Saturday, June 07, 2008

Does slang enter the written language faster nowadays?

Today over on the fascinating blog "Separated by a Common Language," Lynneguist says this in her discussion of the origins of the word "eyeball" in the measuring/estimating sense:

But since it's slang, we'd expect that it goes back quite a bit further in the spoken language than in written sources--we just can't pinpoint when.

That got me wondering whether this is changing in our current publishing culture--as more magazines and even newspapers try to be "zippy," are we creating a much shorter "distance" between slang creation and slang documentation (first appearance in print)?

I know in my own career this is true; at the women's service magazine I worked at in 1994, we weren't particularly out in front. We used some slang, but usually not the newest. It didn't fit our tone, and probably not our readership.

At my current pub, our publishers are pressing us to be "zippier." So we make more cultural references, and use more cultural references.

And the Web is going to really change that. I use web searches even know to find out how (or even whether) a slang term is used by different groups of people. If there's a way of holding onto some of the reader-posted, non-edited/filtered material on the Web, etymologists will be able to date word origins much more accurately.

How fast does your publication adopt/accept slang terms?

(someday I'll figure out how to do a blogroll, I promise)

1 comment:

JD said...

I would say that we accept slang terms slowly, unless they are specific to (or at least very common in) our industry - in which case we try to adopt them as quickly as possible. After all, we want to be seen as close to our readers and so we mimick them as much as possible (while trying to remain authoritative).