In the new words department:
The disaster bureaucrats talk about black swans: calamities from out of the blue, terrible and strange. The world is now transfixed by the black swan disaster of Japan — an earthquake larger than seismologists thought could happen in that part of the country, leading to a tsunami too big for the sea walls, and now a nuclear crisis that wasn’t supposed to be possible.
I like new terms that are not mere abstractions but vivid images. “Black swan” gives us a picture of something that is very unlikely, but that occasionally, creepily, happens. (It turns out, though, that there is a whole species of black swans in Australia that wasn’t discovered until the 18th century.)
Karl Popper uses the example of a black swan to show how, contrary to naive scientism, you can’t jump from the observation of particulars to make universal conclusions, but how particulars are useful to meet the criterion of falsifiability.
Then there is the ballet movie Black Swan, which plays off of some imagery in Tschaikovsky’s Swan Lake , but that’s different, positing in the white swan and the black swan a contrast between purity and sensuality.
Now that we apparently have a new word, what are some other rare, unexpected, and weird calamities that would qualify as black swans?