This must be a little funny.
The first time I heard the word tsunami was way back in May 2002. Yeah, a good 2.5 years before the Dec 2004 tsunami created havoc in the coastal India, Thailand and Malaysia. I was working with a giant investment bank then on a migration project and we had staffed up using a man power consulting company in Bangalore called tSunami Infotech (The spelling is not a typo, that is how they spelt the name). I used to pronounce the word with an additional stress on the 't'... trying to say it as t`sshunami... and had tried to find out the meaning of the word. Google wasn't as famous as it is now and worse, we did not have internet in office... All I could figure out was that it is a japanese equalent for a big wave...
And I am pretty much sure that the common man never heard of such a thing until a real one knocked down houses, killed people and created big time havoc... The kind of damage that such a wave of water could bring in was much more that we could comprehend - somthing beyond words, beyond explanation.
In the post Dec 2004 world in India, I have seen this word being used synonymous to many things that has a hard hitting effect - In India, the media in particular. The first time it was used in American politics was when the Democrats had a sweeping victory over Republicans in the US house of representatives and the US Senate during the mid term elections in Nov 2006. And later the same term was used to refer the Republicans sweeping over the power from Democrats in the mid term election of 1994.
In the malayalam media, tsumani had been used to connote a lot of land-slide effects in political, social, cultural and recently the economic scenario.
And what prompted me to make this post here is a recent malayalam news in a famous newspaper that the "ecomonic tsumani" is all set to hit the indian markets... Ohh wow! That is really a wrong statement to the common man who normally does not follow the dynamics of the international economics (not politics) and he starts stocking up food supplies expecting that the great depression is going to hit him again!
The crisis in the US is primarily caused by incorrect lending practices by the banks and poor risk management. It is well understood that the economies are interconnected and they all would face the ripple effect of this "bubble-burst", but I feel that the media should behave upto a minimum responsibility.
If somebody is keen on knowing what really happened in the US market, see this simple illustration below created by Market Place.
And another one here...
The credit crisis as Antarctic expedition from Marketplace on Vimeo.
Wikipedia - About tsunami political usages in the US
Presentation Zen - Link to Maket Place presentation
Market Place - Presentation Videos