Coed certainly has a place in the lexicon of a college newspaper, at least as an adjective.
In that sense, it means that both men and women may attend, join or participate in something, as in coed softball or, as in the story we were telling, a coed dorm.
Random House dates the term to the late 19th century, and that makes sense. That’s when universities were expanding and many opened their doors to women for the first time.
In the headline above, we used coed as an adjective correctly. The problem was in the verb choice: be, meaning to exist or to consist of.
GSP could be coed indicates that that men may already be living there.
I’m sure that raised a few eyebrows at Gertrude Sellards Pearson.
The word we were after was become, meaning to change into:
GSP could become coed
We come now to the other use of coed. As a noun, it means college women. In its simplest, most innocent form, that would be harmless enough, though certainly now the problem in our second headline becomes apparent: GSP is an all-female dorm, so saying it could house college women in the future is silly.
Both the Kansan and AP stylebooks warn against use of coed as a noun, though, and for good reason, because
there is no simple, innocent form of coed anymore, if there ever was. In today’s vernacular, coed means babe, vixen, sexpot and (fill in your own lascivious synonym here).
Google coed, and the first site that pops up is Coed Magazine, whose home page contains such offerings as “World’s Sexiest Beer Pong Babes” and “Twins Who Put the ‘O’ in Olympics.” (Sorry, I’m not going to link; if you want a look, google it yourself.)
Now we’ve really raised some eyebrows at GSP. And we’ve put The Kansan in the same neighborhood as Coed Magazine.
That’s not a neighborhood where we want to hang out. So here’s my advice: Next time, ask the stylebook for directions.