If you check the bottom of these pages, you’ll see that my website was designed by Etsuko Dunham, who is from Miyako, Japan. After some nerve-wracking days and sleepless nights, she has heard from her sister. Their family is safe and their house is okay, although the quake and tsunami reduced downtown Miyako to sea-soaked rubble.

Etsuko’s relief is a measure of the gnawing dread that others are experiencing as they wait and wait and wait to hear from relatives and friends. I am selfish enough to be glad that the one person I know who’s personally affected by this catastrophe has had good news. If you would like to contribute to the relief efforts, here is a site posted by Etsuko:


Like a lot of people, I’ve been watching a great deal of television coverage of the earthquake, tsunami and reactor explosions in Japan. Along with sending some cash, I would like donate some adjectives to newscasters whose impoverished vocabulary is inadequate to the task of describing the devastation.

For a long time, I’ve deplored the devaluing of the words incredible and unbelievable. Their use has inflated to absorb dozens of more descriptive and accurate words, such as:

stunning,  surprising, startling. shocking; heartbreaking, appalling,  frightening,  dismaying, saddening;

or, oddly,

remarkable, notable, extraordinary, splendid, prodigious, impressive, excellent, tasty, delicious, good, and nice.

Perversely, these words now sometimes mean realistic or lifelike, as when a convincing piece of fiction is praised as incredible or unbelievable. As adverbs, incredibly and unbelievably are just multi-syllabic substitutes for very. This sloppy overuse is so pervasive, we’re left with fewer words to describe something we believe to be wrong, or false, or a misconception  presented as truth.

In everyday use, that sloppiness leads to tedious repetition and almost laughable inanities like a reporter crying, “Yes, Wolf! It’s incredibly unbelievable!” while standing in front of a gigantic, wet pile of massively factual debris.