The headline was "US stock slide was ‘appetizer’ with ‘main course’ still to come – Morgan Stanley." The news site was news to me, too: www.rt.com. Turns out RT stands for Russia Today but I didn't realize that when I first read the article.
Maybe the misuse of English reflects the Russian source. But when I started this post I hadn't thought about what RT meant. The mistake seemed like other mistakes English native speakers make. That is what this Extinction Series is all about: how we speakers of English are carelessly extinguishing the marvelous specificity and nuances of our language by not using words accurately. (UWA is shorthand I used in grading papers and I will use it in this blog from time to time.)
Back to the article. I can tell you that it is unsigned and that Morgan Stanley is not responsible for the phrase that caught my attention. The quotes from Morgan Stanley are in fact from a Bloomberg report quoting "the bank's strategists." The link is omitted on rt.com but it is easily found and it is here. The misuse of 'wake' comes in the anonymous commentary that follows the quotes:
Many analysts are comparing the current situation on the US stock markets to 2008 in the wake of the global financial crisis. At the time, stocks also hit several all-time highs, despite warning signs of the impending turmoil.That first sentence brought me up short. A wake, in 21st century parlance, is a boat's version of a plane's contrail. It is behind, never in front. It is visible evidence after something has moved on. Who would compare the current situation to what happened AFTER the 2008 crisis? Has there been a stock market crisis this year already, and I missed it? But when I read the next sentence, I realized that 'wake' was not what was meant. The writer used 'in the wake of' to mean 'right before' or 'in the lead-up to.' Which is the opposite of its definition.
I can understand where the misuse came from. You WAKE in the morning, before you get on with the day. A wake-up call comes before it's too late. And so on. The verb 'wake' does indeed have elements of both before and after: you wake before you physically rise from a sleeping position but after you have mentally ceased sleeping. Waking occurs in between two states.
The noun WAKE has two meanings, too, but neither supports the 'the lead-up to' definition. In addition to being the choppy water after a vessel has passed, it can be a gathering of family and friends after someone has died. In any case, the phrase 'in the wake of' is a metaphor about boats and their wakes, not dead people and theirs.
The phrase has always meant 'after' and, more specifically, 'as a consequence of' something prior. But maybe not any more. The past is the future; who says it's not?
If you see other instances of writers muddying the temporal waters of 'wake,' please let me know.
* Note about "RT": You might guess, wrongly, that RT stands for Russian Telegraph if you click on the cited webpage's top tab "Projects." There's no "About" tab, by the way. But Wikipedia's entry for Russian Telegraph explains that the name is historical and says not a word about rt.com. Wikipedia does, however, have an entry for 'RT' that displays the same RT logo as the webpage. RT stands for Russia Today. Wikipedia also explains some of the words in the copyright notice at the bottom of the rt.com webpage: "© Autonomous Nonprofit Organization “TV-Novosti”, 2005–2017. All rights reserved." Novosti, Google Translate's language detector says, is Bosnian and means news. I guess Google chooses Bosnian because I typed the word using the Latin alphabet not the Russian. Google translates news into Russian as Новости which its disembodied voice pronounces novosti, emphasis on the no.