If You Label It, They Will Run

Unless you've spent the last 24 hours locked up in a dungeon, you know that a "Frankenstorm" is rushing toward the northeast next Monday or Tuesday.

The term is brilliant because it not only describes the storm's makeup—the ghoulish combination of a northeaster and a hurricane—but also the timing, as the whirlwind is scheduled to hit right before Halloween. 

Like frankenfoods and fracking, the 12-letter portmanteau connotes horror without even needing to know the details. And it's easy and fun to tweet, so the meme's momentum is building faster than a pitchfork-wielding mob in a European village. 

If you don't think labels like these matter, I encourage you to read Daniel Engber's "The Sliming," which Slate published yesterday. Engber explains how quickly "lean finely textured beef" got rebranded as the far catchier "pink slime," following its first use in national media reports. 

Labels have always been important, because they frame messages. But in today's world, labels are becoming the message, as people look for quicker shortcuts and less painstaking ways to make decisions. 

If you don't believe me, then why are bread, milk and batteries already streaming out the door at my local market when the Frankenstorm is still more than 72 hours away. 

THE RISKS AND REWARDS OF REPORTING ON MEMES. You really should read this excellent article written by Amanda Hess on Poynter.com. "Covering Internet memes can mean we’re serving up inane coverage to highly polarized groups of people."