften, the violent word, often by using the names of colors and flowers.

 The first of the recent series of popular uprisings came in Tunisia toward the end of 2010. Soon after President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali fled the country in January of 2011, the foreign press began referring to Tunisia’s jasmine revolution. The name seemed appropriate, at least to outside observers.  Jasmine is Tunisia’s national flower. And the phrase had been used…

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