Leaks

Ben Zimmer’s On Language column in the New York Times magazine section discusses the use of the word “leak.” Although the context of his column are leaks of a political nature such as the Afghan war files, it struck me as just applicable to data “leaks.” Here’s a snippet of the column:

Do we need new terminology for leaking on such an immense scale? Perhaps we can take a cue from linguistic debates over BP’s notorious oil-well blowout in the Gulf of Mexico. After the catastrophic extent of April’s accident became apparent, puny words like spill and leak suddenly seemed inadequate to many commentators. Wendalyn Nichols, editor of the newsletter Copyediting, proposed rupture as an alternative label, evoking “a wound that can’t clot, that is not self-healing.”

Can you imagine the notification letters if entities wrote, “Although we have no reason to believe that your data have been misused, in an abundance of caution, we wanted to let you know of this  rupture of our security system….”

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