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Wordiness and the NYT

This weekend the NYT ran a feature on some of the neologisms/neophraseology* popularized in 2005, including “Cut & Run” “Scalito” and Fishbowl’s personal favorite, “Truthiness” which has officially become a word as far as we’re concerned.

This is the thing: if you’re going to run a feature on popular terms/trends in language this year, you kind of have to be right. To that end, I have two quibbbles with this piece.

The first relates to “Daughter Track,” the entry written by Jane Gross, who coincidentally wrote the article on that alleged phenomenon last month about adult daughters leaving the workplace to care for elderly, ailing parents. Gross says that “sociologists are beginning to give the phenomenon a name: the Daughter Track, a late-in-life version of the Mommy Track” — except she doesn’t back that up with any evidence that sociologists are, in fact, using that nomenclature. Neither of the sociologists in the original article use the term, and indeed don’t really cop to it as a new trend (what they do say is that women are “more likely” than men to leave a job for caregiving, but no actual stats attesting to any sort of change are offered). Still, one litmus test remained: Google. If “Daughter Track” was becoming a term of art, Google would know. Number of hits: 914, the first few of which seemed to cite the NYT story (perspective: “fishbowlny” gets 288,000 hits). Now, I have no problem with the NYT coining a term. Fabulous! Go for it! I do, however, have a problem with a writer writing about a term that she herself coined (in the absence of any evidence to the contrary) and presenting it like a Zeitgeisty, sticky term for an emerging new trend — all while failing to show that it is, in fact, a new trend, or that the term is, in fact, anything other than her creation. Agree? Disagree? Louise Story, what do you think?

Also: in Damien Cave‘s piece on the genesis of the word “Scalito” he cites a bunch of agglutenated couple-names in wide circulation — Brangelina, TomKat, Spederline. Wait. Spederline? I didn’t think I’d seen Brit and K-Fed so named. Back to Google: a measly 506 hits. Keep in mind that we are talking about Britney Spears here – #8 on the Top Ten Google Searches of 2005. Sorry, NYT, “Spederline” does not cut it. Neither does “Garfleck” (though slightly more popular at 768) or “Ashmi” (lots of hits on its own (it has a few alterna-meanings) but only 123 when coupled with “Demi” and 107 when coupled with “Ashton”). Perspective: “Schnoogie,” my nickname for my old dog, has 523 hits. I am not disputing the validity of the claim that “Scalito” entered the popular lexicon here, just the shoddy evidence used to buttress that claim.

Upshot: If you want to do a feature like this, NYT, it’s got to have one thing above all: Yes. Truthiness.

Update to the Upshot: I should have noted, however, that Damien Cave did interview both a linguist and celebrity-trend-maven Bonnie Fuller for his Scalito piece above, and did not rely on the popularity of “Spederline” to make his case. Is it me, or does “Spederline” sound like some sort of very cheap, very gross yet kind of weirdly tasty canned food? In other news, I think Amshi might taste good on pita bread (or matzah, actually).

2005: In A Word [NYT]

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