Checking Language at the Door to a Story
An interesting discussion, as Laura's posts generally are. I found it raised a troublesome more general question. When language becomes obsolete but you don't regularly report on the topic, how do you know it? I've never even heard the term intersex before. That is unsurprising because I run into the topic about as often as discussions of lacrosse. (I'm fairly certain that I've even thought of curling, as in the team sport played on ice, more often.)
Just a moment's thought shows that the linguistic considerations go far beyond gender issues. Any time a journalist is in unfamiliar water, potential mines lie about. What if the topic is business? Technology? Art? Music? Construction? Cooking?
Other than the transitory verbal fad -- whether groovy or rad -- language develops slowly enough that the changes come like a meandering tide. You look down and suddenly realize that the dry beach sand is covered with a thin sheet of sea water. However, if you're off in the mountains, you don't notice.
So how do journalists know that language has changed when they haven't paid attention? There's no office memo, particularly if, as is true of many of us, you don't work out of a news room. I don't have an answer, but then until this morning I didn't even realize that I had the question. Perhaps all journalists need to add one more type of fact-checking, taking a moment when using terms that we rarely employ to see whether they are still in play in their respective fields.
Image courtesy of stock.xchng user dewlittle.