Welcome to the new Independent website. We hope you enjoy it and we value your feedback. Please contact us here.

Words: tsunami, n.

"IN THE near future aesthetic and cultural shifts in the planetary consciousness will move around the globe with the force and pace of tsunamis," remarks J.G. Ballard in the catalogue for the exhibition "Speed" at the Whitechapel. Probably all very true, especially after one has screeched to a halt and remedied ignorance of a word which must have been encountered when skimming through Golding's The Paper Men.

Neither Italian food nor some slinky reptile, it is from the Japanese for harbour and wave: a series of long, high undulations on the surface of the sea caused by an earthquake or some such underwater eruption. Apart from Golding and, a century earlier, Hearn, its use has been scientific, but Ballard could give it useful currency.