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Today I read the economist headline:

On to the next crisis. Automatic spending cuts took effect on March 1st; more drama is to come

I startled at the word ‘drama’. It would be regarded as inappropriate in my mother tongue, German, to use the word ‘drama’, because it would have too much connotation of a theatre play. One would either use some alternative generic term like ‘crisis’, which has a grave connotation in German, or get more specific,like ‘recession’, ‘tense times’, ‘unemployment’.

On the other hand, German media frequently use the term ‘drama’ whenever people are trapped or being held captive, like in ‘rescue drama’ or ‘hostage drama’.

It seems that ‘hostage drama’ loses by numbers against ‘hostage crisis’ in the English language, according to Search engine fight. Similar with ‘rescue crisis’ and ‘rescue drama’; see Another search engine fight

Question: Is ‘drama’ an appropriate word for serious problems?

Question: What are the conventions or commonalities in using the words ‘drama’, ‘disaster’, ‘crisis’, ‘calamity’, etc., in the news? How do these reflect in non-journalist speech?

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Have you looked in a dictionary? –  coleopterist Mar 8 '13 at 18:05
    
A wedding is "an exciting, emotional, or unexpected event or circumstance", yet you usually do refer to "wedding dramas". Nor do you refer to a "euro drama". –  shuhalo Mar 8 '13 at 18:15
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Sometimes, I noticed, the word "drama" is not used to downplay the severity of the issue or crisis, but rather to comment on the way the government(s) and key players deal with the issue and often turn the spotlight onto themselves for personal gain or to garner support. –  Kristina Lopez Mar 8 '13 at 18:52
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@Martin: About "wedding dramas" – perhaps the wedding ceremony itself is not unexpected, but when I hear the phrase wedding drama, I think of the unplanned aspects of the wedding that add drama to the occasion: the bad weather, the late guest arrivals, a torn dress, a spat amongst the bridesmaids, Uncle Larry making a fool out of himself after having too much to drink, the reception hall serving the wrong food, the photographer with boorish manners, etc. Without any of that, I'd say what's left is "a nice wedding, with no drama." –  J.R. Mar 8 '13 at 19:39
    
Don't worry in the English media everything is an incident –  The Frog Mar 9 '13 at 2:36

2 Answers 2

The word 'drama' does not refer only to theatrical plays, but also to a situation or sequence of events that is highly emotional, tragic, or turbulent.

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Kristina Lopez's comment is insightful and relevant: “Sometimes ... the word "drama" is not used to downplay the severity of the issue or crisis, but rather to comment on the way the ... key players deal with the issue and often turn the spotlight onto themselves for personal gain or to garner support”.

Several members of the U.S. Congress, Senate, or Executive Branch often appear to be playing to that part of their constituencies that voted for them; that is, posturing and performing to please their fan base, rather than working for the common good of the people of this country. For this reason, drama is a reasonable word choice, although soap opera might sometimes be better.

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In fact, I think the original sense of stage theatre has been wrung out of many words by journalists seeking a new descriptor for public officials' histrionics, theatrics, melodrama, operatics, and so on. –  choster Mar 8 '13 at 19:59
    
One British insurance company used the advertising slogan "We won't make a drama out of a crisis." Quite a good illustration of the modern usage. –  TimLymington Mar 8 '13 at 22:02

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