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A "crash" course in traffic reports

Some things are inevitable when you’re a radio host.

It’s almost time to go on the air, and you're ready. Your headlines are juicy and your weather forecast is spot on.

You’ve even got a great line to get people to listen to that segment on the mating rituals of the brown marmorated stink bug. 

Your finger is poised over the microphone button, and then you think, “Maybe I should check the traffic map one last time, just in case.”

Why not? You've got 30 whole seconds to spare.

That's when you see it.

A brand new “traffic event” is on its way to transforming a major highway into an unbearable hellscape of back-ups. It will leave listeners sweating in their idle vehicles, gripping their steering wheels as they learn about the stink bug's propensity for Boone's Farm and the Starland Vocal Band.

Not on your watch.

As you scramble to throw together a reasonably coherent traffic report, you realize there’s a decision to make. Do you call the event a “crash” or an “accident?”

Fortunately, word guru Anne Curzan is here to help us sort this out.

Anne Curzan is the Geneva Smitherman Collegiate Professor of English and an Arthur F. Thurnau Professor at the University of Michigan. She also holds faculty appointments in the Department of Linguistics and the School of Education.
Rebecca Kruth is the host of All Things Considered at Michigan Public. She also co-hosts Michigan Public's weekly language podcast That’s What They Say with English professor Anne Curzan.
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