Word For the Day: Modalities

Seriously, the word "modalities" is in my computer's dictionary. Whatever. 

Word For the Day: Modalities

Courtesy of Jesse's Cafe Americain 

"The adherence of governments to their commitments and the fulfilment by the EFSF/ESM of their role are necessary conditions. The Governing Council, within its mandate to maintain price stability over the medium term and in observance of its independence in determining monetary policy, may undertake outright open market operations of a size adequate to reach its objective. 

"In this context, the concerns of private investors about seniority will be addressed. Furthermore, the Governing Council may consider undertaking further non-standard monetary policy measures according to what is required to repair monetary policy transmission. Over the coming weeks, we will design the appropriate modalities for such policy measures."

The folks at Bloomberg TV apparently were dumbfounded about the meaning of the word 'modalities' in this sentence. The closing hour anchor, an affable Princetonian, complained that he had called around and could not 'find anyone who understands what this means.'

Modalities means procedures, the processes by which things are done in a more than casual arrangement. It is more commonly used in a medical or official diplomatic context.

So in this case, Monsieur Draghi was saying that 'over the coming weeks, we will hammer out all the processes and procedures and agreements to support a plan.'

They may not GET those agreements, but that is all a part of the hammering process I would imagine. But they did not say that they did not believe him, or doubted his ability to accomplish this, but rather, they just did not know what the word meant which was a little embarrassing for a major US news outlet that is presumably English speaking.

I hope this helps to promote higher quality in broadcast journalism. The word is not all that obscure. The print (read literate) portion of the Bloomberg organisation used it in a headline not all that long ago. India, Pakistan Agree on Modalities for Border Trade in Kashmir. And closer to home, there is an actual stock named "Modern Medical Modalities." 

Now I suppose it is likely the young man was coyly playing ignorant to make a point, since he is generally one of the more intelligent commentators on American financial television, and one of the few at Bloomberg TV who can form a declarative sentence without aggressively prefacing it with the word, "Look.

Still, it sounded a sour note to plead such ignorance after an entire day in which one could have used a tool that is now widely available and quite often a great help. It is known as 'google.' 

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