Suggested New Vocabulary for Disaster Newscasters
Old Vocabulary: Conglomerate
In geology, a conglomerate is a sedimentary rock composed mainly of largeish, rounded to sub-rounded chunks, cemented together in a matrix of smaller grains. I’m sure the metaphor is apt, and people are indeed being packed on buses to the point of cementation. But more specific technical terms exist which would provide more information in the same amount of space – surely useful for reporters who can’t spend more than a sentence talking about such a disastrous situation without breaking into tears.
New Vocabulary: Fanglomerate, Brecciate
A fanglomerate is a specific type of conglomerate, namely one that has formed in an alluvial fan, where a fast-flowing mountain stream exits onto the plain in a series of shifting braided channels. Although well-developed alluvial fans capable of forming nice fanglomerates are typically found in arid regions, and not in New Orleans (deltas are something different), the process of alluvial deposition could be a useful metaphor for, say, piles of people near the entrance to the convention center.
The term breccia, meanwhile, is complementary to conglomerate. While a conglomerate consists of pebbles that’ve been knocked around a while and had their sharp edges worn away, a breccia is formed of jagged pieces, often freshly torn by a volcano, landslide, or other traumatic event. It is thus more appropriate to say that gangs of violent youth are brecciating in the city center, or that orphaned children are brecciating on buses, and so on.