Friday, June 18, 2010

Hasn't THE NEW YORK TIMES Better Things to Do?

It seems to have taken over a week for the buzz over the "standards injunction" against the use of "tweet" at The New York Times to build to an audible roar. I suppose what tipped it over the edge was the coverage it got in The Colbert Report, which is as good an attention-grabber as any. However, as "Choire" posted on The Awl, the source text speaks for itself and hardly with the best of logic or rhetoric. My own problem lies in the following text from the proclamation issues by Standards Editor Phil Corbett:

Except for special effect, we try to avoid colloquialisms, neologisms and jargon. And “tweet” — as a noun or a verb, referring to messages on Twitter — is all three.

Is Corbett willing to acknowledge that, first and foremost, "tweet" is a metaphor? If the metaphor escalates to a level of colloquial use, does that turn it into a colloquialism? Is it a neologism because, as a metaphor, it was not being used ten years ago; and are those grounds for excluding its use?

The real kicker, however, is "jargon." This word tends to carry a connotation of exclusivity, confining usage to some limited community. Readers who are not members of the community should not have to struggle. Fair enough; but, when a word becomes colloquial, is that not a sign of the acquisition of a more inclusive scope? Can a word be both exclusive and inclusive at the same time? Perhaps The New York Times should start thinking about the Standard Editor position in terms of a "Law of the Excluded Middle-Man."

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