The sub-hed on a story this week in the Chicago Tribune about potential upcoming consolidation in the airline industry reads as follows: “Speculation Unites United, Continental.”


We know “speculation” is a powerful force capable of many things (attracting anonymice and influencing journalists, for example) — but, merging companies?


In any case, if“speculation” has already joined United and Continental, what are the bigwigs at the two airlines waiting for? Seems like a done deal.


Not yet, apparently. The Tribune’s Mark Skertic writes that “merger and acquisition talk is gaining momentum,” (They are talking faster?) and according to one analyst, “a Continental-United marriage is among those some speculate would make sense.” So, there are still a lot of possibilities. And, Skertic notes, “which names could disappear is the subject of intense industry speculation.”


In other words, the news is that speculative talk is taking on considerable mass and velocity as a random sampling of people calling themselves experts speculate over the likelihood of an event whose participants remain a matter of speculation. Or, to summarize: “There is speculation.”


But then, is “speculation” really the right word? Perhaps we need something that better captures the recondite, almost ethereal quality of the experts’ stochastic hypotheses. Something closer to, say, “creative thought.” Or maybe just, “blather.”


Skertic quotes one expert noting that “it’s possible to imagine almost any kind of combination” — for example, Northwest and Delta “with a healthier operator” or, perhaps, with each other. Another expert confirms that “[all of these possible combinations] make sense, but I see problems with all [of them].”


We think that settles it.

Liz Cox Barrett is a writer at CJR.