My colleague Craig D. Lindsey, The N&O’s movie writer, has a funny post on his Uncle Crizzle blog about a conversation with an editor. The editor questioned slang in one of Craig’s stories. The term in question, “MC,” would not have stopped me had I been reading Craig’s piece, but the editor who did stop on it had a point. Would all our readers know that in hip-hop and rap an MC is the master of a public performance? Would they know the term in its older meaning of “master of ceremonies”?
I think many of the people inclined read Craig’s work would know what he meant by MC, but newspapers need to write to the great middle. We can introduce those readers to new words — whether they are slang, scientific or technical — and then, until they become common, explain those words. We probably still need to explain that blog is short for Web log and that a blog is a frequently updated online journal that allows for comments. But we no longer need to explain what Web means.
Language is dynamic. Words come in, words go out, words change in meaning. It is the job of those of us who write publicly to spread literacy and that means giving people every chance to understand new words, either by making the meaning clear in context or defining words outright.
This article was originally posted by the Raleigh News & Observer, a subsidiary of The McClatchy Co.; is posted here to provide continuity; and is copyright © 2011 The News & Observer Publishing Company, which reserves the right to remove this post.