Twitter Revolution? It's The Media Coining The Name

Tunisia's recent uprising has been called the Jasmine revolution and the Twitter revolution. How have such names historically been coined?

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Tunisia's upheaval has been called the Jasmine Revolution. Walid Soliman says that term did not come from the people of Tunisia.

Mr. WALID SOLIMAN (Writer): This name came from the French media.

INSKEEP: It came from the French media, and he says, from there it caught on in media outlets around the world. Revolutions with sweet-sounding names have become the norm in recent years.

Unidentified Man #1: Shortly after the Velvet Revolution...

Unidentified Man #2: ...the Rose Revolution.

LIANE HANSEN: Familiar names from the Orange Revolution...

Unidentified Woman #1: ...the Tulip Revolution...

GUY RAZ: Came to be known as the Green Revolution.

(Soundbite of people protesting)

MONTAGNE: Robert Lane Greene, a correspondent for The Economist, says the media promote the names for these revolutions.

Mr. ROBERT LANE GREENE (Correspondent, The Economist): It's outsiders connecting them in sort of a, I don't want to say lazy, but just shy of lazy shorthand.

MONTAGNE: Lazy shorthand that can have real effects on the ground. Once a name catches on, activists use it to unify fractious groups and win international attention and support.

INSKEEP: Of course, the term revolution can be hastily applied. Robert Greene, of The Economist, says nobody knows if an uprising is a revolution until it succeeds, and even then it may not last.

MONTAGNE: Ukraine had its Orange Revolution six years ago, but the president who was swept into power was later voted out of office last year.

INSKEEP: That Orange Revolution is also an example of how much importance people put on a name. Activists in Ukraine met with foreign marketers about coming up with a brand. Before it was the Orange Revolution, it was called the Chestnut Revolution didn't sound so inspiring.

Michael Quinion, who writes the World Wide Words newsletter, says other upheavals have gone through name changes.

Mr. MICHAEL QUINION (World Wide Words): The classic one is Kazakhstan, which started out being called the Pink Revolution, the Lemon Revolution, the Silk Revolution, the Daffodil Revolution.

INSKEEP: Ended up being the Tulip Revolution.

Tunisia's uprising has also been called the Twitter or WikiLeaks Revolution. The current name Jasmine well, it's a retread, it's been used to describe other protests in other countries - in Syria in 2005 and in Pakistan in 2007. Here's NPR's Philip Reeves talking about Pakistan's former foreign minister.

PHILIP REEVES: He calls it the Jasmine Revolution. Jasmine, because this is Pakistan's national flower.

INSKEEP: But it's also Tunisia's national flower. In fact, this is the second recent Jasmine Revolution in Tunisia. Some people use the same phrase to refer to the events in 1987 when Ben Ali came into power - the same president who was just ousted in the current Jasmine Revolution.

MONTAGNE: Walid Soliman says he respects Jasmine Revolution, or whatever name the people of Tunisia want to use.

Mr. SOLIMAN: We live inside, and for me it's just a Tunisian revolution. It's our revolution, Tunisia - not Jasmine or something else.

INSKEEP: By any name, Tunisia has a new government and today, we're watching events in Egypt where protesters are on the streets, as well as police. No accepted name, yet, describes what is happening there.

(Soundbite of song, "Revolution")

Mr. JOHN LENNON: (Singing) You say you want a revolution, well, you know.

INSKEEP: It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News.

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